This has been a problem since around 1983 when I was dazzled by the person stood behind the counter of the pro shop. Imagine being a golf professional for a living. Imagine being able to hit the ball like that. Imagine having all that knowledge. Imagine having all those skills. Imagine all the people looking up to you.
So is it any wonder why we all let ourselves down when we darken their door? Is it any wonder we can’t help ourselves when the opportunity pops up to spend a few moments with the pro? Is it any wonder I don’t know what’s right?
Here are a selection of rules to live by when entering the pro shop…
If you want a lesson book one
Struggling with your long irons? Not reading the greens? Getting a “bit lateral”?
First up, nobody else really cares. We’ve all got our own problems and there are few things more boring than listening to another person’s woes.
Your professional is most likely an employee of the club, they are not your first port of call when things aren’t working out. They’re skilled individuals so, like other forms of business like buying a sandwich or getting on a bus, you will have to pay for the privilege.
He’s a pro, not your life coach
One thing that certainly is more boring than going through your own shortcomings is to recount every last detail of your 33 points. Again, simply assume that nobody cares and trust yourself on any and every occasion that this is the right way to go.
When you’re tempted to let loose on how you were going nicely until you lost a ball at 12 and then piped one “from nowhere down 13” just take a breath and stop yourself.
This person has been round the same course that you’re talking about in 65 – your self-obsessed tales are an horrific waste of their time and skills.
Be yourself, it’s fine
Again have a bit of trust in yourself and act like you would in any other shop. Don’t feel the need to slip into some sort of tour pro vernacular by saying things like “I knocked one in from downtown”, or “I was a little low on energy out there”. Just act like you normally do. Talk about your latest box set or who you fancy to win Strictly.
If you’re really struggling talk about Tiger’s comeback.
When they ask for your handicap they just want a quick answer rather than another breakdown of your game or replying with the number before adding something terrible like “for my sins”.
And please, whatever you do, don’t start talking in the same accent as them in a misguided attempt to curry favour. They’ll see through you and, rather than be flattered, will be alarmed and embarrassed for you in equal measure.
Don’t overstay your welcome
This is a hard one as the chances are you want to be best friends with the person behind the counter. They are so much better at golf than you will ever be, they dress better than you, the game doesn’t terrify them (as much), and in your head they are leading a lifestyle that you can only dream of.
That doesn’t mean that you can start all manner of conversations in an attempt to get that bit closer to them.
As a 23-year-old I once popped in to get a can of Coke and stayed to watch The Spy Who Loved Me in its entirety. As enjoyable as both the film and being seen in close quarters with the pro and his equally cool assistant were, this showed a terrible lack of self-awareness as I cluttered up the floor of his shop for an hour and a half.
Please don’t hate me
There is also the problem, although it’s a very welcome problem, that 99% of my golf is not paid for – though I will have mumbled something about a Played by NCG and “some social” in return for the courtesy. And, as such, my suspicion is that every pro, assistant or shop hand thinks, not even deep down, that I’m scum.
So I will talk too much, I will ask for some course guidance in an attempt to show a bit of interest, I will buy more chocolate than I need and I will hope that, in the three minutes where our paths briefly cross, I will be able to charm them into thinking that I’m not like every other parasite that comes their way.
It’s all about the MOI
Like the lessons they’d really like a bit of your business rather than your opinions on centre of gravity and your views on the ideal bounce for the club’s bunkers.
They know, and you know, that you’ve no intention of buying a single item in their shop as you’ve seen it £5 cheaper online so stop waggling the irons about and stop fingering his knitwear.