Many people take up golf for the game’s leisurely aspects. The calm, slow pace separates golf from most sports and makes it an excellent stress-buster.

That said, golfers aren’t expected to dawdle on the course. The phrase “take your time” has its limits, especially when the course is busy. Experienced golfers prefer to play at a steady if unhurried pace that allows them to “get in a groove.” Any long pauses in play, either to wait for the group ahead or for one of their playing partners, can grate on the nerves.

On top of that, we’ve all got places to go, things to do and people to see. At best, playing a full 18-hole round is a four-hour investment, including driving to the course, changing clothes and shoes, paying in the pro shop and warming up. And since most rounds average about 4 ½ hours to complete, the usual door-to-door time is five-plus hours.

Long story short: It’s important to keep up with your playing partners. For a beginner, that might mean taking a few shortcuts. These little tricks will not only make the round go more quickly, they’ll endear you to any experienced players you’re paired with.

  • Limit your practice swings: As a novice, you’re constantly trying to gain a feel for your swing. Take as many practice swings as you like while waiting for another golfer to hit, but once it’s your turn, limit yourself to two. This may also prevent you from getting too wrapped up in mechanical thoughts and help you play more instinctively.
  • Call off the search and drop: Golf’s rules allow you five minutes to search for a lost ball. For casual play, shorten this to two minutes. When you hit a ball into the woods, watch it closely after swinging, locate a specific spot (tall tree, etc.) near the entry point and head straight there. If you can’t find your ball in short order, drop another outside the trees and proceed. You can also hit a “provisional ball” off the tee any time you expect your first shot is lost, then simply play the second one.
  • Leave the cart and walk to your ball: When two golfers are paired in a cart, the driver will typically go to the closest ball first. Whenever you’re second in line, don’t just sit in the cart until your partner finishes. Take the club or clubs you’ll need and walk to your ball while he plays (provided you won’t be in his way). You’ll often arrive at your ball with time to prepare before your partner shows up with the cart.
  • Pick up tap-in putts: Practice two-footers to your heart’s content – it’s a great way to build your stroke and confidence. But during an informal round, there’s no need to putt out from this distance. Just pick up your ball while being careful not to step in another player’s line.
  • Don’t hit multiple “mulligans”: The game is so frustrating/rewarding and the swing so mysterious, it’s tempting to follow every poor shot by dropping another ball and trying again. This can get especially tiresome to other players, however, so limit your “mulligans” (do-overs) to those times when your first shot goes into the water, trees or somewhere it may be lost. To reiterate, practice between rounds, not during.
  • Stop at eight strokes: You’re bound to have holes where you just can’t do anything right – it happens to all beginners, and to many seasoned golfers. Maybe you hit two or three chip shots clear across the green, back and forth, or chop away futilely trying to escape the woods. Once you reach eight strokes, it’s time to bow out gracefully and move to the next hole.