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No means no – even when it comes to golf

Dlamini is a writer, critic, traveller and portrait photographer. He also has a day job, sort of. His portraits of writers have been published in many top literary publications, but he mostly makes his living as Chairman of the Chillibush Group of Companies, which deals in the dark arts of advertising, public relations and event management. In 2007 Dlamini was the recipient of the South African Literary Awards' Literary Journalism prize. He regularly reviews books, especially from Southern Africa, and presents the The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast. Recent columns:

They stalk the boardrooms and restaurants of Johannesburg. Golfers on the prowl for converts, even if it must be at the point of a sword.

I don’t know what it is about golfers, but their unrestrained zeal for their sport always rubs me the wrong way. I have no problem with people who love their chosen sport, who are even passionate about it, but golfers are not content to leave it there. Most of the time they behave as if they are evangelists, preaching the gospel of golf, out to net any prospective convert. Even worse, if you dare say that you do not play golf – that in fact you have zero interest in golf – they start to regard you as some kind of low-life.

In the workplace golfers behave as if they are members of a cult. Enjoying, as they do, the protection and beaming support of the Chairman and CEO, they walk with a swagger and a confidence that suggests that they are the chosen ones. I am always outraged by the amount of time they manage to take from their official duties to devote to a game. Of course they’ll give you stories about how many deals they close on the golf course, but this always seems to me like a lot of baloney. If this were indeed the case, then it seems to me that the sales profession needs to come up with a more effective way of closing deals. Doing it on the golf course, even if you are only playing nine holes, is a particularly long-winded and inefficient way of “closing” deals.

I once joined this company where the CEO had just picked up golf and, like all recent converts, he was unstoppable in his zeal for the game. He expected (in fact almost demanded) that all members of his executive should join him on the golf course on Thursdays. I cannot forget the look of utter shock on his face when I broke it to him that I would not be joining in on the Thursday golf outings. “But you must, golf is an excellent game, and it’s a good networking tool,” he said, trying to cajole and intimidate me at the same time. But I wasn’t buying his story and his obviously well-rehearsed pitch.

I told him that I would devote my Thursdays to watching movies, as I found that to gave me some of the same benefits that he claimed he acquired from his time on the golf course. I mean, if you want to get to know yourself there’s nothing more effective than learning from the triumphs (or better still, the mistakes) of others, and that’s what movies offer in abundance. At first he thought I was joking, but I explained to him that I considered golf a recreational activity and since I wasn’t interested in it, I was taking up movies instead. It is to his eternal credit that he stopped bothering me and on Thursdays he and my other colleagues headed for the golf course while I picked up my popcorn at the movies.

I have lost count of the number of times that some golfer or the other has tried to recruit me to take up the game. Each time my answer is the same. I tell them, as loudly and as firmly as I can, that I have no interest in golf. Knowing that they are not very good listeners I will even tell them that I my favourite sport is running, just so they know I’m no couch potato. But it’s never any use, because each time they immediately offer to “teach me golf”. Now that’s where they lose me completely. I mean, I never said I don’t know how to play golf, merely that I have no interest in it. The first time this happened I was startled by the chap’s insistence to sell me on golf, but I soon realised that it is a trait that golfers share. It seems to me that they are somehow programmed to fail to accept that anyone can find their sport uninteresting.

You would expect most sporting fellows to leave the matter there, to respect your choice, and perhaps even to enquire about your preferred sport, but not golfers. It is then that they’ll bombard you with the supposed virtues of the game. Recently I was enjoying a laid-back breakfast with a friend when someone who barely knew either of us invited himself to our table. He wanted to know where we played our golf because he had just joined the Killarney Country Club and he found it, in his words, amazing.

Needless to say the fellow spoilt one of the few remaining treasures of life on earth, an unhurried Saturday morning breakfast between two friends. It was as if he was totally blind. He completely ignored our sullen body language, which should have told him we were in no mood for intruders. Eventually I could not hold myself back and I said to him: “Please leave, now’s not the time to spoil a precious breakfast with stories of golf.” The look on his face was priceless as he slinked away from our table.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate golf, I just don’t like it, but I do dislike the haughty attitude of those who extol its virtues long after you’ve told them they should beat it. All I ask is that they take no for an answer, because even in matters of golf, no still means no. No room for doubt here.


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