I played golf for more than half a century and I spent a number of years covering the PGA Tour as a journalist. I have played courses all over the world and at one time I had a handicap in the single digits.
And over the years Iâ€™ve learned several things about the game, not the least of which is how to look and sound like you really know what the game is about. The look may be ruined once you actually swing at a ball, but you can sound like a serious player all the time.
Here are 12 tips to look and sound like a player.
1. Golf is not a verb
Nobody I have ever known who is a serious player has ever said "I golfed," or "Iâ€™m going to golf" or "Do you golf?" Golf is noun, most often preceded by a transitive verb (how about that), I think. "I played golf today." "Iâ€™m playing in a charity golf tournament." That might be considered an adjective, but I donâ€™t think so. If you are talking to other golfers you can usually substitute the word "play" for the word "golf." As in, "How did you play?" or I"m going to play at Brown Deer."
2. Put a mark on your ball on your ball that is uniquely your own
But do it on the first tee with a Sharpie and make sure you show the other players in your group. This will help you identify your ball, if that occasion arises, but it will also impress the rest of your group.
3. Donâ€™t have matching head covers
This especially true of those that are tied together by rawhide or something. If you get some as a present from your wife or husband or kid, take them back. Trade them in for a relatively plain knit cover for your driver. None of those strange figures or funny head covers. Keep it simple.
4. Donâ€™t carry a bag that has separate holes for each club
Three dividers is plenty. One for the longer clubs, one for the middle irons and one for the wedges and putter. And donâ€™t have a bag that has a million pockets in it. One for balls, one for tees and your watch and maybe a Band-Aid or two. You donâ€™t need much for a good round. Keep the rest of your crap in the trunk of your car. And donâ€™t show up with one of those big leather bags that has Titleist on the side. Nothing gives an amateur away more than that.
5. Wear a shirt with a collar
No T-shirts on the course. Same thing goes for women. Also, wearing shirts with Augusta National or St. Andrews on them marks you as a phony unless you have actually played there. Golf shirts should not have pockets on the chest. And they should always be tucked in.
6. Shoes need to have some style
Donâ€™t wear those shoes that have flaps over the laces. Color should be black or white or brown. No baby blue unless you are a woman, then just about anything goes. Donâ€™t ever wear those sandals that have soft spikes on them. Those are just for dorks. Itâ€™s also good to have a couple or three pairs of shoes so you donâ€™t have the same look every round. Polish your golf shoes as you would your dress shoes. Make sure there is no mud in the spikes before you play.
7. What you wear on the bottom is critical
For women, itâ€™s either shorts or a skirt. Culottes are okay as long as they are slightly below mid-thigh. Any longer and it look silly and unfinished. For men itâ€™s either pants or shorts. But none of those short jogging shorts or long basketball shorts. A nice pair of khaki or dark blue or black shorts. And for everyone, no jeans. Ever. Ever.
8. Don't carry a fairway wood
Hardly anyone other than a professional can hit a fairway wood with any kind of consistency. Donâ€™t put one in your bag but put a couple of those hybrid clubs in your bag. Call those by the degree of loft. Your partner asks what you hit. You reply, "My 23." If you have a three or four iron, throw them away. Nobody can hit those. You get 14 clubs. Hereâ€™s the ideal breakdown. Driver, two hybrids, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 irons, a sand wedge, a pitching wedge and a loft wedge (that you will never even try to hit) and a putter. I also like to carry a cheap one iron for those rare times you need to hit the ball under a small pine tree and get it back on the fairway.
9. Avoid extra accessories
Donâ€™t carry one of those clickers that keep score or any kind of attachment on your bag where you can put four tees and a scorecard and a pencil. You might as well have a pocket protector with a dozen pens in it.
10. No beer on course
A soft drink or bottled water at the turn is fine. No beer and no big pretzels. A hot dog at the turn is fine. No chips. Know what the turn is.
11. Keep it down
Never shout across the fairway to your friend, "Youâ€™re out. Go ahead." If itâ€™s in question, just gently wave your hand in the direction of the green. As an adjunct to this rule is the one that says donâ€™t ever shout, except on the last hole when you make a putt for your all-time low score. Then you can show, "Holy crap!" or "How â€˜bout it?"
12. The constants
There are two: a white belt if you wear white shoes. For everyone. Donâ€™t swear. Ever.
No one should abide by these rules. The only thing that impresses other golfers is your game, not the clothes you wear. Golf is meant to be fun. Have beers, drive carts, wear jeans. You'd think someone who has golfed as much as you claim should know it's a lob wedge not a loft wedge.
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