Cassy is an avid golfer who developed her passion later in life and enjoys sharing her stories and perspective on the game.
Tips To Help The New Golfer
What are you, new? Yes, you are and always remember when you step out onto that golf course for at least the first year or so, you are new to the game. Your frequency of play will determine how new you are, but that feeling of not knowing what to do may take a while to dissipate.
I was fortunate enough when I started golfing to have my husband guide me through the ins and outs of rules and etiquette, but golf can be intimidating to newbies. There are unsure feelings, anxiety and being female in a mostly male dominated sport, can add to those unsettling vibes. Statistically speaking, women make up just less than 25% of golfers on the course, and although numbers may be on the rise, the uneasy feelings of being in the minority are real. We all have to be new at some point, and learning to navigate this new world on the greens can be fun and challenging all at the same time.
I've recently been playing with a friend who is fairly new to the game, and I started recalling the situations I was once in and how much I've learned. There's no, one manual about golfing with other women, but it made me think about golf etiquette, how all groups can be different and how do we learn what to do? Time and number of rounds played increases your knowledge, but until then, hopefully these few tips help if you're new to women's golf.
#1 TIP - PACE OF PLAY - Someone once said to me "No one cares if you're bad, just don't be slow." It's true that when you are new, you are going to be hitting more shots and therefore taking more time. This is is expected, and most everyone in your group will understand (OK, most everyone). However, women seem to share a common characteristic of being overly courteous, especially when we are unaware of situational dynamics, and this politeness can cause slow play. Plus, women physically cannot hit the ball as far as a man. When just learning, allow yourself some grace and know it will take longer to get down the fairway, but always be conscientious of how close the group is behind you. It will cause you more anxiety to see four men on your tails, thinking you are slow.
Most groups play READY GOLF and most often the more experienced players will guide you or announce ready golf to the group. The most basic rule of ready golf is whoever is to the tee box first, should tee off. If you're ball is on the fairway, but in front of the person who is still walking over to their ball in the rough behind you and figuring out how to go around a tree, be ready to hit as well. Ready golf may apply to putting too, if your ball isn't in the same line as the person closer.
BE AN EFFICIENT golfer and be ready to hit on the fairway, even if someone is slightly behind you. Know where to leave your bag or your cart, so it is in position to move to the next hole, and try to leave it on the side of the green leading to the next tee, not in front of the green.
Being prepared with golf tees and ball markers prior to teeing off will not only make you efficient, it will prevent the awkward ask on the green so no one needs to run back to their cart. The new girl who forgets everything isn't a good title to start out with.
DON'T BE SHY about teeing off first or second in your group, especially if you are new, because it allows for more time to replace your club and gather your thoughts. If you go last and hit a poor shot, frustration will show and you'll have to hurry to your ball while everyone waits on you.
MARK YOUR BALL on the green without being asked, and if your first putt is close enough to finish, line it up and complete your turn so others can go.
MOVE TO THE NEXT TEE when you have completed the hole as quickly as you can. When you arrive at the next hole you can write your score down, replace head covers or get a drink.
LIMIT CONVERSATION when appropriate. We love golf because it is social, but when it's time for teeing off, pause the conversation and continue when walking up the fairway. If you are in carts, long stories may need to wait until the 19th hole.
#2 TIP - KNOW THE BASICS - If you don't have a good friend or family member to show you the ropes, familiarize yourself with some basic rules and etiquette.
DRESS CODE - If you are new to golf, you may realize an entirely new wardrobe could be a necessity, and depending on where you play, know what clothing options are acceptable for women.
TIME OF PLAY - Due to the popularity of golf, many courses have seen a great increase in tee times, so don't just assume you can show up anywhere and play. Plan ahead, call and be aware there may be specific times for men and for women. I suggest new golfers start with playing nine holes and it may take a while to move up to 18, but be patient. Many courses have 9 Hole Leagues or Wine & Nine's in the early evening as a great way to learn the game, but also ideal for meeting other women golfers. An average 9 hole round of golf should be about 2 hours and it's a perfect way to get your feet wet and continue working toward that 4+ hour round.
SCORING - Golf is a game of honor and you are responsible for your score on each hole and if you are establishing a handicap, entering each round. For many new golfers, it can be difficult to remember how many strokes are taken, but find a method that works for you. There are bead counters, digital counters, apps, or pencil marks on your scorecard. But the most important thing to remember is that you are new and cannot expect perfection at first and that is why the handicap system works. Enter each score, track your performance and watch the strokes eventually diminish from the scorecard.
#3 ALWAYS ASK
Part of women's courteous nature is not wanting to ask too many questions for fear of looking uninformed. People expect newer golfers to not know everything, so asking to learn and be better informed outweighs not asking and doing something unacceptable. It's acceptable to ask group members if they're playing ready golf. If you are ready to hit, but see someone still behind you, ask a playing partner if you should go. As you are walking up to the green, ask which direction the next tee box is so you know where to park your cart. Knowledge is power and asking questions will be the most courteous thing you can do on the golf course.
SOME DON'T DO's on the course are:
-Don't stand behind someone when they are putting. It's not only distracting, but unfair to see the line of their putt. It's totally unacceptable in any competition.
-If someone asks you to move out of their line of sight or from behind them when teeing off, don't take it personally and step to the side.
-On the green, don't step on a player's line from their marker to the hole. Walk around the mark.
-Don't talk when players are approaching their ball to hit or to putt.
-Don't hit another player's golf ball; it's OK to check if unsure.
-Don't drive or roll your walking cart across a green.
#4 PUTTING RULES - Everyone seems to have different routines for putting and we need to allow for that. The most basic rule of putting is the farthest away usually goes first, even if someone is still off the green and closer to the pin. However, there are instances where one player should go before the other when playing ready golf.
READY PUTTING - Putt first if another player just hit their ball out of a bunker, but is farther away and on a different line than yours. She may still need time to rake, grab another club, walk up to the green or line up her shot. It's also not saving time, or being courteous, to tell a player in your same putting line she can go first. If she is closer, she has the benefit of watching your line into the hole and will want to see your putt first. Simply ask her to move her mark left or right, then you putt.
MARKING YOUR BALL - Get a ball marker of any kind and be prepared to mark your ball on the green. When marking your ball, the marker goes behind the ball. If another player asks you to move your mark left or right, line your putter head up with a distinguishing landmark in the distance and move the mark to the other side of the putter. Remember to move it back to the original location before you putt, or you will incur a one stroke penalty.
GIMME'S - I'm pretty certain a man invented 'gimme's', and it will depend on the women you are playing with, if you should give or receive one. You should not give yourself a gimme and never in competition. Wait until someone gives you the putt, then pick it up and remember you count that stroke as if it went in. Try not to count on gimme's, even if it is a casual situation, and always be ready to putt out.
#5 - MANAGE EXPECTATIONS - One more time, you're new! A runner doesn't expect to run a marathon after completing her first mile, so why think you should shoot par when you're brand new to the sport? Wrapping your head around having a lower score in a sport is different, as well as learning what par is for each course, what it means, the difficulty, etc. The average par for golf courses is 72, meaning if a golfer shoots the expected number on each hole, she has shot par. Since most recreational golfers never shoot below par, let's ponder these statistics as you navigate this new world.
-According the Golfible, the national average golf score is around 100 strokes; 96 for men and 108 for women.
-The USGA Handicap Research Team tells us a player is only expected to shoot to his or her Course Handicap about 25 percent of the time; that's 1 out of every 4-5 rounds.
-35 % of Women golfers who play occasionally, shoot over 120.
-Among the 544,712 female golfers who kept a handicap through the USGA, the average handicap index was 27.7 in 2021.
You have discovered a sport that is new to you, challenging and one that will test your patience and bring you joy. We all have to be the 'new girl' at some point and I look back fondly on those days when the smallest victory on the course would bring me so much excitement. It may be frustrating at times, but think about all you are learning and the new friends you are making. As the great Ben Hogan once said "I never played a round when I didn't learn something new about the game." This is a lifelong journey with so many lessons, and so worth it!