This post first appeared in the August issue of GottaGoGolf Magazine.
Q: “I play golf on a course in the south that has a fair amount of water, so snakes are part of the landscape. They generally hang out in the woody, wet areas – not often near tee boxes, fairways or greens, and are often not poisonous. But one of the women I play with goes out of her way to kill any snake she sees. She has driven past one, dropped off her playing partner and gone back to kill the snake with a club.
“I’ve asked her whether the snake is poisonous and when she says no, she’ll say she just doesn’t like snakes. This makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t want to report her to the pro shop and don’t know what, if anything, they would do if I did. How can I avoid playing with her without causing a ruckus?”
A: The obvious answer to a question like this is: Tell her the truth about why you don’t want to play with her anymore.
Our experts had more to say. Here’s a sampling.
Emmy Moore-Minister, communications consultant for the Golf Course Superintendents in Northern California, answered first: “You must be kidding. This is nuts. I say, play with her only in a foursome….and the group should huddle on the topic as what to say/do. Majority rules.”
Writer Katharine Dyson channeled Dear Abby: “Dear Snake Bitten, You are indeed in swampy territory. Having a friend who maliciously clubs to death any living creature who is not endangering her, goes way beyond ophidiophia (fear of snakes) and indeed can be considered a criminal act. Your playing partner needs serious professional psychiatric help. You do too if you continue enabling her to get away with these abuses. If you value her friendship, you need to do a little research into the matter, then armed with facts, sit down and tell her to get the help she needs. And yes, if she continues her killing spree, she should be reported.”
Writer Emily Kay weighed in with some tough love: “Jesus, lady, cause a damn ruckus. Tell her, ‘I don’t play golf with no damn snake-killers.’ There may even be laws against killing reptiles, so she should definitely tell the folks in the pro shop know about this anti-reptile fanatic. Nobody likes snakes, but killing them just because she can? Major ick factor.
“And perhaps assess her a 2-stroke penalty for each snake assassination. That must be somewhere in the Rules of Golf, don’t you think?”
Gail Rogers, GottaGoGolf’s Guidance counselor, suggested: “All snakes are poisonous for those of us afraid of snakes, so I would give her free relief if her ball was anywhere near a snake on the golf course. She would just drop another ball at a safe distance and play on. Hence, no need to kill the good ones by accident. Besides, who wants snake blood on a club? Can’t be a good thing.”
Columnist Michelle Smith pointed out the obvious problem with free relief and penalties: “It sounds like this person kills the snakes even when they aren’t posing a problem, so that is a different issue. I wonder if she would still try to kill them if she were given that free relief?”
The conclusion: Premeditated snake killing with intent seems to be the problem here. So a check-in with the pro shop on policy seems to be a good place to start. Snakes are common on Smith’s Arizona courses, but, she said, “Usually, the pro shop will have them removed if we call and let them know of a sighting, but the snakes generally avoid humans. We are not supposed to kill them (I think there is an ordinance or something), but the snakes are repatriated to another location.”
After that, it’s a matter of talking with the rest of the foursome and expressing your discomfort. But no one on our panel thought “Snake Bitten” ought to just slither away without explanation.