An explanation to the terrible world of golfing small talk

The Scoop

What we say on the course and what we mean are often worlds apart as Mark Townsend explains in this week's Notebook

I recently caddied for a friend as he tried to qualify for the Brabazon Trophy. He played well, not quite well enough and the four hours were spent second-guessing what one of us was saying to the other.

This happens a lot in golf. We’re all exposed out there to one another’s sometimes good and sometimes horrific conversations and, if we’re honest, what actually comes out of our mouths on the course bears little resemblance to the thought process behind it. It’s not a very appealing side to our character but it’s not going to go away so, if only to serve as a confession, this is pretty much how my mental process works on the course…

What I say: “So what do you do for a living?”

What I mean: We are 80 yards down the opening fairway and it is already fairly apparent that we are both only here for the golf. In the interests of politeness I thought I would say something.

What I say: “How long have you been a member here?”

What I mean: I’m just trying to weigh up how much of a bandit you are.

What I say: “Who do you normally play with?”

What I mean: Given I only know three people in the club I’m going to struggle to react to what you say but, basically, I am now either a) going to judge you by the company you keep, or b) write you off as someone who struggles to make new friends.

What I say: “I didn’t see that much break. Great putt. Well done.”

What I mean: I’m giving you every chance to admit that you shoved it and got lucky.

Putt

What I say: “That came out well.”

What I mean: I’m on to you.

What I say: “I think you’ve got a shot here?”

What I mean: We both know full well that this is your shot hole so be a good boy and pop this one out of bounds now.

What I say: “I’ve just got these new wedges.”

What I mean: Don’t be at all surprised to see me knife this one into the undergrowth behind the green.

What I say: “What does it say on the scorecard?”

What I mean: I had a quick glance before your ball had even landed and, yes, that is internal out of bounds and, no, you can’t just play it.

What I say: “I’ve got a line on that…”

What I mean: That’s dead. My pointing out your ball set off on a path three fairways away isn’t going to do you any good when we trudge around in some knee-high bund for the next five minutes

What I say: “It should be about here for distance”

What I mean: Let’s be honest we’re never going to find this.

Lost ball

What I say: “Did you hit it OK?”

What I mean: Given we’re only 110 yards away from where you shoved your hybrid into this gunk I’m now talking just for the sake of it.

What I say: “Have you been off lower?”

What I mean: You can’t always have been this bad, surely.

What I say: “Are we both here for four?”

What I mean: We both know you didn’t get it out the sand the first time.

 What I say: “Are you playing a Pinnacle?”

What I mean: I know full well you’re playing a Pro V1 with two dots above the logo, and one just below, but I’ll say this so it looks like I’m trying my best to find it.

What I say: “You hit that driver well don’t you?”

What I mean: By saying what I’ve just said hopefully you’ll start missing some fairways from here on in.

What I say: “I couldn’t quite tell if it made the bunker?”

What I mean: Straight in and, all being well, it’s rolled up into the face.

What I say: “Is that three up to you?”

What I mean: I’m trying to sound casual and laid back but we both know exactly what the score is.

What I say: “Bit more and I had it..”

What I mean: I’ve really no idea what my putt would have done in the last six feet but I’m trying to sound like a positive thinker while glossing over the fact that I hit the ground first.

What I say: “That was your best of the day..”

What I mean: That stood out a mile from the first 12 holes.

What I say: “There are no pictures on the scorecard. Great par.”

What I mean: Rest assured I will be telling everyone within earshot of the clubhouse about exactly what happened there.

What I say: “That was a good flight for this wind.”

What I mean: We both know you thinned that.

What I say: “I take it you are busy at work?”

What I mean: Have you ever played golf before?

Shake hands

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