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. OK, but that’s only half of it. Our Handy Guide to Golf Partnering is what you need for the rest.
1) You believe in the team when no sensible person would. See “Cubs fan.”
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 cupola” isn’t what you’re after. 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 woods, a nifty bunker shot. He’s a smiler. You’re like him. You keep mood and score separate.
2) You’re no teacher. And never impersonate one.
You’d love to tell your friend and partner he’s swinging at, oh, 50 miles per hour faster than normal, but you don’t because you’re a good partner. You wait for him to inquire, after multiple doubles: “You see anything?” And then, in your best Bob Uecker 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.
3) You forget with the best. You remember only the best. You expect the same.
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.”
4) You’re on the same page when it really counts.
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 backward! 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 OK. My friend Squirrel, about 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 North Carolina 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.
Pictures: Peter Arkle
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