Playing in a group with more experienced golfers scares the daylights out of many beginners. But it really shouldn’t.
In any endeavor, it’s natural to feel anxious when performing alongside (or in front of) others whose skills and knowledge are greater than yours. Think about your early days as an entry-level employee, or your first week on the varsity basketball team. Pretty scary, weren’t they?
In golf, the sheer scale of the playing field and the game’s inherent difficulties make getting your feet wet especially daunting. Add golf’s myriad rules and detailed etiquette and it can be downright intimidating.
When partnered with experienced players, the typical beginner fears:
1. Embarrassing him/herself with poor play.
2. Slowing down the group.
3. Running afoul of etiquette rules.
4. Actually hitting someone with a wayward shot.
As for No. 4, put that out of your mind. Long-time golfers know where to stand when another golfer is playing. They’re aware of your presence (and your potential to miss wildly).
Now for points 1 – 3:
1. It’s almost certain that you’ll be the weakest player in the group. You know this, and so do your partners. In other words, no one expects you to rip 280-yard drives and hit the greens from long distance. Remember – they were beginners once, too. Most veteran players can empathize with newbies; many will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.
2. Again, the group members understand that you’ll top some shots, chunk others and generally spray the ball left and right. All they ask (usually without asking) is that you do it quickly, and that you pick up if you haven’t holed out after seven or eight shots. That’s not to say you should rush, but keep your swing thoughts simple and concentrate on fundamentals – mainly, your aim.
3. It’s one thing to study golf etiquette in a book or on a website, another to practice it on the course. In time, proper etiquette will become second nature to you. But early on, here are the four biggest keys: 1) Stay clear of other golfers’ swings and line of vision. 2) Don’t talk while someone is standing over the ball, swinging or putting. 3) On the greens, don’t step directly between another golfer’s ball and the cup. 4) Wait until your turn to hit, which is any time you are the farthest golfer from the hole. If you happen to breach the rules, just apologize sincerely and learn from it.
No matter how serious some folks take their golf, we must never forget that it’s just a game. If an experienced player treats you rudely, the problem likely lies with him, not you.