By Clair Goodwin
Early last summer I witnessed a golfer lose his temper after missing a shot.
I’m sure that he was a good player or, at least, thought that he was.
After the ball finally stopped rolling about 75 yards into a nasty rough, the guy snarled a stream of invectives, slammed his club into the ground and continued to rant as he rode down the fairway with his silent, sullen partner in a golf cart.
I doubt that anyone in that group had a good time.
Everyone gets mad on the course at times. Anger may be triggered by missing a tap-in, a drive sailing out-of- bounds or a broken favorite driver.
But most of us control our emotions better than the Mr. Hyde that I saw. We swallow back the urge to say something that we might regret later. After all, someone in the group behind or a fairway over may be a potential customer turned off by the guy’s lack of self-control.
Being upset is negative. It can destroy focus and upset timing.
I suspect some people can’t handle the sudden surge in adrenalin or whatever glandular secretions are released by anger. They tend to lose it. It not only impacts them, but those around them.
I remember years ago playing with a nice guy at Schifferdecker who had a strong tendency to throw clubs when he lost his temper. I think he finally quit, either throwing or playing, after nearly hitting a playing companion in the head when the putter head came off. The unintended target was angry, but not as angry as the thrower was embarrassed.
Another friend actually hit his caddie. The youngster wasn’t paying attention when the guy cut loose with a wedge after muffing a shot. The club came down on the kid’s head and made a nasty, bloody gash. The golfer promised God never to throw another club if the boy survived. The lad was OK and the golfer never forgot his promise.
No one ever matched “Terrible” Tommy Bolt for angry displays. Bolt used to throw so many clubs that people wondered how long his arm would hold out.
Indeed, Tommy discussed his technique with a group of onlookers at a clinic. “Always throw the club down the fairway,” he said, demonstrating his technique to the roar of laughter by the crowd. “That way you can pick it up as you go down the fairway.”
Another Bolt story has Tommy standing in the middle of the 18th fairway and asking his caddie for a 9-iron.
“Here’s your 2-iron,” Mr. Bolt,” replied the forlorn caddie.
“I asked for a 9-iron, not a 2-iron,” snapped Tommy.
“But that’s all you got left in your bag,” said the caddie. “You’ve either broken or thrown away all the others.”
Most of the club-throwing stories are funny. Some are not. One young man lost his right eye when a member of his group threw a club.
I have played with guys who tend to self-destruct when they miss a shot. They roar obscenities at their bad fortune. But anger stays with them, growing in intensity as it gnaws at their innards.
The best golfers don’t let bad shots bug them for long. I remember a high school player named Mike Hammond taking a double bogey on the first hole of a match at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club and grimacing and muttering to himself as he walked off the green. Twin Hills pro Bill Parker, who was watching, told me: “Mike will forget about that by the time he gets to the tee. He is very mature. He’ll make a good pro.”
I don’t remember how Mike did that day. But he did put his bad start behind him, as Parker predicted. Hammond later played on the PGA Tour and then became a club pro.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t get angry. That’s impossible. Venting is human nature. But it is unlikely you’ll play quality golf until you learn to let go of that anger and control your emotions.