Meeting people is one of golf’s lesser-known charms, and Random Golf Club has a unique way to meet many golfers at once.
There’s a special technique to remember names when you’re meeting many people at once. It’s not something I’ve ever learned and it’s not something I’ve ever needed, least of all on the golf course.
But when you’re playing in a group of 14, remembering names can get a little tricky and I started to regret not perfecting the technique and fell back on the uniquely Australian “mate” on more than one occasion.
This was the situation I found myself in after finally joining the Sydney chapter of Random Golf Club (RGC) for a round of golf at Bankstown Golf Club, around half an hour west of the CBD.
Founded by Erik Anders Lang, the goal of RGC is to make the game of golf more inclusive and fun for everyone, no matter their background.
“Random Golf Club embodies the message of “all are welcome,” Nick Ilias said, co-founder of the Sydney chapter.
“The idea is that as long as you turn up and laugh at the bad shots, you’re a part of Random Golf Club.”
At the forefront of RGC are meet-ups where golfers, often strangers play anywhere from a few holes to a full round of golf.
The very first RGC meet-up began at Royal Park Golf Course in Melbourne in 2018 and ever since chapters embodying the same spirit have sprung up all over the world.
Often it’s just a handful golfers who meet and play in a few groups. At other times when it’s permitted, golf is played in large groups. A group of 10 – 20 golfers is not uncommon. Sometimes more.
During the 2019 Presidents Cup, Erik organised another RGC event at the same place it had begun. This time they were forced to split into three groups – 30 in each.
The format lends itself to some very relaxed, social golf. You meet a bunch of people, tee it up, walk, talk and play golf.
Matt Duncan also co-founded the Sydney chapter that has grown over the past few years but has found permission to play in such a large group the biggest hurdle.
“The idea of playing in a group of any more than four is frowned upon in the golf world,” Matt said.
“It takes some time to explain to the clubs what RGC is all about and convince them that we’re all out here playing by the rules, respecting the dress code and maintaining the golf course just as members do.”
I’d signed up to play the Bankstown Golf Club meet-up the same way everyone else did – by following the Random Golf Club Sydney Instagram page – and I let them know I was keen to come and play. A couple of friendly DM’s later, I was in.
And let’s deal with the other elephant in the room, the pace of play.
We played in a group of 14. We played the front nine of the Bankstown Golf Club off the front tees as a group of 14, in a little over two hours.
I found it almost hard to believe myself but most people who come out to join a RGC meet-up are all on the same page.
We all walked, talked and when it was your turn to hit, you hit it. We were all aware of other people playing their shots, commending the good ones, lamenting, and laughing at the bad ones.
Tee shots were played two or three abreast and by the third hole, we were all well-drilled in lining up and taking the next available spot. any fears of teeing off in front of a large crowd soon disappeared.
In my estimation, many of the greens at Bankstown Golf Club were in better condition after we went through than before, with all of us fixing multiple plug marks while we waited and watched other putts.
On occasions, it felt like the stymie had returned with one notable ricochet that found its way into the cup. It was followed by roars of laughter. And smiles. Plenty of smiles.
But apart from the group of 14, oddities were rare. By the time the last ball had rolled into the cup, I could easily count up my score if I felt the need. The golf wasn’t frivolous and everyone was respectful enough to let you putt out.
The important eagle and birdie putts were given centre stage to ensure 13 sets of eyes could celebrate, or commiserate the significant moment.
More importantly, I’d had a chat with 13 other people, about golf, COVID, work, family and life. Golfers who teach kids, sell shoes, watches, lease campervans, and design plumbing systems. Golfers who were made redundant, have young kids, grew up playing golf with their parents, and some who have only just discovered the game.
“The growth of our local RGC chapter within the space of just over a year has been amazing to watch. It highlights the fact that people want another avenue to play golf in a fun, relaxed environment while socialising with a new crowd of people,” Nick told me later.
“COVID has had an impact on our social interactions with one another, but it’s warming to see our meetups act as a platform for new friendships to be born.“
I didn’t know any of these people before I teed it up. Now I’ve conversed with all of them and look forward to meeting them again sometime.
Over the last five years, I’ve heard of many people who’ve become disenchanted with golf. Writing down scores, playing the same golf course, the same format, with the same people, every week.
Growing ever more frustrated that their golf game isn’t improving, the odd good game isn’t as satisfying as it once was, they leave golf behind.
I’ve always believed the best way to get to know someone is to play a round of golf with them, so why not play a round of golf with as many people as possible. Maximise your time interacting with your fellow human beings.
Perhaps there is no other more interesting pursuit.