people don’t get judgy on the golf course about your skill. golf is hard. most professional athletes have a hard time making good golf shots so you never have to be embarrassed about sucking at golf. no one will cut their eye at you for landing in the water or shanking your ball all the way to the next fairway. It happens. where people do judge you on the golf course is your manners, because golf is a game of code and courtesy. beyond the golf rulebook, the sport comes with an observed protocol that isn’t necessarily written down - it’s just expected that you’ll figure it out along the way without irritating too many other golfers. there is nothing like the silence on a golf course when you know you’ve screwed up but you don’t know exactly how you’ve screwed up but you can feel everyone else around you admonishing you with their minds. i have been there. it’s mortifying. which isn’t to say you shouldn’t play golf because you should! It’s so much fun! it’s just more fun when you’re not being hissed at by the man who blames you for missing his birdie putt. that will help with your own shot-making too. these are a few suggestions on how to enjoy golf and also speed up the game.
golfers always talk about course management. this applies to where they want to land the ball to set up their approach for their next shot. for the amateur golfer, this can also apply to where you walk and stand, where you situate yourself so as to be ready for your next move and also to keep pace with your group and the groups in front and behind you.
-find your ball before socialising: if everyone stopped to have a 2 minute conversation before they hit, you’d be on the course for 6 hours. as it is, an average round of golf is 4 hours. that’s more than enough time for you to catch up with your companions. but first, locate your ball and be ready for your shot. no one wants to wait while you run across the fairway when they’re itching to take the next swing.
-take note of where you’re standing when someone else is taking their shot: first of all because you don’t want to get brained by their ball, but also so that you don’t cause a distraction. it’s poor etiquette to stand directly behind or down someone’s line when they’re putting. when in doubt, ask. “am i in your way? should I move?” believe me, they’ll tell you the truth.
-never, EVER step on someone’s line on the putting green. this seems like a basic rule. but it happens all the time. golf shoes leave spike marks than can disrupt a putt. to be perfectly honest, on the amateur level, i’m really not sure that makes a difference. but the point is psychologically, every golfer needs the confidence to believe that their putt is going in the hole. once you give them a reason to think there might be a flaw in that process, they get crazy. best not to bring on the crazy. avoid the line, step over the line, don’t cross the line, and at least you won’t have to be the scapegoat if they miss.
-bring your clubs: this mostly applies when you’re playing golf in a golf cart (which, frankly, if you are not infirm, why aren’t you walking the course? it might help with that beer gut) because on many courses, certain spots are not accessible unless on foot. when that happens, take all the clubs you need - a few irons, your putter - so that you don’t have to go back and forth between the fairway/green and the golf cart for your next shot. golfers are inherently selfish people when they’re playing. they can’t wait to make their next shot. when you don’t have your equipment ready, you are delaying their gratification. or misery, depending on their skill level.
-where is your bag?: when you approach the green, place your bag on the side of the green that’s closest to the next hole. this way, once you’ve finished the hole, you can efficiently travel to the next tee box without holding up the group behind you.
golf is a game of concentration. the professionals make it look easy with huge galleries and idiots shouting “get in the hole!!!” every few minutes but they too are bothered by unnecessary sounds like camera shutters and iphone clicks.
-when someone is hitting within earshot, avoid taking practice swings and/or rummaging through your bag, or ripping open the wrapper of your granola bar.
-please stop jingling the change in your pocket because you can’t find your tee
-please stop texting
-again, if you have to play golf in a golf cart, don’t hit the gas pedal in someone’s backswing.
-if you have to talk, whisper. but if you have to whisper, walk away. if you think you’re far enough, you’re still not far enough.
the exception to the noise rule of course is FORE! If you hit an errant shot that is heading towards another hole, absolutely at the top of your lungs shout as loud as you can to alert other golfers and avoid injury. they will thank you for it. in fact, if you DON’T shout fore! it’s actually even worse. much worse. you might hear some loud words in return. and those words will not be civilised.
dear men: ankle socks. ankle socks are not hard to find. they are also not expensive. but I promise it’s a much better look than the ones you have in your drawer that you can only scrunch halfway down your calf when you’re wearing shorts. leg elongation is not just a female preoccupation.
golf is one of the few sports where the uniform allows for some sartorial flair. more and more professional golfers are experimenting with prints and bold colours and signature styles. the key word here is “professional”. if you’re stepping onto the tee box wearing a bright pink pair of pants, lady or gentleman, I assume you want to be noticed. and if you’re on the golf course, i’m also assuming you want to be noticed for your game; otherwise you’d be at the club. all i’m saying is that there needs to be a symbiotic relationship between the flair and the skill. if your drive dribbles 10 feet in front of you because you can barely make contact with the ball, that neon yellow shirt, as cute as it is, only makes you look like a poseur.
women under the age of 70 have long complained that female golf clothing is totally lame. i don’t disagree. especially what they offer at proper golf shoppes: the skirts drop well past the knees, the pants do not flatter certain areas of the body that you spent a lot of time at the gym toning. thanks to the ladies on the pro tour though, women’s golf fashion is changing and modern styles are becoming more acceptable, even though it’s taking a long time for conventional golf vendors to come around.
my suggestion to you is to avoid those stores altogether and hit up a regular clothing store that’s on trend. buy a pair of pants you’d wear anyway - ankle cut, slim cut, cuffed trousers - and stay away from the “adventure brand outlets” that offer outdoor options to people who spend a lot of time in trees, eating granola. hiking and golfing are not the same.
for a warm weather option, check out the tennis section. a tennis skirt will give you the breathability required to play on a hot day and the cuteness you need to satisfy your vanity. it doesn’t have to be granny length but keep in mind you also don’t want to look like a private school girl looking to get in trouble. most municipal courses and country clubs are down with this new aesthetic. there may be the occasional stuffy old boys’ institution that will take a measuring tape to your outfit and if that’s the case, well, that’s the kind of environment that holds prejudice against more than just the distance between your hem and your knee. in other words, they’re allergic to fun which, frankly, is anathema to the wonderful sport we call golf.