Dealing with Golf Course Behaviors

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

MALELANE, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 29:  Darren Fichardt of South Africa throws his club in anger after taking a 10 in 18th hole and missing the cut during the second round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club on November 29, 2013 in Malelane, South Africa.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)


As a golf professional, I have traveled all over the world
playing and staging golf clinics as well as running golf tournaments
over the past four decades. I have been privy to, and gained
tremendous insight into, how golf can reveal a true person’s
There is a famous saying that goes, “Sports build character.” As
inspiring as those words may sound, and as true as those words may be,
there should be a follow-up to that expression which says, “Sports can
also reveal character.”
I’ve been fortunate in my career to play golf with many C.E.O.’s
of Fortune 500 companies who showed me some tell tale signs of human
behavior that manifests itself on the golf course and I began to take
notice. Many executives commented that unlike conventional board room
settings-where all the participants have their respective game faces
on, and their guard up…with golf, you have the opportunity to
observe a person’s decision making process (in strategy, club
selection, etc..) and their response to the results. You can learn a
lot about a person in a four to five hour span on the golf course.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for others to let their guard down while
keeping yours up.
Since sports reveals character, numerous business executives can
wisely utilize time on the golf course to their advantage…. gaining
intimate knowledge of their business associates and spotting certain
types of behavior hey wouldn’t see otherwise.
Also, I’ve visited with some noted psychologists over the years
who were kind enough to impact their wisdom as it pertains to golf and
how people act on the course. Let me give you a brief description of
some situations you may encounter while playing, and my
interpretations of them:
1.) You may run across a golfer who wants to impress you with their
low single digit handicap. However, it quickly becomes apparent that
this player is nowhere near the ability they described. These people
are trying to project an image that they are better than they appear.
Beware of the deception.
2.) On the opposite end of the spectrum you find golfers who claim to
have a higher handicap. Again, it becomes quite obvious their ability
doesn’t match the handicap, though in the opposite way. This is
commonly known as ‘Sand-bagging’. These people have stacked the deck
and want to win at all costs.
3.) Then you might run into people on the links that are incapable of
admitting mistakes when they start playing poorly. They will start
criticizing the course conditions, caddies, equipment, anything but
themselves. Translation: These people are looking for scapegoats.
4.) Watch out for the golfer who assumes they do not have to putt out
short putts of three feet or less. These people will not ask for
favors, but they will expect them.
5.) The other extreme in putting is refusing tap-ins of inches.
Though putting out all your putts is legitimate, most people do not
insist on it in a non-tournament situation. Translation: It may be
hard to ever do a favor for this type of person.
6.) Some people will shoot the approximate score all the time no
matter where they play by not counting “Mulligan’s,” or penalty
strokes. These golfers have some very creative interpretations of the
rules, and hold steadfast to them.
7.) Golfers who constantly improve their lie in the rough, move their
ball around trees, or ground the club in a hazard or sand prior to
hitting it. Watch out, because these people blatantly cheat.
8.) You may observe people hitting out of order when teeing off with
no regard to their playing partners. These people are very
inconsiderate, and don’t respect others.
Even though we would all like to play by the rules, some people
bend them to fit their own personal agendas. Unfortunately, it’s not
always a level playing field. These are just a few samples of
situations that can and do happen on the golf course and I’ve made
some brief generalizations to help golfers be on the lookout next time
you head out to the course.
Observing your companions on the course will allow you to see
them in a different light, when their true colors shine through. We
live in a world where everyone is looking for a competitive edge, and
some people play at a win-at-all- costs mentality.
I’m hoping these little tips will give you a “one up” edge over
your competitors even before you tee off.

Tom can be contacted at


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