Business associate: “Hey, I know you wanted to set up a meeting to talk about that deal. How about you join me and two of my colleagues for a round of golf and we can discuss it out on the course?”
Me (shivering in fear): “Well, I would love to, but I can’t play golf.”
This scenario has occurred one too many times before I decided to finally do something about it. I felt like all this business was happening on the golf course and my own fears, lack of skill, and insecurities were getting in my way. So, two colleagues (one of whom actually played golf throughout college and was considered an amateur) and I created a little group called LTG (Learn to Golf) Capital Region. Our team consisted of about 35 women who were having the same issues. We met for several sessions over four months to learn how to play.
Now, you can google “how to play golf” and a whole bunch of smart, well-written, and thorough articles will come up. But, for a truer sense of what it’s like to approach the game as a novice, keep reading.
Etiquette: Don’t Putt Around For our first session we decided to host an informal meeting at a local wine bar to learn about the rules of the game, both published and unpublished. Some questions that immediately came up included:
- Do I drink?
- When is an appropriate time to talk business?
- Do I check email or answer text messages/phone calls while we play?
Gulp. We quickly learned that every situation is different and that a huge part of golf is using your intuition. If the people you’re with are imbibing, you might be inclined to join in. But think about your company’s rules in regards to drinking. Perhaps you can have one and leave it at that. Always wait for the others in your group to drink first.
Sign here. Business on the golf course is typically less about closing the deal and more about building and solidifying the relationship that later closes the deal. Take time out on the course to get to know the other players. Connect with them, network, and strengthen your rapport. Allow them to gain your trust, and show them how patient you are and that you’re a team player. Golf has a funny way of putting a magnifying glass on your true personality, so let your good side shine! Tip: A friend once told me that golf is a great first date since all the good and bad come out front and center fairly quickly.
Ring! Checking email or responding to messages or texts is not polite during golf. Although there is downtime while waiting your turn, you’re supposed to watch, pay attention, and encourage your group. Stay engaged and think of it as a meeting. Would you reply to a text if you were seated at a desk with this person?
Business vs. Pleasure The aforementioned tips don’t only apply to formal rounds of golf with colleagues and potential business partners; you can definitely use them for more casual games with friends and family. You’d also be well-advised to make sure you have the proper attire and equipment, know how to navigate the clubhouse, and are aware of basic etiquette before embarking on your journey through 18 holes.
Do These Shoes Match My Shirt? Shopping for golf gear was similar to registering for a baby shower. There was a laundry list of items I “needed” to have, but were they really that necessary? Wipes warmer? Binky pouch? Oh, sorry, wrong list. Golf glove, $30 sleeve of golf balls, fancy tees … what should I buy?
- Clubs: I arrived at Dick’s Sporting Goods with coupon and rewards card in hand. They were having a sale on a set of starter clubs for women that included a bag. When all was said and done, I spent about $95. Not a bad deal!
- Glove: Just Do It! It’s not only the Nike slogan, it’s also the answer if you are hemming and hawing about whether or not you should purchase a golf glove. After two lessons sans glove, I found myself pulling down the sleeve of my shirt to cover my hand and shield it from the inevitable blister. A cute pink and white glove at Dick’s retails for $20.
- Tees: Golf tees are seriously like binkies (or pacifiers if that’s what you call them). You can never have enough because they break, get old and dirty, and disappear. I feel like I am always finding them in my car, makeup bag, old purse, etc. In my experience, they don’t have to be fancy, but you do need them. One rule of golf dictates that you must tee up your ball for the first swing, or drive, at every hole. I ended up purchasing some that would give me a little more height and stability than a typical tee. The cost was about $6 for two.
- Golf Shoes: I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t believe you need golf shoes, as sneakers will work just as well. I’ve also played in ballet flats during an impromptu nine holes after work and lived to tell about it, so I feel like shoes are not a necessary purchase, especially if you are trying to limit the amount of money spent on your new favorite sport.
- Golf Bag: OK, here’s the truth: The bag that houses your starter clubs might as well say, “I am new and don’t know how to play golf.” While not an absolute necessity, a bag that showcases your personality a little more, suits your style, and doesn’t advertise your newness to the sport definitely can’t hurt. It might be a good birthday gift!
- Golf Balls: Clearly, you need golf balls. Some people say that more expensive golf balls help you drive the ball farther. Since I’m lucky if I even make contact with the ball, it doesn’t matter how much money I spend. That ball isn’t going very far. Do yourself a favor and get a bag of 50 balls for $25 and call it a day.
Oh Hey, I’m Here to Play Golf … I Guess One of my biggest worries about starting to play golf was how obvious it would soon be that I had no clue what was going on. Here are some helpful tips.
- When you arrive: If you can master this move, you will look the part. Keep your clubs in the trunk. Change your shoes (I usually arrive in flip-flops) into your sneakers or golf shoes while leaning against your trunk. Then walk your clubs up to the check-in spot/clubhouse. You are so cool.
- Clubhouse: You will want to know how many holes you are playing (nine or 18), if you need a golf cart or push cart (push carts are used for walking the course), and how many players you have. You’ll pay the fee (every course I played takes cash or credit cards), get a scorecard and mini pencil, and be directed to the first hole.
- Driving the cart: If you’re not confident in your driving skills, please let someone else drive (see basic etiquette below).
- Is this your club? Be careful not to leave your golf clubs on the course. It can be a real pain trying to find them a few holes later.
That is SO Rude (i.e., Basic Etiquette) Don’t be that person. Instead, impress your foursome, and others on the course, with your impeccable manners and grace.
- Shhhhh! When driving the cart, be mindful of who is around you. You never want to whip past someone who’s about to hit the ball. Same goes for when you are waiting for a member of your foursome to hit or the people in front or behind you. Keep the volume low.
- Fore! If your ball is on a trajectory toward other players, it’s totally acceptable and appreciated to yell “fore.” This alerts people that they should keep their eyes open.
- Vroom Vroom! Again, drive slowly and cautiously throughout the course. It can be fun, once you get the hang of it, to zip around, but it’s not classy or respectful to other players, the course, or the game.
- Get out of the way! I often find myself standing in the way of someone’s putt, meaning I’m directly in front of where they would like to hit the ball. Be mindful of where you are when waiting your turn.
- Pulling the pin. Once all players’ balls are on the green, you can officially remove the pin (the flag) from the hole. It’s the polite thing to do, but just make sure you place the pin on the side so it’s out of the way. Tip: I always put a club on the pin so I don’t leave it on the course!
- Move on through. If a foursome behind you is faster, you can feel free to let them go ahead of you. I always encourage people to move on through, as it takes the pressure off having to speed up my game.
- Did you see it? Helping your teammates find their ball is always greatly appreciated and it keeps things moving along. Take a minute, drive around (slowly), and look for everyone’s ball. This also shows that you’re paying attention when others hit.
So Worth the Time and Effort While playing golf for the second summer of my entire life, I realized that it is super hard. Sounds obvious and silly, but it’s true. I can’t talk my way into golf’s heart or win golf over with my witty sense of humor and toothy smile. It was/is going to take time, patience (I typically don’t have a ton of that, but golf is helping me), dedication, and strength. It’s not something I can do a few times and be good at (rats!), but the experience and knowledge are skills that I’m glad I’ll have for at least the second half of my life.
Just Do It Back to that Nike slogan again – take what you’ve learned and try your best. Golf is tricky and takes time, but you’ll get there.