Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Bob Car­ney

How to be a great golf part­ner.

Our friend Dean Knuth, a sta­tis­ti­cal ge­nius known as the Pope of Slope, once sug­gested a for­mula for choos­ing a part­ner: Find some­one who bal­ances your ten­den­cies. If you’re Steady Ed­die, play with Wild Willy, and so forth. Okay, but that’s only half of it. Our Handy Guide to Golf Part­ner­ing is what you need for the rest. The es­sen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tic of a great part­ner is hope. A steady diet of “Why do we do this to our­selves?” or “I’d be bet­ter off re­paint­ing my roof” isn’t what you’re a er. You’d much rather hear, “We’re close,” even if it evokes laugh­ter. I have a friend who dis­penses with score and counts “LVs,” or Lit­tle Vic­to­ries: a great es­cape from the trees, a ni y bunker shot. He’s a smiler. You’re like him. You keep mood and score sep­a­rate. You’d love to tell your friend and part­ner he’s swing­ing at, oh, 50 kilo­me­tres per hour faster than nor­mal, but you don’t be­cause you’re a good part­ner. You wait for him to in­quire, a er mul­ti­ple dou­bles: “You see any­thing?” And then, in your best De­nis Hutchin­son voice, you re­ply: “Just a hair­rrrrrrrr quick.” That’s it; no anal­y­sis. You’re also an ex­pert in bit­ing your tongue about your game. Your part­ner never hears you say: “I’m set­ting the an­gle way too soon . . . ” I’ll give you the an­gle. A new study re­veals that marathon­ers quickly for­get the an­guish of their runs. “This helps to ex­plain,” says the study’s au­thor, “why peo­ple run marathons again and again in spite of pain.” This for­get­ful­ness also ap­plies to child­birth. (See where we’re headed?) In golf, am­ne­sia is oxy­gen. Beware the part­ner who says, “I’d love to play with you again if you’ll get some help with your putting.” He’s a re­mem­berer. You, on the other hand, are known for ut­ter­ing the most per­fect sen­tence in the his­tory of golf com­pan­ion­ship: “I can’t re­mem­ber ever see­ing you miss a putt that counted.”

A lot of golfers are Bermu­das-wear­ing judg­ment ma­chines. They’re ex­perts on what’s wrong with the world, are es­pe­cially knowl­edge­able about the damn Lib­eral Me­dia, and will re­gale you with ev­i­dence that golf is dis­in­te­grat­ing: Hats back­wards! Cell­phones! Cargo shorts! Good part­ners share sim­i­lar codes of con­duct. If he’s Old School, and you’re a shirt-out, rock ’n’ roller, beware. But if you’re a tra­di­tion­al­ist amused by chang­ing stan­dards, that’s okay. My friend Squir­rel, a 4-hand­i­cap, plays with a boom box on his cart and some­times dresses as the afore­men­tioned an­i­mal. He has a very big tech job. When he ap­plied to his club, his wife said, “Are you sure you’re coun­try club ma­te­rial?” Good ques­tion. Turns out he is, but it’s a tol­er­ant coun­try club, com­pat­i­ble with a pas­sion for golf and the Doo­bies . . . Brothers, that is. Re­gret’s a killer. We had a col­league once whose favourite ex­pres­sion on Hole No 1 was, “Let’s play two!” and on Hole No 5, “Why do I even put my­self through this?!” He was tough on him­self and harder on his part­ner. Your part­ner doesn’t need you ob­sess­ing about the chunk you hit into the haz­ard to lose the front nine. He ex­pects you to be ready for the next one. Woody Allen said, “My one re­gret in life is that I’m not some­one else.” Sure, you both want to be bet­ter golfers; but you’re fine with the ones you are. For­give­ness does not equal sur­ren­der. You’re en­thu­si­as­tic, and you do your share of cheer­lead­ing. It’s costly when this trans­lates to mak­ing bets you shouldn’t, but so it goes. Your model here is Arnold Palmer: “What other peo­ple may find in po­etry or art mu­se­ums, I find in the flight of a good drive.” There you go. Tell ’em you’ll take the dou­ble-or-noth­ing. Im­per­fec­tion is not the is­sue here. Sub­ject­ing your part­ner to half a dozen copies of it is. You play with alacrity. Re­sults come and go quickly. You’re like my friend Sissy, who shot 138 while her com­pan­ion shot 68. It took them three and a half hours to pro­duce those 206 strokes, a thou­sand chuck­les in be­tween. Now that’s a part­ner.

You’re no teacher. And never im­per­son­ate one.

You be­lieve in the team when no sen­si­ble per­son would. You’re on the same page when it re­ally counts.

You play fast. You do not tor­ture your part­ner with six prac­tice swings.

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