Golf newbie, here are a few things we’d like you to know

Hey new golfers, we regulars figure you could use a little help! Here’s some friendly advice.

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We’ve noticed a lot of newbies at our courses, and we’re conflicted. On the one hand, our rounds are taking longer, which makes us grumpy. On the other hand, the marshal tells us, “It’s a little slow because there’s a group up ahead that is new to the game,” and that makes us happy.

Most of us golfers love the game and want everyone else to love it too. If COVID-19 has brought newbies to golf because it has built-in social distancing and provides a safe calorie-burning alternative to the gym, well, yay.

However, there are a few things we’d like the newbies to know. Interestingly, the rules are not among them. If you’re new to golf and are out on the course for a good time with socially distanced friends, you do not have to play by The Rules of Golf. In fact, we would prefer you didn’t.
Dear newbie, here’s all we ask of you:
  • Arrive at the first tee in time to swing away at your reserved time. A noon tee time is not like a noon lunch reservation; there’s no such thing in golf as fashionably late, and no one will hold your table for 20 minutes. Consider noon to be the time you’re expected to have all your players at the tee and beginning to play.
  • The teeing area is not the place to go into detail about last night’s date. Hit and go. There’s plenty of conversation time built into golf, but probably not at the tee.
  • Walking is allowed in golf, and even encouraged at some of the best courses. Except at some resort and residential courses, you do not have to ride around in a cart; if it’s exercise you want, carts do not facilitate that.
  • If you do use a cart, never leave it where you must walk back toward the group behind you to retrieve it. We like to say, park behind the green and never in front of the green — lately we’re seeing some of the newbies leave their carts 100 yards short of the green and then come back to get it!
  • Note that driving under the influence is no better an idea on the golf course than it is on the highway. My husband was wheeling his pushcart along once and a drunk cart driver crashed into him. Hubby was OK; his pushcart, not so much.
  • The fact that you’re not being charged by the minute, the way you are in bowling, does not mean you should consider the course yours for the day. Always endeavor to keep up with the group in front of you, especially if you are new. This will keep smiles on the faces of all the players behind you, who want you to learn their game but not hold them up. Also see: advice on playing through and the ultimate guide to playing faster golf.
  • There are rules, which are important for tournaments and score-posting, and there is etiquette. While we don’t care if you improve your lie and hit out of turn, we would like you to stand still quietly when it’s our turn to play. Also see: 7 golf etiquette tips for nervous newbies.
  • We notice that many of you like playing music on the course. If we’re playing with you, we thank you for asking us if we mind your speakers. Many of us do, sometimes because we absolutely hate your taste in music and sometimes because we just prefer the sounds of golf.
  • Finally, consider that marshal (also known as a player’s assistant or, in old school circles, ranger) your friend. He or she will chat you up and then let the groups behind you know that you’re new, which ought to make them more tolerant of those hilariously terrible shots you’re hitting.

And about those terrible shots: We have those too. Welcome to golf.

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