by Jim Corbett

Every golfer who knows anything about anything, knows that it is important to be quiet on the golf course. It’s important to be quiet on the tee, quiet on the green and even quiet in the fairway when someone else is hitting. Of course, knowing the rule doesn’t always mean that people follow it, but at least knowing the rule is a beginning.

There is an important corollary rule to the rule of quiet, which is to stay out of the golfer’s line of vision. That is, stay behind the person who is hitting or stay someplace where you are not going to cause a distraction while they are taking their shot. This way when you are quietly whispering to other golfers about how bad their swing is, they won’t notice you. (Only kidding.) The emphasis here is, obviously, on giving the person whose turn it is the greatest opportunity to make the most of their shot.

While you are being careful to make sure that you are out of the line of vision of the golfer who is hitting, remember that, just like Peter Pan, each of us has a shadow. Unlike Peter Pan’s shadow, however, our shadows typically remain attached to us. And while they are, the rules of golf etiquette dictate that we should exercise “proper shadow management.” Whether you are on the tee, in the fairway or on the green, your shadow can, at the very least, be a distraction to the person hitting, and at worst can completely divert their attention from the shot they are about to hit.

I have seen many instances where someone was about to hit a shot and another player carelessly walked behind the hitter and their shadow caused a great distraction. The “walker” may have believed that because they were observing the rule of “quiet when someone is hitting,” they had fully lived up to the appropriate standards of good golf etiquette. However, if while walking behind a hitter, your shadow moves around in the hitter’s field of vision, or worse, crosses over the ball (!), it can cause the hitter to lose concentration and strike the ball incorrectly, possibly sending it into devastating trouble. YIKES!!!

You will be guilty of an unforgivable transgression of the rules of etiquette if you are the one responsible for someone else’s ball ending up in the lake or otherwise out of play. On the other hand, this can be a great strategy when you are playing golf with your brother. When I play golf with my brother, I like to stand with the shadow of my head right over the cup when he is putting and then nod my head back and forth from shoulder to shoulder as vigorously as I can, without breaking my neck.

You see, there is a different set of etiquette rules that only apply to brothers; sort of like how my brother will park his electric golf cart with the front wheel right on top of my golf ball and say, “Gee, that’s a tough lie.” I’m happy to say though, he has never done that when I’m putting!

Proper shadow management, however, may be difficult for some golfers to comprehend. But this demonstrates the extent to which you must consider the needs of others in order to comply with the rules of golf etiquette. Perhaps you are a golfer who says, “Hey — I’m willing to keep quiet and keep out of the way, but if these whiners can’t deal with my shadow moving around, then they need to get a life!”

Well, actually, I’m glad you said that, because that is the whole point of this article — it’s about life! And just as we need to understand the meaning of our shadow in golf, we need to understand its meaning in life as well. Your shadow is an extension of yourself; it goes beyond your physical self, but it only exists because of your presence and it only moves because of your actions. In life, our actions have a shadow as well and that shadow can have an impact on others that is far greater than the actions themselves, or their intended result.

It is pretty simple to see our shadow on the golf course and see how easily it can impact another player, but in life we may be a little too willing to downplay the long-term effect that our actions have on others. Ask the people that belong to Adult Children of Alcoholics how much of their lives they have spent trying to get out of the shadow that was cast upon them years before. Any time we are in a position to affect the life of another — which is virtually always — as parents, spouses, friends, bosses, co-workers, whatever — we need to remember that our actions have shadows.

An unkind word, a false rumor (need we go into the gory details?) — if the shadow that we cast upon another causes them to go off course, the shame is on us. There are far too many people whose lives have been made much more difficult because they are “living in the shadow” cast by another.

So, as a golfer who lives up to the highest standards of golf etiquette, you should always manage your shadow in a way that will be least disruptive to others. And remember to carry that lesson into life, as well — because if you can’t learn the lessons of life from playing golf, why are you playing?

Proper Shadow Management