Three cheers for the company golf tournament—a chance to trade the dull hum of fluorescent lighting for the happy hum of electric golf carts. Add a few beverages at the 19th, and it’s enough to brighten any summer workday. But beware of these human hazards, well-meaning folks who threaten to turn a day swinging in the sun into 18 holes of hell. Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and author of five etiquette books, including Playing Through: A Guide To the Unwritten Rules of Golf, offers advice for making the best of a bad foursome.
1. THE ETERNAL NETWORKER
IDENTIFIED BY: The buzz of his BlackBerry, and the fact that he just happens to have those revenue charts in his bag if you’d like to take a look.
HOW TO DEAL: The golf course is often called the outdoor boardroom, but Post says that’s less about sealing deals than “establishing relationships that you can build business on from there.” In other words, just give him your card and tell him to fill you in later.
2. THE ONE-MAN PARTY
IDENTIFIED BY: Plumes of cigar smoke, loud laughter and ability to spot a beer cart four holes away.
HOW TO DEAL: Post suggests stemming the flow by “suggesting a soft drink.” A more immediate solution might be to bribe the “cart girl” to steer clear of your foursome. Be prepared to pay handsomely—this is her best customer, after all.
3. THE NOOB
IDENTIFIED BY: Grandpa’s pleather bag of vintage clubs hanging over his shoulder. Don’t worry though, he’s “been playing Wii golf all week.”
HOW TO DEAL: New golfers often appreciate helpful tips, says Post. Offer to give him pointers as the game goes along. “By offering tips at the start, when he or she jangles their keys during a swing or steps in your putting line, you can let them know in a friendly helpful way that will be less awkward.”
4. THE BOSS
IDENTIFIED BY: A striking resemblance to the carved marble bust in the office lobby.
HOW TO DEAL: There’s no hiding behind middle managers and spreadsheets out here. If the CEO didn’t know your name before, he will now. Post says this is an ideal time to step up. “Don’t take it as a feared moment but as an opportunity to get to know your boss and vice versa,” he says. And don’t even think about missing that putt on purpose to make the paycheck signor look good. “They’ll pick up on that kind of insincerity.”
5. THE RANGE-FINDER
IDENTIFIED BY: The GPS-enabled gadgets attached to his belt, wrist and neck. Despite calculating exact pin distance for every shot—and lecturing as to why the satellite positions matter—he’s still topping it into the rough.
HOW TO DEAL: Even Post admits that this is a largely docile species whose only threat is to the pace of play. (You may even want to borrow that range-finder.) If he gets too slow, steal the remote to his robo golf cart and push him up to the green.
6. THE SHAMELESS CHEAT
IDENTIFIED BY: A special ability to make par despite four swings in the sand and a tee shot that met a watery grave.
HOW TO DEAL: If this was just a social game, you might laugh it off. But as Post points out, you’re in a tournament, and this person’s on your team. Address any cheating swiftly and clearly, he says: “If a player in another group sees something, it’s going to make your entire group look bad.”
7. THE RAGE CASE
IDENTIFIED BY: The dented clubs, intense eye contact and vice-like handshake. Watch for signs of bulging face veins at the first tee that could later lead to projectile clubs, swear-shouting or ripping off sleeves at a missed gimme.
HOW TO DEAL: Diffuse the fury by keeping the mood light. If that’s not working, “make it about you, not him,” says Post. “Be honest and say, ‘I’d like to enjoy my day here, so I’d really appreciate it if you could hold back a bit on the swearing and throwing clubs.’” Then duck.
(Illustrations by Ryan Inzana)