I've spent a fair amount of time at driving ranges over the years, even if my ball-striking might suggest otherwise. I'm not talking about the real grass, Titleist-pyramid ranges of private club dreams, but your typical asphalt and Astroturf public ranges where the balls have long been stripped of dimples, the clubs you can borrow are from now-defunct manufacturers, and the characters tend to fall into clearly-defined categories.
Among my favorites:
1. The middle management executive on his lunch break. He's got his tie tucked into his dress shirt, a fountain soda from Wendy's at his side, and he's got 20 minutes until he's back to the drudgery of conference calls and PowerPoints. Don't talk to him.
2. The Champions Tour hopeful He gets four large buckets, situates himself in the furthest corner of the range, and works his way methodically through his bag. There's usually an alignment tool involved, maybe even a video camera, and he only breaks to towel off and for his own pre-packed lunch. Don't talk to him, either.
3. The guy who brings his girlfriend. This is usually first- or second-date material, in the idyllic stages of a relationship when he thinks she's actually interested in taking up the game (she's perfect!) and she's impressed by his 185-yard reverse-pivot drives. Flirty help with her alignment is almost always a given.
4. The guy who brings his kids. The wife is at a baby shower, and he's got the rugrats till 3. Why not share with them the game he loves? His plan is to spend the first 10 minutes teaching them proper grip pressure, but loses them after five. Before long, he's busy working on that new baby draw while his kids toy with death playing tag on the range infield.
5. The guys who are solely interested in hitting the range picker. They employ baseball-style grips and hit low screaming hooks at helpless minimum-wage range employees. Bonus points for hitting the truck on the fly, or even better, for forcing him to flee in surrender.
6. The beginner. He's wading slowly into the game unbeknownst to friends and family, and doesn't have the slightest clue what he's doing. He pulls an aluminum Spalding driver from the borrow rack, repeatedly hits the side guard of the stall when catching one off the toe, but gets the most bang for his buck by re-teeing balls he's dribbled seven feet out in front of him.
7. The lurker. He's been there for two hours already, and is only halfway through his first bucket. Usually retired, often wearing black socks, he takes an uncomfortable interest in your game. "Is that a Callaway?" he asks. Especially chatty at the soda machine. "Saw you hit some sweet 8-irons over there," he says creepily.