There’s feedback and there’s feedback. Feedback in business / management / offices type environment is supposed to be constructive, positive, helpful, observable, blah blah blah. All good, all sensible and all designed to help. It works too. It even works in real life.
Unfortunately it doesn’t works on the golf course. The golf course is a strange, other worldly, parallel universe type- place which doesn’t always obey the laws of the rest of the world. It’s a place where different rules seem to apply;
What would happen if you followed the training courses rules giving feedback on a golf course? For example;
“When you hit your last shot I noticed your head lifted a little sharply and as a result your shot only travelled about 10 yards. As your partner I was disappointed in you and would advise you not to raise your head the next time. I hope you appreciate this feedback?”
Once you’ve extracted the 5 iron from your bottom you’d probably think twice about offering feedback like this in the future.
There are some golfers though that seem to have no problems offering feedback – whether you want it or not. These people tend to belong to that strange indigenous tribe called “the vets”. Not wishing to stereotype them, but I’ve got to, they are a bunch of no good, irritating, interfering old gits who are obviously so bored and have so little going on
in their lives that they’ve got to make your life a misery. Now this obviously doesn’t apply to all of them… but I’ve yet to meet one it doesn’t. For instance, I’m happily playing the back 9 around 8 o’clock in the morning. I’m on my own and can’t see a soul. Playing down the 12th I duff a 6 iron and it trickles along the ground into the bunker, so I drop another ball and hit the 6 iron onto the green. Before I can congratulate myself there’s a vet racing toward me in his golf cart giving me a earful for practicing on the course and reminding me of the standing, or lack of standing of a single player on a golf course. Plus others things such as dress code etc.
Before I can respond he’s zooming away into the distance in a hurry to tell others what he’s done. Don’t you just love them ……. Jerry Sadowitz has similar thoughts on old people and feels they should be shot at birth. I laugh and have to remind myself that it won’t be too long for me…
Beyond vets though there are others that are gifted in the feedback process – your playing partners. Or, more specifically, one of your playing partners… there’s always one and they tend to be called something innocuous like, oh I don’t know… let’s call him Keith.
The Keith’s of this world are really, really trying to be helpful, I suppose, but ………..
“It’s all to do with the position of the tee after the drive,” come the words of the wise. Keith was bending down looking at a 2 inch piece of plastic that you stick in the ground to support your golf ball, as if it were a medieval gold coin on an archaeological dig. He examined the area looking for all the world like a native American tracker from those old cowboy films. My florescent pink tee landed a few feet left of where I had hit my shot and a few yards behind it.
“The sign of a good drive is when your tee end up directly behind you.” he announces, untroubled by the fact that my golf ball is in the middle of the fairway and has travelled over 200 yards (a rare feat, granted).
“Tees to the left mean it’s a slice. Tees to the left equals a hook.”
“And how is that supposed to help?” asked one of the others in our fourball.
Unconcerned he continues, “Tee in front signify a slight fade with a touch of draw if you’re playing into a left to right wind.”
He looked at us as the Dali Llarma looks at his followers, “It’s a scientific fact.” This signified the end of the conversation.
The next hole he picks up a discarded tee. It’s plastic. He doesn’t approve. “Pros would never use rigid tees like this. They’re too hard and would alter the flight of the ball.” The 24 handicapper who owns the tee, is distraught. Keith can barely keep the distain from his voice as he holds the tee up. ” No. You’ll never find a pro using a plastic tee. It’s good to be wooden. It’s a scientific fact.” This, again, is the end of the conversation.
Keith knows a lot about tees. He is to tees what Gillian McKeith is to poo. Whilst the rest of us watch the ball soaring from a good drive, Keith keeps his eye on the tee. Somehow he even manages to do this on his own drives. He has never lost a tee in his life.
‘Rubber tees and winter mats’ would be his specialist topic on Mastermind.
He’s never lost a tee and rarely loses a ball. To be fair, no-one playing with him ever loses a ball either. He knows the course so well that he has some kind of mental map of every blade of grass, every tree, every ant, in his head somewhere. Halfway through your backswing he’ll announce, “Just short of the bunker behind the small bush.” And of course that’s where you’ll find it.
He’s also an expert of the rules of golf, local rules, the committee, the captain, the relative merits of 18 different makes of golf ball …. but that’ll be for another time….
Writer, golfer and golf writer, I have developed and moved on (not permanently in case there are any publishers reading this) from the relatively straightforward world of management consultancy with motivation, leadership, change matrices, decision making, communication, customer care, bottom lines, double-loop learning, stress, attribution theory, behavioural interviewing, project management, group think and Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web, to the complex and unfathomable world of describing places where people can hit a ball into a hole.
I have written for a number of golf magazines and newspapers including 'Golf International' , 'wales on Sunday' and am currently golf correspondent for Cambria Magazine (Wales's Magazine) and blogger for Wales Online.
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