The Myth of Playing by the Rules
Golf has a lot of rules – like, A LOT – but pretty much all of them only matter if you’re playing competitively or in an organized event or tournament. And even then, very few people actually know all of them. So, don’t worry about the rules too much to start. The key guidelines everyone should follow are: (1) play quickly, (2) play courteously and (3) leave the golf course better than you found it. Sounds like something your mom would tell you. And she’d be right. Do these things and everyone will love you. A few other pro tips:
|Play the ball as it lies.||Unless you’re competing against others, beginners shouldn't worry about this rule. Give yourself a better lie by rolling the ball around a little, fluffing it up in the grass or, better yet, teeing it up.|
|A game of golf is 18 holes.||Sure, most courses you'll play will have 18 holes, but you're not required to play all 18. Feel free to play nine holes or perhaps even fewer if you're strapped for time. Many courses offer nine-hole rates and some even have 3- or 6-hole loops.|
|Men play from the back tees, ladies from the forward tees.||Not true... Tee choice should be dependent on skill level or how far a player can hit a driver, not gender or age. We recommend that beginners use the most forward tees or whatever distance they’re most comfortable playing… you can tee it up 100 yards away from the green if you want! Take any advantage you can get!|
|When playing with a group, the person farthest from the hole always hits first.||Most people play “ready” golf, which is a bit more practical and speedier in informal play. As you probably guessed, this just means that you hit when you’re ready, even if you’re not farthest away. Just make sure nobody is in your line of fire, and that you’re not in someone else’s.|
|Every stroke counts, including a swing-and-miss.||Don’t bother counting strokes in the beginning. In fact, throw the scorecard away, or use it to count how many good shots you hit. You’re here to have fun, not measure your performance or beat yourself up. There will be plenty of opportunities for that down the road as you improve. And that’s when golf actually becomes addictive – chasing that elusive score and challenging yourself to improve each time out. For now, don’t sweat the strokes.|
|Carry no more than 14 clubs in your bag.||Again, this really only matters if you’re playing in a tournament. Otherwise, carry as few or as many as you want. We recommend starting simply, with a driver, a 7-, 8- or 9-iron, a sand wedge and a putter. Eventually you can add other irons, wedges, fairway woods or hybrids. For newcomers, less is definitely more.|
Almost more important than playing by the game’s rules, good golf course etiquette makes for faster rounds, better course conditions and greater enjoyment for all. Follow these basic guidelines and you’ll be welcome in any golf group.
- Be ready to hit when it’s your turn to play. This might mean selecting your club and visualizing a shot or putt while someone in your group is hitting.
- Repair divots in the fairways and ball marks on the green, yours and others. Try to leave the course better than you found it.
- Pay attention to your pace of play. If your group slows down, delaying those behind you, let that group “play through” if there is a space ahead.
- Stand safely away from other players who are hitting or putting. And never throw or slam clubs down. It can be dangerous, and it’s not a good look.
- Be considerate. If your ball is heading towards a person or group, yell “FORE” as a warning. On the greens, step over other players’ putting lines and don’t make any scuffs on the turf. Drive golf cars according to course rules. Don’t let phones be a distraction on the golf course.
So how do you keep score on the golf course? The simple answer: you don’t, at least not at first. As a beginner, you should be more focused on small improvements and the joys of the game than on scorecards and par. Progress is better measured by the number of good shots that are hit and the number of fun moments you experience with family and friends. Remember all those reasons that first convinced you to try golf in the first place? Chances are, shooting par wasn’t one of them. That said, the scorecard will certainly help in a number of different ways – from chronicling when and where you played and with whom, to determining which tees to play and the length of particular holes (and therefore possibly which clubs to hit off the tee).
- This is where you write down the names of those who are playing in your group, whether it’s a full name, initials or a nickname.
- This designates the total yardage of a particular set of tees. There are numerous sets of tees on every course of varying length based on ability. Some tees are designated by color, others by number or a course attribute. With many courses offering what are called “combo tees” that provide even greater variety in yardage, make sure you find a length that’s a proper fit for your game. Beginners typically should play from the shortest tees and eventually move further back as they gain skill and confidence.
- This designates the length (in yards) of a particular hole. Make sure you look at the yardage of the hole from the set of tees which you are playing.
- This is the designated par for the particular hole, which are identified by number at the very top of the scorecard. Holes can typically be par 3s, par 4s or par 5s, with par 4s the most common on standard courses. While par is a good score for an established and experienced golfer, par is the enemy of the beginner. Measuring performance relative to par is not recommended for beginners, as scores of twice that number will be far more common. Focus instead on hitting a good shot or two every hole. A good rule of thumb is if you reach a number that’s double the par of a hole, pick up and move to the next hole to keep up the pace of play.
- This is where a player would write his or her cumulative score for the first nine holes, also frequently called the “front nine.”
- This is where a player would tally his or her overall score, combining the score from the first nine with that of the final nine holes, or “back nine.”
- As a beginner, don’t be too concerned with handicap terminology on the scorecard. This measure, once you have played a number of rounds and established an official handicap, would help to more evenly balance games played against other players who also have an established handicap.
Golf is About Fun
It’s also about honor and sportsmanship. And it’s about the challenge to do your best, whether on a single shot, a hole or an entire round. Stepping up to that challenge brings self-satisfaction, which breeds fun. Meeting that challenge within the rules is what makes the game so frustrating and fascinating at the same time. Attaining a goal by violating the rules doesn’t satisfy anybody. So, when you eventually reach a point where you’re playing for money, drinks or good old-fashioned pride, you’ll want to play by the rules as much as possible. Because others will be.