Finally, the weather in most of the country is starting to break, which means cabin fever is spreading at epidemic pace. Reports from driving ranges all over included 45-minute waits for a stall and range pickers running non-stop to keep the buckets full.
Heck, just last week I saw something for the first time in my long golfing life. With a full gallery of players blasting away, two workers made their way to the 150-yard green. I paused, wondering if they had a death wish. Then it dawned on me they were out there to rake up the balls plugged in the mud. But no worries, they were prepared. They were wearing what looked like a panel of fence on their backs like backpacks. The things others will do so we can hit a little white ball.
So while even a range veteran is bound to see something new ever once in a while, some things never change. So while many of us already recognize the characters who set up shop in the land of fake grass, vinyl divider walls and rubber golf tees, range neophytes can use a guide. Of course for range mainstays, you might just find yourself described below.
You know this guy. He's also at most courses, but at the range he really shines. The mayor is the most friendly guy there. He'll ask about your irons. He'll comment on your grips. He'll usually offer a little encouragement in the way of, "wow, you're striping it today" or "I'd love to get you on my scramble team." For the most part, the mayor livens up the place, but you have to beware. If you're there to get some work done, you want to avoid eye contact, otherwise you might spend 25 minutes talking about the weather, the guy who had been in the stall before you, another guy who comes in on Saturdays, or that round where if he'd only made a couple putts would have put him in the 80s.
Dad, with His Daughter
This one is like "husband with his wife" but he's a little less frustrated and a little more hopeful. He's known for such golf axioms as "Keep your head down" and "Keep your eye on the ball" no matter how many times she tops it 24 yards down the range. The maddening part of the dad (normally a 20-something handicap, otherwise he would already realize the value in lessons from a legitimate golf pro) is when he grabs the club and snaps, "watch! Like this" and then invariable tops it 84 yards down the range.
Taking a page from Hogan's mantra, Vijay's Disciple is convinced the swing is found in the rubber. He's got the athletic tape on his knuckles, four or five nasty once-white gloves Velcroed to his bag, and the sweat stained hat. You might find a swing training aid or two, but at the very least, definitely some alignment markers. Vijay's Disciple and the Mayor land on two opposite ends of the driving range spectrum, and they make sure stay out of each other's way. Actually, that's not true. The Mayor loves to put his one-liners to the test on the Disciple, even if he's only expecting a grunt in response. "Really striping it today, bro," he might say. "Hrgh," is the reply, but at least it's something.
Spend enough time at the range and you'll get to know there are guys who beat themselves up over a bad shot the same way they would on the course itself. You'll never know it watching that sweet silky swing, piercing trajectory, and baby draw. But maybe that high 6-iron with a four-yard right-to-left was actually supposed to be a low sweeping hook. Or it might look like he blasted another booming drive directly down the middle, but he was actually aiming to start it at the big pine on the left and cut it back at the 280 sign. No matter what, The Perfectionist would just be the range's star if he'd keep his outbursts to himself. But it's his blend of high standards - and more importantly making sure YOU know how high his standards are - and a short fuse that tell you this guy will be one to avoid on the first tee.
The Machine Gun
Often it's a newcomer to the game who's convinced practice, practice, practice is the way to lower scores. How it translates on the range is typically a jumbo bucket, polished off in 20 minutes. The true Machine Gun don't bother with irons, wedges or any of that stuff. It's 100 drivers. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Deep breath. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Whew! Of course, thinking the shots have to get better - after all, this is practice! - they're bound to progressively get worse as fatigue sets in. But keep in mind, it's a beginner who can't give up tinkering and by the 80th ball, there's no telling how much the swing has changed. Getting the ball airborne 75 percent of the time is an accomplishment in and of itself, and sure enough, they'll get home and tell their wife about the drive they cracked 265 (really 235) and dead straight over the 250 sign (forget that he aimed at the target green 25 yards left of that sign).
So, if you find yourself fitting into one or more of these descriptions, never fear. The range wouldn't be nearly as fun without the regular cast of characters. And hell, I didn't even get into the guys who drive the picker. That could be an entire column of its own.
The Actual Pros
Well, hey, we've already got an article on that.