StorytellingJune 27, 2018

What they REALLY want to know: How to tell everybody the story of your golf trip without boring them

Businessman carrying golf clubs in office
altrendo images

Recently, I made all my colleagues jealous got to play one of the country’s top golf courses, Shinnecock Hills out on Long Island. The U.S. Open was still a few weeks away, so the greens weren’t yet major-championship slick, although the rough was already starting to resemble James Harden’s beard.

Long story short: The course humbled me. My score contained three digits and no decimal point. I made an 8 on the par-4 13th hole, and no that wasn’t adding two extra strokes for hitting a moving ball. Fact was, I was having trouble hitting a non-moving ball. And still, I had a fantastic time. The golf course was beautiful, the clubhouse iconic, the weather ideal, the traffic bearable and the setting superb. It was a great day … except for my game.

Naturally, upon my return to the office my still rather jealous colleagues were curious how things went. I needed to figure out how to best tell my tales of woe, and wow. Which, in turn, caused me to ponder something a bit more existential:

How do you tell a story about your own golf exploits, anyway?

More to the point, a good story. We’ve all sat through a friend droning on about a recent golf outing, leaving nothing to the imagination (literally nothing) as they start live blogging the entire day/week of their journey. Somewhere between “We wolfed down a breakfast sandwich on the ride in” and “I couldn’t believe it took me three minutes to get the ballwasher unjammed on No. 6” you slowly twist your wrist to catch a glimpse of your watch just to make sure the minute hand isn’t actually moving backward.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t want to be that guy. Not with the score I was about to lay on them, anyway. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard the faint voice of my Mom and a lesson I swear she once offered: “Don’t tell somebody else a golf story you wouldn’t want to have to hear yourself.”

So I vowed to stick to a few rules that, after consultation with a couple of my Golf Digest peers, can travel nicely as you prepare for a summer of incredible golf—and subsequent story-telling.

Be original
When first asked “So, how was it?” I could have gone for the hackneyed opening line of “Well, the course record is still safe!” However, the first response to how you played should never, ever, EVER be “The course record is still safe!” Make an effort to entertain your listeners, lest they start turning their wrists 10 seconds in.

Be brief
I’m an optimist, so I believe my friends genuinely want to know the answer to “how was it?” But I’m a realist, too, and appreciate they don’t want to know how was everything. The key is to come up with three to five quick, relatable nuggets that provide details without needing to clear out calendar space: I made two pars (honesty is the best policy). … The layout was very cool, how you can see the entire course without any trees there. … The par-3 11th hole is so wicked, but easily my favorite. … Somebody at the Open is going to go lose their mind on the greens.

Given the pitiful nature of my play, the brevity thing was easy. Where this gets tricky is when you actually have a round to remember. Last fall, I played really well on another trip to Pinehurst No. 2. I was ready to have everyone jump in the cart and ride along with me through all 18 holes. But you’ve got to resist that urge. The better you played (particularly compared to your potential) or the better the course you played, the more leeway you have to offer a little more. Still, mind your pace of play.

Pick a highlight and run with it
No matter what you shoot, there is likely a high point of your golf game. Go ahead and stick your chest out a little. For instance, I made a par on the par-3 second hole. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was pretty sweet at the time. The key, again, is to pick one (maybe two) moments and keep things rolling.

Ted Levine

Limit the photos, please
You probably already posted a bunch on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, so your friends have already seen them. Try then not to show more than one or two. Exceptions: You played Augusta National and have created a montage of you walking over the Hogan Bridge. Ditto St. Andrews and the Swilcan Bridge. (Maybe any famed course with a famous bridge.) The Committee will also consider pics of you standing next to famous bunkers or outside memorable clubhouse entrances on a case-by-case basis.

Bragging is good, but don’t overdo it
Did I mention I got to play Shinnecock Hills?!? Yep, once is enough.

Self-deprecation is good, but don’t overdo it
I mentioned the rough, right? Well, I made sure my colleagues knew how difficult it was, coming up with three or four knee-slappers to try and reiterate the point. In hindsight, I probably needed to reign this in. Have you heard of the adage “beating a dead horse”? Don’t do it.

If there’s something iconic about the course, it’s OK to indulge
Everybody remembered the seventh green at Shinnecock from the 2004 U.S. Open. So choosing this hole makes sense (made a nice bogey). But, as previously mentioned, keep it short and sweet.

Don’t make it all about the golf
This part was easy, since some of my favorite moments had nothing to do with the golf. The Shinnecock locker room was fantastically old school, living up to the hype. If I wasn’t afraid of being banned from returning, I might have camped there overnight.

Follow these steps and you should be able to get in and out in 5 to 10 minutes, keeping your colleagues jealous while selfishly getting to relive the experience one more time. And as for anybody who wants to hear more, take them to lunch.