It had originally thought the goal was to hit the two small creatures in the distance. They appeared to be identical to the three creatures whom he had joined in the game.
First approximation: separated by some distance, one attempts to down the group ahead of one using one of many metal-tipped sticks (called 'clubs') to 'drive' a small, hard ball. Those behind would, presumably, be attempting to hit one. So, one dodged and drove.
It also assumed that the two creatures carrying the bags of sticks and offering advice were exempt from attack. They appeared to be employees rather than players. He had acquired them, and another creature called an opponent, in the club house, where the clubs were stored, he assumed, since he rented clubs there.
On his first hit, the wind caused him to miss the creature. His companions looked at him oddly.
He checked his vid projector. No, the device was working perfectly. He still resembled the creatures whom he accompanied.
'God, you've got some drive,' his hired creature said.
His partner played. Interestingly, he took three hits, called 'strokes' and the accompanying figures, 'caddies', marked them down.
As the game progressed, It rapidly came to new conclusions. One attempted to put the small ball in a slighter larger hole in the ground. The player who completed the circuit with the least number of hits won.
It lost. It had no ability on the green. It achieved the green in one stroke, but It required many strokes for the short distances.
At the nineteenth hole, which It discovered was a joke describing a place of libations, It was expected to buy drinks because It lost.
His opponent said, 'Tomorrow morning? Same time?'
After the opponent left, It's caddie said, 'He's a hustler. You need some practice putting.'
They went to a small area, a green without the surrounding rough, and It practiced.
Afterwards, It beamed up to its ship and pulled off its body armour. It scratched its belly and genitals with satisfaction. The body armour was getting a little tight, but very few could even get into their first body armour, much less play an active game. The perfect Rest and Recreation: beaming to a strange planet, getting into the fresh planetary air, striding across a surface! Using one's wits to understand the creatures. It sighed, contented.
R&R was supposed to be different than battle. Very different from sitting on one's bum, pressing one key after another. He'd never tell the females, but clearing a planet of vermin for future occupation wasn't very dramatic or interesting. It took tools, not wit.
It considered leaving off the body armour to help It's swing. No, who knew what small rabid creatures lurked in the rough and trees and water features surrounding the greens?
The next morning, It joined the caddies and opponent.
'Let's make it interesting,' the partner one said. '$10. a stroke?"
It felt satisfaction. It had successfully deciphered 'hustler' - one that takes advantage of the naive or less skilled to live by betting. It was reminded of home.
Yesterday, It would have lost $240. After putting practice, Its caddie said It would kick the creature's butt. It assumed this was a metaphor.
At the nineteenth hole. It was disgruntled. It had lost $30. The creature had, at every crucial stroke on the green, scuffed feet, rattled clubs, coughed. The creature cheated.
'No,' his caddie told him as they walked from the place of libations, 'it's not cheating. You got to concentrate. You blew it. You lost, he didn't win.'
The next morning, It upped the ante. $100. a stroke. The creature's caddie look worried, but the opponent accepted joyfully.
As the opponent's club approached the apex of the swing, It turned off the vid projector.
The creature missed the ball.
It chided the caddies. 'I don't see you marking the stroke.'
They looked at him, mesmerized.
'It's got two arms, two legs and a head, but nothing else looks like anything I ever saw,' the partner's caddie said.
That, It thought dispassionately, is true. It stood about a third taller than the creatures around it, with fifty percent greater mass. Golden eyes contrasted nicely with the heavy pale green brow ridges, slightly lighter in colour than the rest of the face.
'It's a monster,' the opponent's caddie said.
'So?' Its caddie replied. 'A bug eyed monster wants a good game. Play.'
At the fifth hole, the opponent was down eight strokes. He gave his irritating little cough, and was down six strokes.
At the sixth hole, It shifted into the sunlight. The light glanced off It's body armour into its opponent's face.
At the eleventh hole, with a honking sound, It's opponent emitted noxious gases from the intestine. It contemptuously ignored the stench. It was into its game.
At the fourteenth hole, It's opponent attempted to bash It with a club.
'Is this within the rules?'
'Fucking no, it's not within the rules.' The two caddies agreed ten penalty points.
At the eighteenth hole, the opponent said, 'You'll take a check?'
'I don't have that much cash on me... '
It sighed. 'At home, I'd beat you up.'
The two caddies nodded, in agreement. Similar customs, then.
'My car, or my clubs,' the opponent offered.
'What do I want with those? Pay if you Play. A beating it will be.'
'Come on, think of my kids,' the opponent said.
It detested whiners as much as welchers. What could the creature offer?
'You are the dominant species on this planet?'
The opponent looked confused.
'The most powerful species, the species that owns the planet.'
"We play for planet dominance.'
'Planet dominance, I got that already. What if I win?'
'Cash.' It pulled out its remaining money.
The opponent accepted.
At the nineteenth hole, It refused a drink, reluctantly. One drank with creatures, not vermin. It would miss the caddies, but a bet was a bet.