Drive-By Golfers

by | May 11, 2014 | Compassion

We were on the first tee, two friends and I, when he roared up in his own custom-made cart. “May I join you?” He asked, pleasantly enough. Of course he could. We introduced ourselves to him, but he wouldn’t volunteer his name. His eyes were shifty, never landing on us for long. And before long we found out why he was golfing alone.

He rarely spoke, only grunted. And when he did, ugly things spilled forth. He murmured about the foul weather, he muttered about my swing. And when he missed a shot himself or duffed, topped, sliced, or hooked, he would smack his club into the turf and say things that made us want to throw some soap in the ball washer and run him through it.

Not only was his vocabulary limited, he insisted on teeing off from a different tee box, causing us to wait each time. Though we hooted and hollered and clapped when he sank a 14-foot putt, not once did he acknowledge one of our good shots (yes, we had a few). He grumbled and groused his way from shot to shot, and at the end of the round, he stomped off the green without acknowledging our presence.

One of the men I was golfing with was a new believer in Christ, a muscular man who had worked for years on the oil rigs and could outcuss the most articulate cusser. He knew exactly what to do with our new golfing buddy. As we walked the eighth fairway together, he told me what he was going to do. He would nudge the man’s cart into neutral and then push it into the creek-preferably with its driver behind the wheel. I said, “Nah, you can’t.”

“Why?” He grinned. “Give me one solid reason.” “You’re a believer now.”

He smiled, “Sometimes it’s no fun being a Christian.” And sometimes it’s no fun dealing with people who drive us crazy.

One gorgeous spring day, my brother-in-law and I played golf at the Coyote Creek Golf Course in beautiful Redmond, Washington, where we found ourselves paired with Dan, a delightful guy who was as excited to golf as we were. Dan shot par on the first hole and celebrated with a beer. On the second hole he didn’t have anything to celebrate, but that didn’t stop him. By the third hole he was on his fourth beer. And by hole number five, his demeanor had radically changed.

Pointing his clubs at geese, he yelled, “Die, you ugly duck…” He told the birds things they didn’t know about themselves, things about their history and their future. And then he began to tell them about us! Mercifully, he quit and wandered into the woods, never to be seen by us again. He may still be out there.

On and off the golf course we find them, obnoxious people who test every ounce of our patience. They whine, they control They hand us free tickets for an all-inclusive two-week guilt trip.

While climbing aboard a flight recently I was chastised by a lady one row in front of me for accidentally touching her sweater when I put my luggage in the overhead compartment. Sitting down, I listened to a fascinating conversation beside me.

“Do you smoke?” One man asked, sniffing the air.

“Yes,” replied his seatmate.

“I thought so,” the man said. “You stink. Smoking’s dumb.”

I should have checked the calendar. Maybe it was International Day of the Rude Person.

Perhaps you’ve bumped into someone today who drove you bananas. What was your response?

Any missionary will tell you the number one problem on the mission field is not theology. It involves interpersonal problems. I’ve been in countries where you need two things to be a good missionary: A good sense of humor and no sense of smell. Laughter certainly helps, doesn’t it? But here are a few other ideas for dealing with problem people on and off the links.

1. Learn from them.

The impatient golfer behind can remind us how not to golf. The driver who cuts us off in traffic provides an excellent opportunity to resolve never to cut someone else off. The boss who chews us out shows us how not to treat others if ever we are in charge. So send them each a thank-you note. Well, maybe not. But don’t let such opportunities be wasted. Learn from them.

2. Pray for them.

Listen to the Master’s revolutionary advice in Luke 6:27-28 (NIV): “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

3. Show them grace.

Let’s face it: A little bit of The Jerk resides in us all. Each of us needs piles of pardon and plenty of patience. So wage peace by extending to others the grace we would want extended to us. When we think of it, what have we done to deserve God’s favor? Does He love only the loveable? Jesus taught us to “Do for others what you would like them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12).

Some of the softest people I know have a gruff exterior. When I faced an acquaintance of mine with the fact that I felt insulted whenever I played golf with him, he was shocked. And changed. What I discovered beneath his abrasive sandpaper personality was a guy who needed acceptance, patience, and forgiveness.

Days after playing golf with Dan, the beer-guzzling duck hunter, I found a fascinating story in the paper. Not far from the golf course, state wildlife agents found a black bear passed out by a lake. Clues were scattered nearby-dozens of empty beer cans. The bear apparently got into campers’ coolers (Dan’s perhaps) and used his claws and teeth to puncture the cans. And not just any cans-he appeared to favor one brand over another.

“He drank the Rainier and wouldn’t drink the Busch beer,” said Fish and Wildlife enforcement Sergeant Bill Heinck. “The bear did try one can of Busch but ignored the rest.” The beast then consumed 36 cans of Rainier.

Wildlife officials shot the bear for its gluttony. No, I’m kidding.

Agents used a large humane trap to capture it for relocation, baiting the trap with doughnuts, honey, and two open cans of beer.

You already know what kind.

I wonder sometimes why we don’t extend as much compassion and grace to humans as we do to an inebriated bear.

“Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.” Jude 22-23 MSG

Phil Callaway, Golfing with the Master. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006, p. 59-63.


Drive-By Golfers