You threw your club. Now what?
By Jeff Singer
Throwing clubs is a lot like paying taxes. Not everyone does it, but most of us do it at least once a year, and when we do it is generally not a pleasant experience.
Nobody starts a round saying, "I'm going to destroy the precious 5 wood that I thought highly enough to put in my bag."
But sometimes things just work out that way. There's only so much we can take from this unforgiving game. How come that punch shot through the trees always hits that one branch that if you were trying to hit it, it would take six days and 6000 golf balls? And only the shots you hit well hit that branch. The chunked or thinned shots through the trees never seem to hit anything -- they just land in worse trouble. I mean c'mon man, you were only 1-over before that. But now, sigh....
The golf gods can be cruel. And like the ancient civilizations believed, sometimes they need a sacrifice. But like I said, it can be awkward and no one wants to end up playing alone because of a few indiscretions. So here is a guide on how your throwing will affect your playing partners, how to act when you do throw a club and how to apologize for your behavior afterward. To make this easier to understand, I have assigned terror levels for the different stages of tantrum-like behavior.
Level 1: Terror alert green
Includes: Gentle club slam, light digging of your wedge into the ground after a poor chip, hitting down a divot with your iron, medium decibel curse word.
Bottom Line: Apology not required.
How to act: Just act normal, nothing to see here.
Stuff like this happens every round and it's really no big deal. The most important thing to do is to show your playing partners that things like this are not affecting you long term. There's nothing worse than when you are playing with a guy and he gets so angry you're scared to talk to him for 5 hours. But it's very difficult to go through a round without getting a break or missing a putt that doesn't require at least a moderate curse word. So let out the curse and stomp that iron down into the divot -- just try to avoid doing it more then a few times. As long as you are a somewhat interesting guy and can make a few jokes too. No one is going to stop playing with you because of this.
Level 2: Terror alert blue
Includes: Hard club slam, club throw threat (you know when someone is going to whip a club but then quickly rethinks it), loud curse word, throwing ball into water, hacking at the ground with a wedge or iron, dropping putter after a short miss.
Bottom Line: Apology not required (conditional).
How to act: Quickly show there are no lingering effects.
OK, this is starting to get a bit more serious. But until now, with the exception of the putter-drop which is not all that threatening, the club hasn't left your hand. This is good, because once the club leaves your hand you've entered a different level of tantrum. Your playing partners will probably feel a bit uneasy. The best thing to do is quickly show them you aren't going to be affected by this: it was just a quick outburst, but you are past it. I'd sidle up to one of them as you walk toward the green and make conversation about something entirely different -- ask them where they work, etc. It shows that you've already moved on and quells their concerns that you might be a crazy person on the verge of a breakdown. Don't mention the shot you just hit, even in a joking manner, and certainly don't say "I NEVER do that." They'll know you are still thinking about it and that's not good. Move on quickly. If you do that, there no apology is required.
Level 3: Terror alert yellow
Includes: The short club throw (think Anthony Kim or Tiger slamming the driver down), tossing your wedge or putter back at your golf bag instead of bringing it back, curse word loud enough to be heard on multiple holes, hole-long general surliness.
Bottom line: Moderate apology required.
How to act: Sheepishly saying,
"Sorry about that guys, it won't happen again."
Now you've done it, you've crossed the line between, "Hmmm, this guy has a bit of a temper" to "Uh oh, this round could be really unpleasant." But it's not the end of the world. Almost every golfer you'll ever play with has crossed into terror alert yellow at some point. You have to generally acknowledge your behavior is not appropriate, and you do that with the sheepish apology. Sheepishness is actually a great trick in this situation, because it shows you are embarrassed at your behavior. But also lends your playing partners to believe that this kind of behavior probably doesn't happen much. A quick or angry sorry might say, "I do this all the time" and make you look like a politician caught cheating on his wife. The sheepish sorry says that you feel bad, you don't do this often and it won't happen again. As with Level 2, try to talk to them afterward about general stuff and move on.
Level 4: Terror alert orange
Includes: Full blown club throw, breaking clubs over knee, throwing putter into water, snarky responses to playing partners, walking ahead of the group in total angry silence, repeated false laughter at yourself, asking leading/trap questions to playing partners such as:
"Have you EVER seen anyone get luck like this!"
Bottom line: Apology required.
How to act: Wait a bit, then apologize. Try and make it heartfelt.
Once you've committed an orange level infraction, you really need to let time heal your wounds. Your playing partners ARE going to tell people about this in the clubhouse, and no matter what you say they are going to think you've done this before and will do it again. Have you ever watched Criminal Minds? People don't escalate to Level 4 without committing prior bad acts.
The level 4 clubthrower probably has a sealed juvenile record and started fires as a kid, or maybe not, but you know what I mean.
You don't start with a level 4. So take some time, then apologize to your playing partners -- tell them you are working on it. If you are invited to have a beer after the round, a well-timed joke about needing to buy a new wedge can be appropriate. But mostly, if you ever the chance to play with these guys again, be sure to be on your best behavior. Only time going by without repeat infractions can make people think this was an isolated incident.
Level 5: Terror alert red
Includes: Threatening to fight people, breaking a club in two that ricochets and almost stabs someone, throwing a club through a nearby house's window, causing serious course damage, unprovoked outbursts at course personnel, throwing the flag like a spear, etc. Generally, acting like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
Bottom Line: Apology? Have your lawyer send a notarized one.
How to act: Find a new course, change your name.
If you've committed a Level 5 infraction. Consult a psychologist. That's your first step. Then if you wish to keep playing golf and have successfully completed therapy, you might want to find a new course and change your name to something nice sounding and non-threatening. Go with Ned Flanders or something like that.
Nobody is going to suspect Ned Flanders of being the same guy that almost stabbed a guy with a broken shaft while repeatedly asking, "How am I funny? You mean like a clown, like I amuse you?"
So there you have it. Go out and play golf, and don't be afraid to make a little sacrifice to the golf gods here and there. Just know how to apologize, know when to draw the line and know how to get over it quickly. You'll be OK. Follow the above guidelines and you'll have no problem continually getting a game.