Reactance, Transactional Analysis and the Committee


Applicants for membership will be interviewed by the Club Captain, Lady Captain or Junior Organiser, as appropriate, who may in their absolute discretion reject or provisionally approve the application. No reason shall be given to any applicant in the event of rejection.

In most golf clubs there are rules, codes, laws, does and don’t. There are things you must do, things you shouldn’t do and things you had definitely better do. It’s all a little childish, don’t you think?

Let me state my reasons;

I am not a 6 year old child. I do not need to be told what I must do on and off the course. As a result of seeing a large notice telling me that I need to go to the toilet to pee my instinct (and I guess I’m not the only one that thinks this way) is to do the opposite. This is not good on any level;

It’s not far off bullying and people (including me) tend to react badly to bullies or to anyone telling them what to do; telling children to eat up their cabbage, telling people they are no longer allowed to take strike action, and telling female golfers they should only use the lounge after 7;30 p.m. All seem to provoke a reaction.

The appropriate length of shorts is three inches or less above the knee. Shorts that fall below the knee are not permitted”

Psychologically it brings in a theory called reactance – investigated by Jack Brehm. Brehm discovered that when you limit the choice of individuals they tend to react against it. In a experiment with people who expressed no preference for either of 2 soft drinks he found that once you prevented people having a choice (you only supplied one type at a vending machine), people would walk a considerable distance to buy the alternate drink. If you restrict people’s freedom they will react to restore it.

You will know this if you have teenagers.

“Have a nice evening” you’ll call as they leave the house,

“Don’t tell me what to do.” They’ll reply as they slam the door.


“I’d take a 5 iron and lay up if I were you.”

“Oh really”

Junior Members are not permitted to play before 11.00am at weekends, except in designated competitions or matches and with the prior permission of Match & Handicap.

So why do golf clubs insist on treating adults like children?

Walk briskly between shots and if possible decide which club to use for your next shot before you reach the ball

Do not take an excessive number of practice swings”

Another psychological theory called Transactional Analysis looks at this. Some people, especially people with self-esteem issues, tend to over compensate in their interactions with people by becoming ‘critical parents’. They tend to adopt the ‘I know better than you’ point of view, which in their mind means ‘I want to prove I’m a better person than you.”. These people behave by blaming, shouting, finger-pointing, belittling, and assuming the air of authority. The natural reaction for people on the other side of this is to turn into children; sulking, door-slamming, disobeying. This is why there is a fair amount of resentment built up, a good deal of moaning, wingeing and whispering in corners and often some quiet heated disagreements.

For me the situation of being told what to do strikes a chord with some childhood experiences. It smacks (no pun intended) of being told off and having to be punished. I remember similar pronouncements from my schooldays – “Children found running in the corridor will be reported to the Headmaster”. “Pupils failing to wear the correct attire for gym will be reported to the Headmaster”.

Guests taking dinner in the evening or late afternoon will be required to wear Jacket and Tie.

My line of thought now tends to be; “How old am I? I’m not that keen on being treated like a five year old child at this time in my life.” Added to this annoyance there would be some reactance kicking in. I’d remember in school where a teacher told me to stop playing with your pen. Even though I had no intention of playing with my pen that’s all I could now think about. Psychologically I’m trying to get that freedom of choice back.

In the golfing situation it would instil the same reaction. I may well obey the instruction though as there will be other factors creeping in. I may well obey a great many instructions for quite a well.. In the short term the problem would be solved.

However there would come a time where there would be a critical mass of resentment built up and there would be problems. Presumably I wouldn’t be the only person on the receiving end of this and pretty soon the morale of the club may well have dropped another notch. There will be more grumblings in corners about ‘nanny states’, ‘those people in their ivory towers’, ‘******* Committee members”, murmur, murmur, mumble, mumble. People don’t forget. These ‘small injustices’ never go away. They stay and come out somewhere, at some time – often inappropriately and usually with a physical, mental or financial cost – e.g. another club opens nearby and you see a mass exodus.

Our staff are empowered to judge whether an individual is acceptably dressed and to take appropriate action.

Now, I’m not advocating anarchy, as such. There are things that I will do; I will not cheat at golf, I will shout ‘fore’ if my drive is heading toward anyone, I will rake the bunker. I will stay quiet while people tee off. I do not need an edict from the Committee to tell me this.

As a suggestion I would just like people to think about the effect of their communication.. In terms of treating people when communicating do you communicate as a Parent, Child or Adult? A more productive ‘adult’ communication would entail some background, an explanation of the problem, the potential implications if the issue isn’t resolved and a suggestion. It would be even better if there was an offer of some dialogue. It’s what you would like isn’t it? It’s treating people like adults. It’s not difficult.

Rules for tipping: Professional staff – Do not tip cash to your country club manager. It’s not only in bad taste, it could be construed as a conflict of interest (because they manage your bills), and they may also be offended at being treated like a servant. It’s not fair because the country club manager is usually the person who works hardest for you each year, but Janet and I just tip with a token gift basket of goodies. (Tipping tip: If you want to tip your club manager with a gift basket, make sure to do it in their office. If the waiters see the git, the country club manager will feel compelled to share it with them).

Background labor– I don’t consider it expected nor required to tip the dishwashers, greens keeper or those creepy hippies who mow the fairways.”


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