At Golf Digest, where our staff represents a cross section of golf snobs and extended adolescents, golf insults are as plentiful around the office as paper clips. Your hitchy swing, your pretentious attire, the one time you shanked a ball off the protective wall at a driving range—it is not a setting for the hyper-sensitive, or anyone who plumb bobs.
The other day I made the mistake of posting a short swing video, a simple little wedge shot, and I swiftly came under assault for how the clubface slid under the ball at impact. The nickname “Sammy Scoops” has sadly stuck.
It brought to mind that for all the serious harassment that can arise in a workplace setting, your golf identity leaves you exposed in ways your typical HR department can’t really appreciate—unless they’re golfers, too. Among the most sensitive areas:
You’re too slow: Perhaps the most obvious, especially these days. Playing slow is like chronic halitosis: it’s one person’s challenge, but everyone else suffers. And it’s always compounded when the guilty party is tragically unaware.
You’re too fast: Occasionally irritating but not quite as damning. To be tagged as a fast play militant is to be typecast as a sort of golf killjoy, as if you gauge a round’s success not by score, or camaraderie, but whether you closed the gap on the group in front of you.
Assorted swing flaws: We’re not talking about someone’s general level of play, which is too broad for any golf savvy crowd. To really cut deep, you have to dive into the particulars: their abrupt backswing, their deceled putting stroke, their scoopy wedges. The fact that all of these have been lobbed in my direction in the past month shouldn't detract from the fact that it likely bothers others as well.
Creative accounting: Real cheating—foot wedging, lie fluffing and the like—belongs in its own category, and really is not so much fodder for insult as character assassination. Instead we’re talking about relatively benign offenses—the bloated index of the sandbagger, the vanity 8 handicap who curiously can’t break 90 whenever he plays with anyone from the office. Not to be discounted is the subgenre of golfers who struggle with simple arithmetic. The other day I was thrilled to tell the guys in my group that I shot 38 on the back . . . before realizing I failed to include the last hole. As soon as I stop getting grief about that, I’ll let you know.
You play too much: To accuse someone of playing too much golf is to imply they’re neglecting the real responsibilities of work, family, and worthwhile civic causes. Paired with a swing insult cited above has added potency because it suggests all this time on the course is still yielding mediocre results, which means you’re even worse than you thought.
You play too little: Then again, playing too much might still be preferable to the alternative, because saying someone doesn’t play enough golf is to accuse them of criminally misplaced values, like with Communists, or people who own boats.
Style points: Perhaps the lowest hanging fruit within any golf group, and extending beyond the obvious “You should get a free bowl of soup with that hat”-type barbs. Fashion insults can range from clothes that don’t fit, to clothes that don’t match, to wearing too many aspirational club logos at once (Winged Foot belt, Pine Valley shirt, etc.). Let’s not forget any golfer accused of venturing too far outside his or her range: a 20-handicapper wearing long pants like a tour pro in the heart of summer for instance; or middle-aged men sporting white belts and flat brims. Finally there is the matter of investment: You can be targeted for paying too much for clothes and just as easily for sporting a golf wardrobe consisting only of clothes you get for free—also known as a golf writer uniform.
Anger issues, choking and assorted mental deficiencies: The problem with targeting someone with anger issues is they are likely to respond … with anger. Provided they’re not gripping a 3-iron at the time, the entertainment value can still be worth it. Safer terrain is to call someone a choker, which has the added benefit of feeding off itself. Which is to say, even if someone’s not actually a choker, you just need to call them a choker enough to have them wonder if they’re a choker, which leads to the likelihood of them actually choking.
All of this is to remind us that for such a gentlemanly game, golf can be vicious warfare—especially among friends.