In the past ten days I have played two rounds of golf in which one of the other golfers was a new golfer. At the first tee, new golfers often and nervously explained their lack of skill, sheepishly saying, “I’m just starting out, I’m not very good, etc.”
My response was to smile and tell them it’s a great day for golf. I told them if they have any questions about the game, ask away — I’m happy to help. You could literally see their whole bodies relax when they realized I was not annoyed with the fact that they were beginners. I also asked them if they would like me to let them know if they are about to break a basic rule of the game or if they would like me to give them pointers on golf etiquette. Both said they would love the help.
Now, for me, this is the key to playing with new golfers; help them relax and let them know we are in this wonderful round of golf together. By asking them if they would like assistance, I am creating a win/win. They agree to the help and I can offer assistance to keep me from going crazy if they do something truly annoying (like talking in my back swing). I look at it this way, the more relaxed they are the better the chance they will play well.
Each new golfer had their own set of questions, ranging from how high to tee the ball to how to read a putt, but the most valuable tips I shared with them allowed them to keep up with the pace of play. I told them that it doesn’t matter how bad they think they play; what they need to avoid is playing too slowly. The advice I shared was simple:
- Don’t think too much about your swing. Take one practice swing and then go for it. If you take too many practice swings or stand over your ball thinking about all the things you learned, it will slow things down (and it will tire you out both mentally and physically).
- Be aware of what the other golfers are doing. Watch them hit the ball off the tee so that if they do not see where their ball landed, you can save them time finding their ball.
- Be ready when it is your turn — as soon as you see the other person hit their ball (hopefully from the fairway) be ready to hit your ball. In other words, you can be thinking about what club to use and where you want to aim when they are getting ready to hit their ball.
- Pick up your ball if you are struggling on a hole — don’t take 15 strokes on a hole. If you are not in a tournament, just pick up the ball and take it up to the fringe and hit a chip and putt. No one will think less of you, and in fact, will respect that you are aware of the pace of play and making a decision that will keep things moving along.
- Always put your clubs between the green you are putting on and tee for the next hole. Then when you walk off the green you can pick up a club that you might have left on the fringe and get your bag on the way to the next tee. If you don’t know where the next tee is, ask your playing partner (as you are walking up to the green.)
The other area in which they needed a lot of advice was on the green. Both of the beginners had putting lessons, but the lessons only explained the putting stroke, so we had a quick class on managing the green. Advice included:
- Make sure you have a ball marker to mark your ball — one of them didn’t even know that their glove had a built-in ball mark. Always ask if you need to move the mark for someone else putting.
- Repair ball marks — I showed them how to lift the grass and tap it down with the putter.
- Tending the Flagstick — I explained they must remove the flagstick when their ball is on the green (or it’s a penalty). If you can’t see the hole, you can have someone tend the flag. I tended the flag, giving them little pointers, like if their body casts a shadow, stand so the shadow is not over the hole. Or, if it is a windy day, hold the flag against the pole so it does not flap in the wind.
- Never walk in between the hole and another players ball mark — explaining that you want to always know where the other ball marks are so you avoid making any footprints in another golfers putting line.
- Ask if you can finish out your putt. Don’t just assume you can “tap it in”…make sure your playing partner doesn’t mind if you tap in before he takes his/her turn.
Both rounds of golf where enjoyable and the new golfers were very happy when I left them in the parking lot. I felt good about helping them and remembered friends that had helped me when I was a beginner.
A lot of seasoned golfers dread being put with beginners. This always amazes me because we were all beginners at one time, and let’s face it, on any given day our golf swing can let us down and our game can “look and feel” like we have never held a club in our hands. So if you love the game of golf and want golf to grow and prosper — do your part to help grow the game of golf by being kind to a new golfer.