Back in my persimmon days of golf, I used to tee it up regularly with a guy who, upon hitting a bad tee shot, would slam and bury his driver into the tee box. He was so forceful that once during a round after a rainy day, he had to pry his club loose before cleaning it off and returning it to his bag.
It was embarrassing and uncomfortable. So much so, that even with a few bucks on the line, I would root for him to play well just so we could have a pleasant experience. One day, it got so bad with his cursing and subsequent brooding that I walked off the course after nine holes.
The guys playing along with Sergio Garcia last week at the Saudi International really didn't have that option.
By now most of you have probably seen or read about Garcia's temper tantrum in the sand and subsequent disqualification last week for damaging five greens at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Saudi Arabia. Although this isn't the first time Garcia has displayed anger on the course, the extent of these latest transgressions is troubling for a 39-year-old major winner who you would think would be past this sort of behavior.
Garcia is hardly the first or last to display his bad temper on the golf course in the professional ranks, of course.
Henrik Stenson, for example, has broken a few clubs over the years and tossed a few in the water. The quick-playing John Daly has had a few un-Happy Gilmore days, too, including launching an iron into Lake Michigan during the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. And although his anger didn't boil over, you could argue that Phil Mickelson suspended his sanity when he chased after and putted a moving ball at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Then there's Woody Austin, who famously beat himself over the head with his own putter handle in frustration at Harbour Town Golf Links in 1997.
Of course, one of the most notorious temperamental golfers of all time was the aptly named Tommy Bolt. AKA "Thunder" Bolt, he was actually a terrific player, but his rep for throwing clubs outweighed his 15 PGA Tour victories that included the 1958 U.S. Open. Bolt, in fact, embraced his persona. "It thrills crowds to see a guy suffer," he told Golf Digest in 2002. "That's why I threw clubs so often. They love to see golf get the better of someone."
Letting off steam might have been good for Bolt's health. He lived to be 92.
For most of us, though, I suspect it would be healthier to have better control over our emotions on the course, especially for our playing partners.
Fortunately in my 35 years of playing golf, 95 percent of the players with whom I've been paired have been most pleasant playing companions.
Sure, there's the guy who plays too slow or lacks etiquette, but the Harvey Penick quote, "If you play golf, you're my friend," has pretty much held true for most of my life.
There have been exceptions.
One time at a Las Vegas course, playing with my then 15-year-old son, we were paired up with a scary character who threw clubs after nearly every shot. On one hole, he almost hit my son with a wedge. That's when I finally had to say something. He quit throwing clubs, but his verbal outbursts continued. My son found the episodes amusing. I couldn't wait to get off the course and away from this monster. He took well over 100 shots to get around the course, and then announced that he was disappointed with the 82 he shot that day. Talk about being self-delusional.
Another time in Northern Michigan, I was playing golf with a low-handicap player who remains pretty composed 99.9 percent of the time, but he lost it after his fifth three-putt of the round. That's when he tried to chop down a tree with his $350 Scotty Cameron putter. I have to admit that was pretty funny, and he was fine after that, although he had to putt with a wedge for the remainder of the round.
I once knew a golf writer who was so out of control that eventually everyone but his best friend refused to play with him. You didn't want to let this guy behind the wheel of the cart because after a bad hole, he would drive recklessly. Thank goodness rental carts have a governor or he might have run the cart into a brick wall.
Maybe worse than a tantrum, though, is the golfer who broods for the entire round when he's not playing well. I'm talking about the guy who seems to be suicidal because all of his self-worth is wrapped up in his scorecard. That same guy usually calls off the match when he's four-down after five holes (good way to up your winning percentage) in recreational play.
I'm no psychologist, of course, but it seems like that's a big part of the problem with angry golfers. Many of them have unrealistic expectations on the course. We hit a few good shots and think it should be that way all the time. This just in: golf is pretty difficult, especially for us weekend hackers. Lower your expectations and just have fun.
By the way, I've played with dozens of women and I've never played with one who has lost her temper on the course. (Yes, I know it occasionally happens at higher levels of women's golf). And I've played with good female players, not just high handicappers who are just happy to be outside with nature. Wonder why this is the case? It's probably for the same reasons men start most wars.
In my early years - when I practiced three or four times a week and was ultra-competitive - I might have lost it a time or two myself. There are two episodes in particular that were humiliating, albeit entertaining for my buddies who knew my outbursts were pretty short-lived.
Once after I blew a match by losing the 18th hole to a friend by chili-dipping and three-putting after he hit his tee shot in the water, I walked over to my bag (we were walking the course that day), took a swing with my wedge and decapitated four clubs (one of the most solid shots I hit all day). The embarrassment of tossing the pieces into the trunk of my car and expense of re-shafting four clubs has cured me from ever taking out my frustration on equipment again.
Or there was the time I three-putted from four feet to make bogey on a par-3 hole (we were playing skins, and I had been shut out through 16 holes). Without a word, I walked off the green and calmly tossed my putter straight up in the air. It didn't come down, instead getting stuck in the branches of a tall pine tree. As I tried to figure out how to get the putter out of the tree, I told my mates to go on without me. They refused to leave, letting me know that they weren't going to miss this for the world.
I threw three more clubs up into that tree trying to dislodge the putter until all of them came down at once, with one shaft breaking in two on over a limb before it gashed my right palm as I tried to catch it. That was in the early 90s.
I haven't thrown a club since.