Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)
The Captain has instructed me to write to all Members about the ever-present problem of the bandit. It has even been suggested that one or two members of this very Club are engaged in ban- ditry, a practice which, under Article XXIV (Sec. 3b) of the Club’s penal code, carries the penalty of loss of locker in the first instance – and expulsion thereafter. I am further instructed to advise you of the means whereby a bandit may be detected and if possible neutralised, should you encounter him at an inter-club match or, heaven forfend, here at St Lukes.
Bandit spotting is a fine art which takes years to learn but is always worth the effort. Like all confidence men the bandit will initially seem nor- mal and indeed charming. He may well have a wife, children and a steady job, his family and colleagues unaware of his secret double life at his club. He gives no outward sign of banditry; there are no hand-tooled al- ligator golf shoes, no flash of a dia- mond tooth and certainly no visible dorsal fin.
His handicap is a mystery – always curiously higher than his level of play seems to justify, but then again his strokeplay returns never quite justify a reduction. Of course they don’t. Be- cause his game is matchplay…and you are the target.
Banditry can be detected as early as the first tee. The sight of a 1-iron in his bag should set off a gentle alarm, given Lee Trevino’s famous crack that it’s the safest thing to hold over your head in a thunderstorm – since not even God can hit a 1-iron. You may also notice that his bag is unusually slim. Bandits like pencil bags, usually with several good luck charms dan- gling from them. There will also be a couple of visitor tags from championship course such as Turnberry and Birkdale which he’ll have mur- dered but won’t mention, initially. He’ll have a complex system of marking his balls, using a monogrammed felt-tipped pen. Even his ball- marker will display a coat of arms – which, dis- gracefully, will not be his own.
His proposal of what seems to be an overly complex betting arrangement on the game is an- other warning sign. He’ll start with the basic Nas- sau; so much on the outward nine, same on the inward, double on the final result. So far so good, but the true bandit will rapidly escalate that with a blizzard of oozlers, fizzlers, sandies, porkos, camels and birdies – plus presses and multipliers – till a C.A. firm would be hard put to account for it all. Remember, the more he piles on, the more confident he is of taking you.
So there you are, already in his sights and play- ing his game – and you’re still no farther than the 1st tee. But it is right there on the tee that it really begins, and it is on the 18th tee, if the game’s still alive, that it will end. On the greens, the experi- enced bandit will never do anything so crude as to tap his white golf shoes while you’re putting. On the fairways, he will not draw your attention to the “roughest rough on the course over there” and he would never stoop to coin jangling or permitting the emission of any audible gaseous eructation from any orifice – especially that one – while you address an approach. No, the damage will be done on the tee , for the tee is the cockpit of banditry…
Golf is not a contact sport. The bandit can’t bring you down with a rugby tackle or sledge you, as in cricket. He can’t menace you with any of his equipment or fire a shot at you. Golf is a mind game – a form of open air chess. He has to get at your mind-set through language and that means both body-language and English. Crude and cheap shots such as “never seen you play so well,” or “never seen you play so badly” are too well known to be used now – and are in fact more a form of cheating than banditry. No, it will be more subtle and sophisticated.
“High time they moved those O.B. posts back a bit,” is a regular bandit gambit on a tee, before which you may not have even registered the white death-markers, now frighteningly close. Another ploy on the tee of a longish par-four is for him to pull out an iron. He then leans casually on it while you, who have the honour, look with in- creasing uncertainty at the driver in your hands. These seeds of doubt germinate fast and when your drive has exhibited a boomerang hook – the iron will disap- pear and a dead straight siege-gun drive will flash away.
On a shorter par-four the tactic is dif- ferent. While you prepare to drive you’ll hear him say to his partner or “caddy” who is in fact an accomplice, “Think we can get it on again, today?” to which the primed partner (in crime) will say, “Sure. Just bring it in from the left, same as last week.” This propels you to a massive ef- fort with driver resulting in a sliced ba- nana, whereupon he pops a 3-wood straight down to within wedge-range of the green.
Incidentally, watch out for unsolicited confidential comments from his caddy which will be aimed at more seed sow- ing, e.g. “He hasn’t played much since Open final Qualifying…” or, for a much older bandit, “not bad for a man with a quadruple bypass and one lung…” and such like.
The correct treatment of a bandit is to never play with him again – and to tell the story to your friends. But that doesn’t help you out on the course where the best plan – as always – is to ignore him, take it back slow and rhythmic, pause at the top, follow through, and stuff him at least 3&2. Then give him a real bonecrushing handshake on the 16th green while smiling broadly and telling him “Thank you so much. What a pleasure that was.”
Banditry may be confidentially reported to me on the Club’s anonymous banditline (Ext.666) If no reply, simply leave your name, that of the ban- dit – and his locker number...