No, it’s not slang for a sexually transmitted disease that afflicts only golfers who play on the dirt track public courses instead of the verdant greens of a country club. You can’t give it to your playing partners nor can you pick it up from peeing in the woods on the 17th hole or for that matter, from touching another member's club.
The golf clap is unlike the applause one hears at most other sporting events where the spectators cheer long and loud for their idols, The golf clap is unique in the world of sports. It’s a more subdued way for a fan to show their appreciation for a golfer's efforts as he or she struggles to make that elusive birdie, sink that twenty footer for par or tap in for a dreaded bogie.
Instead of your normal form of applause that includes smacking the palms of your hands together as loudly as possible and quickly as possible, the golf clap is distinct in that only the fingers of one hand are used against the palm of the other. This is done as not to disturb any other golfers in the vicinity who might be attempting their next shot. For those of you out there who share my passion for the game, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you who are either new to the game or uninitiated, let’s just say that the slightest distraction to a player attempting to hit a golf ball will almost undoubtedly cause an errant shot. Depending on the temperament of the golfer and the stakes involved, the disturbing party might also find a club wrapped around or directed towards their cranium.
In other incantations, a golf clap can be used as a sarcastic device. Take for example, an overly long presentation given by a boring speaker that has caused your buttocks to fall asleep and your mind to wander off to places unknown. Upon completion of the speech, a slow rhythmic golf clap by you and your fellow attendees accompanied by a dour or droll facial expression might just convey the message through to the speaker to re-evaluate said presentation or sales pitch.
The one exception to the golf clap “rule” usually occurs only when a spectacular shot is made. These come in the form of sinking putts from another area code, holing one out from long distance or making that oh so hard to make hole in one. Naturally, the winning shot at a tournament can also elicit a much stronger reaction.
Then, the gallery can erupt in cheers as long and as loud as they like.
So next time you’re on the course either playing a round yourself or watching the pros go at it, remember, politeness and civility in the form of the golf clap is always in order. Don’t, God forbid, be the one screaming “YOU DA MAN!” or “GET IN THE HOLE!” You look like an idiot.