Range Rats!

Some people can drive you to shoot chile peppers at Lee Janzen.

Trap Five LogoAh, the range! It’s the place where most of us work on our games. If you’re like me, you go through a jumbo bucket or so every week… sometimes two when the game necessitates it.

I’ve had some great experiences at ranges. Once, back when the LPGA used to come to town, I found myself hitting shots next to Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, whose best career finish is T2. Now, as a top-level professional, I’d have expected any LPGA player to be pretty consistent. But hitting balls there beside her, I quickly learned just how consistent these players are. She was hitting irons to a target green, and every shot was landing within a circle about ten feet in circumference. Not only that, but each consecutive shot seemed to follow the hole in the air punched by the shot before it. It was amazing… and humbling. But it also taught me just how consistent you have to be to play really good golf.

Now if you really want to be humbled, try hitting next to a men’s collegiate player. As his 3-irons are flew past my best drives, I began to understand the order of the universe. I didn’t really like it, but on the other hand, it was great to see how far an elite player can hit the ball. I don’t have that kind of top end, but it’s good to understand that and stick to the game I do have.

At a range this summer, I actually hit the same flag on consecutive shots. One actually came down on the very top of the stick and bounded almost straight up. Luckily, the guy next to me saw it or I would have figured my eyes were playing tricks on me. I’ve also hit an enitre small bucket of shanked irons in one session (once before a tournament).

But as bad as a case of the dreaded “S” word on a crowded range is having a guy set up shop next to you and proceed to annoy the heck out of you. (I use the term “guy” here, but in truth I can be equally bothered by people of both sexes.)

Now the range is not a golf course. The same etiquette need not apply, but some etiquette should. What follows are several characters that I’ve encountered on ranges, much to my dismay. Perhaps they’ll sound familiar.

Number Five: Cell Phone Guy
OK, it’s 2008… I agree that somebody might have good reason for keeping their cell phone with them on the range. That’s fine. Even a ringing cell phone isn’t that annoying (depending on the ring tone, of course).

Range rocksWhat kind of grinds at me is when Cell Phone Guy carries on a lengthy conversation right between the range ropes. Generally, quite loudly.

I’ve taken calls on the range, but I walk away from the firing line to try to keep from bothering others. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to expect that from others. Still even if somebody talks on the phone right next to me, it’s not that big of a deal, unless, like Ken Tarmac, they are talking like the person’s on the far side of the room.

Number Four: Over-Instruction Guy
Over-Instruction Guy partially annoys me and partially amuses me. You’ve probably seen the type. He can be found providing loud instruction on the golf swing to a friend, a child, or (the best) his wife or girlfriend. The problem is that while he may understand some basics, he tends to apply them wrong. And worse, he provides the instruction in rapid fire manner so that his protege is left bewildered by the complexity of this game rather than enjoying a few modest successes from the range trip.

I firmly believe that golf swing can only be learned two ways, by imitation and one skill at a time. Imitation only works for some naturally gifted athletes who can copy a good swing (like Tiger Woods did his father’s), simply by watching it. For the rest of us, focusing on much more than a single key move on any one swing can be the recipe for disaster. Even those who learn through imitation have to resort to one skill at a time learning if they need to make a swing change to the sequence they seemed to learn so naturally.

Number Three: Angry Guy
Don’t be Angry Guy on the range, even if you are hitting chili peppers up Lee Janzen’s… donkey. Thankfully, I’ve only encountered Angry Guy on the range a few times (he’s much more common, understandably, on golf courses). Angry Guy gets so worked up by miss-hitting ball after ball, that he starts slamming clubs around, swearing, perhaps even kicking or beating his golf bag (I saw that this summer).

Talk about bothering those around you! If you can’t keep your cool on the range, even if you aren’t hitting the ball as well as you’d like, how are you ever going to keep it together on the course where bad shots cost strokes and golf balls?

I’m not talking about an isolated eruption here: a half-hearted club thump or a curse under your breath after a bad shot. Angry Guy carries on shot after shot. Loudly. Those around him tend to clear away if possible, just for self preservation. Angry Guy is scary because his antics border on insanity.

Some ranges are more peaceful than others. No Angry Guys here.

Number Two: iPod Guy
There’s nothing wrong with using your iPod at the range. I get bothered by the wires, but that’s just me. No, iPod Guy causes offense by commenting on his shots at an abnormally loud volume.

It’s the old headphone trick. People often fail to moderate their voices when they’re wearing headphones. And since they can’t hear themselves, they apparently don’t think that others can hear them. We can.

I happened to be hitting next to iPod Guy the other day. After about every other shot, he’d say something like, “That’s the stuff” or “Swing smooth, jackass.” Once or twice would have been no big deal. But a loud comment on 50% of his shots through a large bucket got pretty annoying.

Number One: Venus Williams Guy
Venus Williams Guy doesn’t necessarily have the iPod headphone excuse, but I have seen the two combined. Venus Williams Guy grunts on every single shot he hits, just like the tennis star does on her serves. Perhaps I should call him Remax-Long-Drive-Wannabe Guy, because that’s the only other place in golf I’ve heard players giving each shot a grunt to try to get extra distance. Which to me, seems like just one more thing to have to execute at the right time in the swing. I don’t think it could be beneficial at all. But it does seem to work for tennis players, so who knows.

I can tell you one thing with certainty; however, Venus Williams Guy can be very annoying on the range.

Photo Credits: Unknown, Unknown.

14 thoughts on “Range Rats!”

  1. Good, funny article. I’ve definitely been hitting next to some of these people in the past!

  2. How about Refusing to Keep an Eye on Your Child Guy. I’m all for kids practicing at the range but bringing your three year old and allowing him/her run around like a wild animal is annoying and dangerous. Earlier this year I saw a child walk right out onto the range in front of some inattentive parents. Everyone had to stop and hold their shot. That could have been tragic.

  3. Gee, all of these I have seen or witnessed at one time or another!

    I tend to keep to myself on the range and can easily block out anyone and noises. When you are focused on the task at hand, you should be able to do this; at least I find. When I am at the range I have specific goals in mind and often will work with just a couple of clubs to refine problem areas in my game.

    Saying all of this, one cannot help but look around a watch others at work. My favorite is the Macho Man! Pulls out the driver and expends a Jumbo Bucket in just under 10 minutes. This Range Dweller loves to have his girlfriend with him so he can show off just how long he can hit a ball. When the distance is not quite up to the proclaimed 300 yards, it’s got to be the club that’s at fault, or the old “not warmed up” routine. Always worth a good smile or quiet chuckle.

  4. A couple more:

    A variant of the the Venus guy. Hits 10 balls in a row in quick secession, sits down, repeats over and over again. Like a weightlifter doing sets.

    The whole range is wide open so you come up right next to me give me some stinking space guy. I bet you he’s a close talker.

    The quit sitting right behind me and watching me guy.

  5. My personal favorite and the most scary is the

    Thinks his daughter is Michelle Wie guy.

    I constantly see this at my local range. Some poor girl, usually younger than 10 is miserably swatting away at the ball while her dad is yelling and coaching her with the intensity of Bill Belichick.

    It make me want to pull out my 2 iron and fire a stinger into daddy’s head.

  6. Funny.Except you forgot the worst of all.
    Unsolicited Swing Coach guy.This guy freely gives his swing improvement advice to any stranger that he thinks needs it.
    As a mid single digit player I usually practice working the ball when at the range.To a casual observer it looks as if I am all over the place when in reality the ball is doing what I want it to.
    Needless to say when “Swing Coach” came over to me a few months back and generously offered to fix my inconsistent swing I couldnt help myself but to accept his offer ๐Ÿ˜ˆ .
    After a few minutes of listening to his swing theories,the importance of fitted clubs(FYI,my whole setup is Titleist,907D2,906f2,585,AP2,Vokey wedges,Cameron putter,all Sure-fit) and asking him to demonstrate a few swings so I could see how it should look I quickly assessed him to be a Golf instruction geek with little talent.You know the type.Owns every book and gadget known to man,lives at the range pounding buckets but cant break 100 to save his life because he is so busy trying everything he never actually builds a consistent repeating swing.
    So I indulge him for a bit.I purposely hit a few hooks and slices and he gives me some advice on how to straighten them out(good advice by the way to be fair) and I play along then start nailing the flag.He’s excited I am doing great and thinks his fixed my swing.My buddy(0.8 index)next to us is laughing his butt of the entire time and finally tells the guy I am screwing with him.It took him a second to get it then he walked away.
    I have seen him at the range a few times since but he hasnt offered to fix my swing.

  7. ๐Ÿ˜† Awesome! I’m at the range at least three times a week, and I’ve seen them all. Its like you read my mind.

    Sigh… Cell Phone guy. Hang it up, pud. I actually see this guy quite often on the putting green. (Yep, you read that right.) He’s either cradling the phone between ear/shoulder, or holding the phone with the left, and putting with the right. Either way, probably not helping the game much.

    Michelle Wie Dad guy…. I see this guy more often than I’d like. 99% of the time, Dad doesn’t have a clue. I feel bad for the daughter. I’m sure he thinks he’s a great teacher, but… dude…. your daughter is young, athletic, and she obviously doesn’t hate golf (yet). Dump your ego and get her a lesson or two.

    The “Your Range is My Kids Playground” guy… could this be any more dangerous??? My ball speed with the driver is 160+ mph… if your child wanders into my path… God help us all. Whenever a out-of-control child is on the loose at the range, I’m always on alert. And it isn’t just me. It bothers everyone. Control your children, for their (and everyone’s) sake. Or just don’t bring them.
    NOTE: My ball speed is measured regularly on a Vector.

    Another few examples I see way too often:
    1. A variant on the “Your Range is My Kids Playground” guy. This guy picks a day when its 90+ degrees, decides that it will be a good day to dust off the ‘ol Hogan blades from 1968. The grips are baked dry and slick, but no matter. He drives his little kids down to the range, gives them a 9-iron or wedge, and lets them loose on 25-30 balls each. Its hot and humid, and by the time they’ve hit 5 balls, their sweaty hands can’t possibly hold on to the worn grips. A glove might help, but of course there isn’t one to be found. All it takes is one swing, the kid can’t hold on, the club is tossed… where will it land? 50 yards downrange? In my groin? In my temple? In someone’s throat? I just hope I never see it. Sorry Dad, but giving your kid a club without a glove.. its like asking a kid to play basketball on asphalt with no shoes… (Yeah, you could do it.. but eventually somebody will get hurt.)
    2. “Check this one out Honey” guy… brings a prospective female partner to the range, to impress her with his skills. Usually he has none. Not suprisingly, he usually only hits the driver, and very poorly. Nice try, dude.
    3. “Happy Gilmore” guy… usually a teenager, trying really hard to hit a 400-yard drive using the Happy Gilmore hockey-slapshot-style approach. Not sure what to think about this guy. Good way to tear something, I say. Good luck kids.

    And last but not least, the “Running Late” guys. They arrive at the range to the sound of squealing cart tires, pull out the driver and a “warm-up” bucket of 30 balls each. Usually there are at least 3 in the group, and they each have their own bucket (genius). No warm-up, no light stretching, nothing. Just 7 or 8 drivers each, all sprayed in different directions. The commentary is hilarious: “Oh, killed that one!”, or “Wow, I missed the ball”, or “Ehh, I don’t really need to warm up the putter.” After 3 minutes, they rush off to the first tee, leaving me at least 50 balls to inherit. These guys are my favorite. Thanks guys. Sorry about that lower back pain. Its a total mystery. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Great article George! ๐Ÿ˜€

    I think you nailed the top 5 annoying characters on the driving range to a tee!

    Has anyone ever hit balls at a crowded or popular driving range and you have people hovering over you, especially when you get to your last 10 balls???

    At that point I am terrible…I perform a lengthy pre-shot routine for ALL the remaining 10 balls, with several practice swings in between. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

  9. This article is spot on! The great part is you have wonderful stories to tell your buddies about these people.

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