This Sunday I will have my last shift as a Marshall. The course will close at 4:45 and I will help round up the power carts, park them in a locked facility and then perhaps take a last look at the darkened golf course I have spent seven months of my life at and breathe a sigh of relief this punishing schedule of golf and Marshalling has come to an end. But I know there will be some reminiscing and reflection about being a golf Marshall and playing 40 rounds of golf. There will no doubt be a bit of sadness too that an interesting part of my life I never ever expected to have will conclude. So what are my final reflections?
- The Ratio of Good People to Dickheads
When I was trained for 15 minutes as opposed to 4 hours due to a frost delay my veteran trainer Marshall said 90% of the golfers here are great people and 10% are dickheads. I would revise to say that if you are looking for a simplified black and white picture 98% are good people and 2% are dickheads.
- The Hesitant Golfer
More than dickheads the slow golfer irritates me to no end. These are the golfers that overestimate their abilities stupidly. Beginners playing from the expert tees when regardless of sex they should be playing from the ladies’ tees. Then there are those that perform a time-consuming ritual of setting up and taking far too many practice swings. This delays the flow. Pardon my foul language but to these golfers I would like to say ( but do not), “Hit the fucking ball you selfish and ignorant bastards.” Mandatory golf etiquette courses should be implemented in Canada.
- People Skills
There is the expression that you get more things done than being sweeter than honey. I have realized that I must set aside my personal thoughts and treat golfers as “patrons” and customers deserving of as much respect as I can give them. So it has been pretty please which is often ignored or not understood by many Korean golfers that seem to not understand what I am saying to them. So I’d like to tell the selfish golfers to move your ass but I have to do this in the politest fashion. As a customer I’d expect nothing less. A golf Marshall is in customer service.
- Racism in Golf?
Who are the golfers? 70% Caucasian, 25% Koreans and the rest “others”. At my course the course is managed by a Korean owned management company. The staff are about 90% retired Caucasians who are not working for the scant money but golfing privileges particularly in COVID times where there is no place to travel to and few bookings are available to the public. One could argue up the percentage of staff so there is a better racial balance but the best Marshalls are those who know the course inch by inch and the fact is that golf is really a white man’s sport. I am not trying to defend anyone here but simply make a point to reflect reality. Yes I know black lives matter but blacks playing golf at my course are less than 1% of golfers. How can you implement global inclusion and diversity amongst golf course employees without a solid base of experienced golfers that reflect racial diversity? To do so is empty philandering to the phrases of the day. Corporate Canada plays this game so well.
And yes I know there is reverse racism being told in violent terms by a group of black golfers to stick my head up my fucking white ass when I so politely asked them could they please pick up their pace as they were two holes behind in timing. And I have been in a foursome where a Korean couple exploded against a black guy I played with in what I can only call a racist attack. Golf is but an extension of “real life”.
- The Golf Marshall at the Low-End of the Power Structure
Who has the best overall view of what is going on at the golf course? Is it the Pro-Shop people who sit in the clubhouse having no idea what is going on or the Marshall in the thick of the action? The Marshall responds to reality and the Pro-Shop to complaints and these complaints are their selfish priorities. If a golf course was a plantation the Pro-Shop employees are house slaves and Marshalls field slaves. There is no democracy in golf.
- Keeping People Informed
Aggravated golfers are the Marshall’s worst enemy. It is usually those ahead of us that are slowing the game they say but it is often 6 to 7 holes ahead that the culprits can be tracked down. Then you ask these culprits to speed up and circle back and inform the delayed golfers you have asked the laggards to speed up and most will look at you in the eye and sincerely thank you. Basic customer service.
- The Ultimate Flattery
Having played the course for 35 years and playing 40 or so rounds this year I know, or I think I know, each inch and angle so when I am asked for advice how to play a hole I really get engaged and briefly and concisely explain the conservative strategy and the aggressive strategy and when each may be appropriate. I know this course better than a radical white wing preacher in Aylmer, Ontario knows his Bible!
- Comedy and Lightheartedness
I have been told by “management” my communication skills and humour have been appreciated by golfers. After a year there are some 100 golfers that address me by my first name! Who are these people?
Could it be that those hang dog faces I have tried to cure with a few mindfulness trained phrases I have picked up in being certified in mindfulness in Europe and Canada have worked. I bless a few golf balls as a Marshall and receive heartfelt thanks about improving a golf game and then like the Pope I am blessing cases of golf balls. At times Marshalling can be a riot. I bless tees and give out golf balls to create huge goodwill. It helps to ask friends to speed up as opposed to hostile adversaries.
- Golf is Love
If only all the world played golf we could unite and bypass starvation, hatred, racism and war. We ae a golfing world. Stupid naïve me.
- The Ultimate Lesson
Not to belittle golf but I love it and its foibles and wrinkles. If I can make a difference by making the 18 holes a pleasant experience, I will do all I can. So please treat a Marshall with respect as he or she is under the guillotine of pace management. A cruel but necessary god.