Corey, a reader from Scottsdale, writes:
A buddy of mine gave me grief the other day for standing directly behind him on the tee. He said I’d distracted him and blamed me for the block he hit into the desert. Was I at fault?
Play this game for long enough and you learn that many people who struggled to find fairways are skilled at finding excuses. Having hit a poor shot, how quickly they scour the landscape for an explanation other than their own ineptitude!
In this case, though, you made the mistake of making it easy on your friend.
He barely had to search at all.
Naturally, he blamed you. But does that mean you were really in the wrong?
Most likely, not.
The Etiquetteist believes that it’s fair game to stand anywhere on the tee when someone else is hitting, other than in front of them (in which case, you may soon go from standing to lying supine in a hospital bed), provided you aren’t standing so close that they can smell your breath or feel it on their neck. And provided you are standing still.
Directly behind. To either side. It shouldn’t matter.
So long as you’re at a safe distance and you aren’t moving, your presence is no different than that of a parked cart, or a ball washer or any number of inanimate objects one encounters on a course.
If a tree had been standing directly behind your buddy, would he have blamed it for his bad drive?
Well, hmm…maybe he would have.
Which brings us to the more important takeaway. Golf is a hard game. Failure is inevitable. Also inevitable is that some people will refuse to take responsibility for their misses.
Should you find yourself paired with one of their kind, you have two choices.
You can take great pains to always remain out of their peripheral vision, standing far away and at their backside whenever they are hitting. Or you can do something more realistic and stay still when they are hitting while standing pretty much anywhere you wish.
At some point in the round, it is likely that they will hold you accountable for a slice into the woods, a smother hook into the water, a top, a chunk, even an outright whiff.
They will use you as an excuse. They will tell you that you were standing in the wrong place.
At which point, you can offer an excuse of your own and tell them that The Etiquetteist said your positioning was perfectly okay.