I recognize there’s a degree of stress, especially for beginners, with getting out onto the golf course with players of more experience. It’s natural to feel as though you might get in the way, negatively affect their game, or be embarrassed. I’d not only like for you to know how to hit golf shots, but I’d also like you to feel as though you can step out onto the golf course and play in any group comfortably. Here are some helpful suggestions that I think will enable you to play alongside anyone of any ability and enjoy yourself.
The first thing is to be ready to play. Show up to the golf course at least a half hour in advance of your tee time. This will give you a chance to go to the bathroom, get your equipment in order, loosen up, check in, and meet your playing partners. Especially when the golf course is busy, timeliness is a premium, and running late will add to stress levels in terms of rushing to the tee and catching up with the group in front.
On the golf course, it’s important to recognize that nobody really cares how well or poorly you play, until it starts affecting their game. Again, pace of play and timeliness are the most common ways to get on everyone’s nerves. Be ready to play when it’s your turn, and help to ensure that your group keeps pace with the group ahead. Notice how much time the others are taking there to hit their shots, and how much time they are waiting on you to hit yours.
If you are a beginner, don’t be afraid to just pick up your ball and move things forward. This will alleviate stress on your end, demonstrate some humility to the group, and everyone will appreciate it.
If you’re riding in a cart, I would recommend allowing the more experienced player to drive. This might give you one less thing to worry about and help to speed things up.
By rule, the player who is furthest from the whole is always next to play. So long as you’re not endangering yourself, you should be walking to your ball, planning your shot, selecting your club, and otherwise getting ready to hit while the others are playing their shots. If you are riding in a cart, be sure to bring multiple clubs with you to your ball, in case you need to change your mind. This will eliminate excess trips back and forth to your bag.
If you are having a bad day, don’t become a burden to play with by complaining, making excuses, taking too much time, and otherwise negatively affecting the group’s mood. This is certainly part of the challenge in golf, maintaining your composure good nature when things aren’t going your way is a difficult thing to do anywhere in life.
Conversely, you don’t want to be the person who is boasting, bragging, or gloating excessively when playing well. Golf has a wonderful way of reviewing one’s personality. Generally speaking, being a cool person to play with, whether you are playing well or poorly, is an admirable trait for any playing partner.
As for the game itself, naturally you want to remain quiet and still when others are playing, pay attention and be ready to play when it’s your turn, and do not otherwise interfere with other players when they are hitting. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to stand on an extension of another player’s line of play in either direction. This can be distracting for that player as they can probably see you out of the corner of their eye. It’s almost always best to stand off to the side so that they don’t catch you with their peripheral vision.
In terms of keeping score, I wouldn’t bother if you are making 10’s and 12’s on every hole. If this is the case, recognize that your score is so high that it won’t be accurate or matter anyway, and by trying to keep an accurate score you will just be holding up the group. I’d recommend that if you are scoring more than a double or triple bogey on a given hole, just pick up your ball and move onto the next hole. If you are putting for a score with a name, meaning a par, bogey, or double bogey, then go ahead and finish out and be the hero!
As a beginner, at the end of the day, I’d recommend counting only your good holes, or even only your good shots. Golf is a difficult game, and focusing on all of your bad shots may be discouraging. Have a drink with the group when you’re finished, focusing on the highlights, and maybe laughing a little bit about the ugly shots. Take comfort in knowing that even the best golfers were beginners at some point.
In summary, be ready to play when you show up to the golf course. Get there well in advance of your tee time, so that you can take care of all of the logistics before teeing it up. On the golf course, recognize that pace of play is the most important factor for a beginner. Be ready to hit when it’s your turn, and don’t be afraid to pick up your ball if you’ve taken too many shots on a given hole. Showing some humility, laughing at your bad shots, and otherwise being a cool person to play with, will make the day more enjoyable for you and your playing partners. If you’re making big numbers, don’t bother keeping score. At the end of the day, laugh at your failures and focus on the best holes you played.