How do I get them to STOP TALKING?

Dear Molly: I keep getting paired with Chatty Kathy and Blabbering Bob, who talk before, during and after my swing and can’t seem to stop talking long enough to hit the ball when it’s their turn. They seem nice enough, but this seems rude, distracts me and slows play. What can I do?

I think I may have played with Blabbering Bob! He told me how my putt was going to break when I was standing over my ball on the 9th green. On 10 tee, I took my practice swing and stepped up for my shot, and he said, “Great shoes!” Just as I was about to hit my approach on 12, I heard him cheering me on.

After I putted out on 12, I said, “Hey, I know you’re just being friendly, but I really need you to stop talking when I am ready to hit the ball. I’m not a PGA Tour player used to having galleries, and it’s very distracting to me.”

My friends praised me for speaking kindly and were not unhappy that he hardly spoke to us the rest of the way. I’m not sure how I could have handled it better, but it still didn’t seem like the perfect solution.

Unlike us recreational and club players, highly competitive golfers have no trouble:  A. blocking out distractions; and/or B. directly asking companions to please be quiet when they’ve stepped into the “play” box and are ready to make their next stroke. If said companions do not comply, the highly competitive golfer will step out of his play box and glare at them until they do.

As for the rest of us, I have asked many players how they handle the incessant chatterboxes. Here are some of their answers:

Player 1: “I tell them at the first violation, ‘Hey, would you mind pausing your conversation when I’m ready to play?’ Then I feel like I can just give them a wave or a nod or a look when they do it again.”

Player 2: “I hold up one finger and say something like, ‘Hold that thought for a second while I hit/putt.’ “

Player 3: “I don’t want to rock the boat, so I just sing a song or do something to distract myself from the conversation.”

Player 4: “I don’t say anything until I get so mad I just blow up at them.”

Player 5: “I keep stepping away and looking at them until they stop, but by now I’m so mad I have trouble focusing on my shot.”

Player 6: “I actually apologize to them because I am so easily distracted and ask if they would please stop talking when it’s my turn. Make it like there’s something wrong with me, not them.”

I think Players 1 and 2 are on to something, and here’s why. In the Rules of Golf, Rule 1.2 Standards of Player Conduct (a.) Conduct Expected of All Players, it lists among expected behaviors “showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.”

So the Rules entitle us to courtesy. The problem, notes CGA Director of Rules and Competitions Lewis Harry, is, “There’s no penalty in the Rules for being a jerk or misbehaving. There’s no penalty for talking too much or too loud or for being annoying. There’s only a penalty if the Committee decides to assess one.”

He’s handled just one such complaint, but, he says, it was after the round was over and scorecards had been signed. So he simply gave the culprit a talking-to. He suggests players alert a rules or committee official during a round, so the offender can be observed and admonished or penalized expeditiously.

When it comes to recreational play, you just have to find your own comfortable style of asking for what you want and deserve and, yes, are entitled to have, according to the Rules. Words like “would you mind” and “could you please” … A pointed look that comes with a quick smile and “thanks” … “Hang on guys” … Or, if they’re in a cart parked right next to you, “Hey, would you mind moving your cart off someplace where I can’t hear you?”

Finally, a word to you chatterboxes out there. I, too, am sometimes guilty! Especially with one particular friend. Playing with Mr. McMulligan, I ride with Friend so we can chat away while he is heading back to his tee. In our defense, Mr. M does not mind this because he knows that when we see that he is ready to hit, we will be quiet, if only briefly. He also knows that if we don’t see he is ready to hit, he can give us a simple cue, like, “Ladies!” and we will shush.

A golf shot or putt takes no more than a minute to set up and execute. Chatterboxes, even the most interesting conversation can pause for that long.

Molly McMulligan, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. You don’t want to take swing lessons from Molly, but if you’ve got a question about etiquette, relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado, Molly will find the answer. Send your questions along here.


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