Golf’s social aspects are a big part of the game’s appeal. No other sport affords the opportunity for so much personal interaction in such a relaxed setting. The golf course is a great place to strengthen existing bonds and forge new ones, to meet new people or get to know acquaintances a little better.

That said, golf presents many situations that require you to adapt to unfamiliar personalities. Perhaps you’re paired with a stranger in a tournament, or you walk onto the course as a single and join up with a threesome. Eventually, you’re bound to be stuck with playing partners who rub you the wrong way. They may play too slowly or quickly, talk while you’re swinging, step on the line of your putt, or hurl a club when they hit a terrible shot.

It’s easy to get distracted or even angered by another golfer’s behavior – and in golf, distraction and anger can spell doom. How do you handle these circumstances without causing a stir in your group? A little finesse goes a long way.

Here are some tips and tactics for dealing with bothersome golf partners, assuming they’re strangers or someone you don’t know very well:

  • The slowpoke: Don’t intentionally rush them. Instead, mention to the whole group that the foursome behind is pushing you or that darkness is approaching, and that it might be time to pick up the pace. If the golfer habitually putts out everything, even from a foot or less, stand near the cup and knock the ball back to them with a polite, “That’s good, no need to putt it out.” If they drive one into the woods, help them find the wayward ball.
  • The speed racer: When paired with an extra-fast golfer or group, it’s natural to speed up your own pace to please the others. Fall into this trap and your results will usually suffer. Stick with your own routine without skipping steps. If you feel you must play faster, spend a little less time reading putts, checking the wind or figuring yardage. Otherwise, your tempo will quicken and cause poor swings.
  • The beginner: Remember your first rounds of golf? Pretty daunting, weren’t they? Keep this in mind when paired with beginners, whose minds are spinning with swing thoughts, etiquette uncertainties and more. Instead of showing annoyance at their foibles, help them out. If they breach etiquette rules, quietly take them aside and point out the mistake in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a fool: “It’s really no big deal, just one of those silly etiquette things, but try not to step on the line of another player’s putt.”
  • The hothead:Dealing with a stranger’s outbursts can be tricky. Here’s what NOT to do: Offer encouragement while they’re in the middle of a meltdown. They’d much rather stew in their own juices than be told, “That’s okay, you’ll get ’em on the next hole.” Unless their behavior is truly out of bounds – say, slinging clubs without regard for others’ safety – it’s best to ignore them and let the moment pass. 

Never forget that golf is a gentlemen’s (and ladies’) game. Treat your playing partners with respect, even when they’re grating on your last nerve.