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Player's Journal

The alternative guide to club fitting - Part 2


Part 1 of Richard Pennell's guide to joining a golf club covered the membership interview. If you've made it this far, you're ready for Part 2 - the play-in round...
The alternative guide to club fitting - Part 2

Many con­grat­ula­tions. You have suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated the front nine with the ini­tial Mem­ber­ship In­ter­view, judging by the in­vit­a­tion to today’s play­ing-in ses­sion.

This forms the next stage of the can­did­ate pro­cess (and re­mem­ber, you will prob­ably not have been told any­thing about these stages; nor must you ask). If you thought that the in-per­son in­ter­view was a gruelling epis­ode, the play­ing in ex­per­i­ence will push you to break­ing point.

To suc­ceed, you must push through these chal­lenges, stretch­ing your­self to a new level of com­mit­ment which will, in turn, prove use­ful when the Club later imposes a hefty levy for es­sen­tial cap­it­al works, or raises the price of a Club sand­wich with the sort of in­fla­tion per­cent­age last seen in Weimar Ger­many.

You are halfway through, and many obstacles re­main on the back nine. But remind yourself that you have got this far, meaning you are in with a chance. So, take a mo­ment to breathe slowly and pre­pare for the work ahead. Ready? Let’s go:

10. Don’t play too well, or too badly (see point 1 of Part 1)
No one likes a sy­co­phant, but no one came here to be well-beaten, either. This is a line so fine as to be in­vis­ible, and you must straddle it without a wobble, while also car­ry­ing your clubs and your even weight­i­er hopes and dreams along.

11. Don’t play too strate­gi­cal­ly
It is like­ly your fel­low play­ers will have been fight­ing the same per­son­al bat­tle against the golf course for years, if not decades, and it will in­volve a stub­born and at times de­ment­ed op­timism that flies in the face of every shred of ev­i­dence that has ap­peared thus far. Now is not the time to dis­play a su­pe­ri­or tac­ti­cal ap­proach to such dilem­mas as whether to lay up short of an enor­mous bunker, or to cut the cor­ner of a dog­leg. No one likes a syco­phant, as pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned, but no one likes a smart-arse ei­ther. Hav­ing said all that, you don’t want to ap­pear dumb, so you also mustn’t just re­peat­ed­ly stum­ble into the mis­takes they are mak­ing. A tric­ky ba­lan­ce.

12. Be will­ing to re­pair every pitch­mark and re­place every div­ot on the property
Whatever you do, though, do not pass judg­ment on the con­di­tion of the course (or, for that mat­ter, on any strokes played, in­clud­ing your own). These peo­ple love this place, so re­gard­less of whether the fair­ways look like they have recently staged a reenactment of the charge of the Light Brigade, or the bunkers ap­pear to have last been raked in a leap year, do not make any com­ment that could be perceived as crit­i­cal or even ”a sug­ges­tion”.  Which brings us to...

13. Avoid the “Sug­ges­tion Book”
This tip could well have been in­clud­ed in the prep for the Mem­ber­ship In­ter­view, but its im­por­tance strad­dles both, and the clear tac­ti­cal po­si­tion of nev­er mak­ing a sugges­tion should be fol­lowed through­out the elec­tion process, and indeed, through any mem­ber­ship that may or may not come to pass at the end of this tri­al. There is a prece­dent, ac­cord­ing to club folk­lore, for an on course “Sug­ges­tion” hav­ing cat­astrophic con­sequences for the per­son brave or stu­pid enough to is­sue it. Word has it that at one rather up­mar­ket club on the east coast of Amer­i­ca, a member was heard to sug­gest that a wind­mill would look rather nice at the top of a cer­tain hill. He re­turned sev­er­al months lat­er to find not only a wind­mill, with a nice half­way hut sta­tioned with­in it, but also, lan­guishing in his slot of the oak let­ter rack shelves in the Mem­bers’ lock­er room, a bill for the full costs of the re­cent in­stal­ment. You have been warned.

14. You may not do anything that im­plies that you care about your score
No throwing or breaking clubs, swearing or blas­pheming. Remember: these peo­ple are here to beat you – that’s one of the hid­den con­di­tions – so you should ap­pear to want to win with­out ap­pear­ing to want to win. And lose when it suits them, not you.

15. Turn a blind eye
In the face of re­peat­ed frus­tra­tion from your play­ing part­ners, which may in­clude any or all of throw­ing or breaking of clubs, swear­ing and blas­phem­ing, do not ap­pear to no­tice or to not no­tice.

16. Don’t play too fast or too slow
This is crit­i­cal. No stan­dards are giv­en, but you must fall with­in them any­way. Linked to this is the pro­to­col when look­ing for a ball. Don’t ap­pear to know that the rule changed from five min­utes to three in 2019; that im­plies you care about, or perhaps even un­der­stand, the Rules. If it is your ball that the search is for, give up looking well be­fore three min­utes is up. If it is their ball you are looking for, con­sid­er look­ing for it un­til you find it.

17. Don’t break any Rules, but don’t pull any­one else up on the Rules ei­ther
Don’t ap­pear to be re­laxed about the Rules, nor up­tight about them. And if you see a breach, and con­sid­er re­minding any­one of the col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for en­sur­ing that no Rule is bro­ken (see Rules of Golf 1.3b(1), but not in such a way as they can see you), bear in mind that were you to fail this stip­u­la­tion, you will not only nev­er get in here, but prob­a­bly nowhere else ei­ther. Golf is a small world, in which eye­brows raise and tongues wag.

18. Don’t ap­pear too mean or too gen­er­ous with re­gard to gimmes
This one is of course the tough­est of the lot, and if the above seemed vague, my ad­vice re­gard­ing gimmes is non-ex­is­tent, re­al­ly. It is a mys­tical game of chess, gimmes, and noth­ing can pre­pare you for the minefield of pos­si­bly ter­mi­nal er­rors you could make in this realm. So instead of a fur­ther point­er, I will sim­ply wish you the great­est of luck with re­spect to this fi­nal point. You will need it.

You may feel that the game ac­tu­al­ly went okay, and have some sense that your copybook is not en­tire­ly blot­ted. But be pre­pared for the fact you still may nev­er get in, and re­gard­less of whether that is the case, you will nev­er be per­mit­ted to even ask for feed­back or an up­date, let alone re­ceive one. The in­ter­view process is re­al­ly a blend of Catch 22 and Yes, Min­is­ter, with a hint of Twin Peaks thrown in as top-dress­ing. But don’t ad­mit to watch­ing (or not watch­ing) TV, and par­tic­u­lar­ly not Twin Peaks. Ob­vi­ous­ly.

If, af­ter sev­er­al months of a ra­dio si­lence that will make death seem en­ter­tain­ing, you receive a let­ter cor­dial­ly invit­ing you to join, do so with­out de­lay (with­in the hour, ide­al­ly, re­gard­less of the fact that no-one, at any stage of the process told you what you were 'in for', or the terms of the arrange­ment). And nev­er, ever for­get that you are, and will re­main un­til such time as some­one tells you oth­er­wise (and this prob­a­bly won’t ever hap­pen), the “new mem­ber”.

And who knows, one day – if you can avoid the tap on the shoul­der to say your time is up or that you have trans­gressed an­oth­er in­vis­i­ble dik­tat – you might be in­vit­ed to serve on the nom­i­na­tions com­mit­tee your­self, and there­by en­joy the end­less drinks on some oth­er poor soul’s ac­count as they grov­el be­fore you. By then, you will have for­got­ten how con­fus­ing and nerve-wrack­ing the whole dra­ma was for you, and will there­fore be suit­ably equipped to in­flict ter­ror on anoth­er ex­cel­lent and pet­ri­fied can­di­date, with­out any shad­ow of guilt.

This is Part 2 of Richard Pennell's guide to the Kafka-esque process of joining a traditional British golf club. You can find part 1 here.

Read more of Richard's writing at his Stymied blog.

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