First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 16th December 2010
With the festive season upon us, we’ll inevitably find ourselves at parties or gatherings forced to make polite small talk. I know. It’s awful. I’m not interested in “Celebrity Come Dining” or Prince William’s wedding either.
What I want to talk about is golf so I always make a tentative early attempt to strike up a conversation on the subject. I normally turn to the person nearest me and say something like, “How about this weather eh? Not great for golf.” That generally works.
You never know who you’re going to encounter but I think there are five main types of person. I’ve described each one below and given a few hints on how best to deal with them.
The nice person – Someone not even vaguely interested in golf and with no knowledge of the game but so polite they’re going to give talking about it a bloody good go anyway.
In my experience, this is the person you’re most likely to meet because the majority of people are quite nice but most don’t play golf.
Speaking to this guy or gal is quite pleasant for a time as you can enjoy lying massively about your golfing achievements, safe in the knowledge you won’t be caught out. “Yes, I played for Scotland a few times as a youth. Probably could have made it as a pro but just felt it wasn’t the life for me.”
After a time though, the one-way discussion becomes tiresome and it’s simply not fair to bore them any further with your concerns about the standard scratch system.
At this point you should pretend your phone is ringing, “Oh no, I’m very sorry. I’ve got to take this, it’s my mother phoning from the hospital.”
The golf hater – Someone keen to talk about golf but only in a derogatory way.
This is the worst possible meeting and you must try and extricate yourself before fists start to fly.
“So you’re a golfer then,” they say with a facial expression somewhere between hatred and pity. “I just can’t get into it. It’s so boring, I’d rather watch paint dry.”
You start with a forced chuckle and say something like, “Well I suppose it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it is rather popular.”
“Yes, with overweight snobs who still think that only people who went to Eton should have the vote,” they continue.
At this stage you’re desperate for a get-out clause and change the subject to the first thing that crosses your mind.. “Did you see “The Trip” with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon?” for instance..
“No. I hate Steve Coogan,” they scoff. At this point, it’s time to use the patented “needing the loo” excuse to exit stage right.
The dismisser – Someone who doesn’t take the hint.
This is the sort of person who, when you start with, “this weather’s not great for golf,” chooses to talk about the weather rather than golf.
This is awkward, you’re clearly never going to steer them on to golf so it’s pointless continuing. A firm exit strategy is required –
Acknowledge an imaginary person over “the dismisser’s” shoulder, then pretend you’ve been summoned by the hostess to pass round the Twiglets.
A golfing enemy – Someone who enjoys golf but plays at a different level and has alternative views on the sport.
For me this would be someone who doesn’t enjoy playing competitively, thinks their Golf Club should be “more sociable,” enjoys it when the tees are forward and prefers Stableford to Medal play.
You’ll probably persevere with this person for some time before realising you’re not going to agree on anything. Simply spill a little beer down your shirt (it’ll come out in the wash,) make far more of a fuss about it than you should and dash off to find a damp cloth.
Your golfing equal – Someone with a similar handicap and the same general views on the sport.
On the surface, this would seem to be your ideal match, but the massive common ground will inevitably lead to trouble. For 10 minutes you’ll be as happy as Larry as you discuss howdidido and the shifting balance of professional golfing power from the US to Europe.
The next 10 minutes will also be enjoyable as you cover Sergio’s fall from grace, the “Two-thumbs” putter grip and the best time to hollow-tine greens. But you’ll be starting to feel a slight niggling sensation. You’ll just begin to wonder, “Am I being a touch unsociable by hogging this person?”
The next 10 minutes will be uncomfortable. You’ll be looking around for possible escape routes but will be drawn inexorably back into the conversation every time you spot an opening. “Is that humous I see over there? Sorry, what was that? What do I think about possible future venues for the Scottish Open? Well….”
Eventually you’ll have to put a stop to the chat with a direct, “I think I better see how my wife is getting on,” or something similar. Unfortunately, by this time everybody else at the party has mingled within an inch of their lives so there’s no chance of breaking into any other discussion group. You’re forced to retreat back to your golfing equal with your tail between your legs. “So, what were you saying was your favourite course in Norfolk?”