The Golfer’s Shibboleth
Editors Note: Ronnie Tumlin will be contributing columns regularly to Golfweek Sr. Nation. Many of you know Ronnie the Golfer. Ronnie the Writer is equal parts Will Rogers, Dan Jenkins, Andy Rooney and Larry the Cable Guy. Ronnie the Golfer has played in numerous USGA events. According to him, he “never scared nobody”, except himself one year while playing well in the USGA Sr. Amateur at Bel-Air. He has won over 150 invitationals and opens as a lifelong amateur and is a sucker for any club that promises five extra yards. Ronnie the Writer is an observational savant with a humorous, curmudgeonly bent. This will be the first time anything he has written has seen the light of day outside of his email circle of friends. Both Ronnies live in Palatka, Fla. with Suzanne, their wife of 40 years. One can assume she loves her husband very much and has a great capacity for love and acceptance.
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The older we get the more golf phrases we use. New ones are always coming into favor, adding to the game’s rich lexicon. These phrases convey emotions (anger, happiness, frustration, self-hatred and self-love), humor and non-judgmental descriptions; a good phrase often rolls several sentiments into one. I could write a column of great utterances that would never make it past our editorial standard.
Television commentators only dabble in phraseology, probably because most of the audience wouldn’t understand what the heck they were talking about. Johnny Miller comes the closest to speaking the lingo of experienced players, but does so carefully. Can you imagine what the casual fan might think if a commentator said, “Jim, Bubba really stepped on that one but he Cutty Sarked it too far towards Oscar Brown’s place. His ball is Tarzan on the ground under an oak tree. This is a guaranteed double unless he chops wood first, then triple is in play”?
Here are some common phrases that should be known to both serious and avid players: scraped it, snatched it, pulled it, bladed it, smoked it, roped it, thinned it, choked it, trapped it, came off of it, came out of it, came over it, yanked it, ducked it, slung it, smothered it, sniped it, blocked it, heeled it, chopped it, chunked it, chubbed it, dubbed it, duffed it, skinned it, Liprosy, Lip Cancer, ten-foot slider, yipped it, the grain ran away with it, slick, runnin’ at 12, Velcro.
He’s a grinder, a gamer, a hustler, a sand-bagger, a choker, a bomber, a hack, dead.
I stoned it, stiffed it, stuffed it, kicked it in, hit it choke proof, nuked it, sunk a bomb, a gasser, dubbed it, laid the sod over it, chili-dipped it, three-whacked it, jerked it, horse-shoed it, slam-dunked it, clanked it, staked it, jarred it, hit a lateral
Keep your lips off my ball. It went off in my hands. I didn’t know it was loaded. I carved a knife round the bunker to 10. I hit it a groove low.
It’s plugged, buried, a fried egg, a snow cone, in the bucket, an Oral Roberts, Emperor Toe Jam.
I shot a snowman, hockey sticks, Sunset Strip, Red Grange, trombones, the love number, Route 66, a Nixon, my age, the temperature.
Only “real” golfers who’ve played for years could score an “A” (90%) on this vocabulary test. The new, casual or non-golfer would get a failing grade. Knowing these phrases is a perk of suffering and immersing oneself in the game over a long time. They’re badges of honor you can pull out to impress and mystify.
Just think a minute about how boring it is for your wife listening to you and your buddies talk about the day’s round. Fact is, she doesn’t understand what you’re talking about and really doesn’t much care. Golf has a language all its own, understandable only to true golfers. The rest of the world doesn’t much care either.