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How to Fake Your Way Through a Round of Golf

Whether you haven’t played in years or are just a little rusty, here’s a primer to get you back on the green

Golfer on a tee hitting a ball into a fairway
Getty Images

It’s one of golf’s toughest tests: You’re teeing it up with players who are way better than you. Can you survive without a) holding them up, b) embarrassing yourself or c) taking up tennis?

Yes, and it’s simpler than you’d think.

You already know not to move or talk when someone’s swinging. You know that whoever’s farthest from the hole goes next. But did you know it’s crucial to put a personal mark on your golf ball? It’s not enough to know you’re playing a Titleist 2; Roy might be doing the same. Use a Sharpie to tattoo your ball with a dot or star so you know it’s yours. This is actually in the Rules of Golf: “The player should put an identifying mark on the ball to be played.”

Play fast. Decide which club you’re going to hit as you approach your next shot. Take a practice swing or two, but no more than two.

After you hit, watch your ball like a hawk. Pick a landmark to help you find it: “just past that tall palm” or “left of the Porta Potti.” The rules allow just three minutes for hunting errant shots. While you’re at it, watch everybody’s shots that way. Finding another player’s ball in the rough will make you a hero.

Above all, know that your playing partners don’t care what you shoot. They’re far more focused on their own games and what you think of them. So relish your good shots, forget your chili dips and keep eight more tips in mind:

In golf, down is up. Novices often swing upward, trying to get the ball into the air. But that’s what the loft on your clubs (the angle of the clubface) is for. Hit down on the ball to make it go up.

Watch good golfers swing. Emulate their tempo. Many amateurs hurry their swings (and even putts!) as if to get them over with. Good swings are syrupy, with all the force building to the moment of impact.

If you’re out of the hole, pick up. There’s no shame in quitting a hole if you’ve got no shot at double bogey. If you’ve already hit five or six shots and you’re still not on the green, pick up your ball and say, “I’m out of this one.” It speeds play and proves you’re a realist. 

Trapped? It’s fine to take practice swings in a bunker, but your club can’t touch the sand — that’s a two-stroke penalty.

Near the green, putt if you can. That’s how Cameron Smith won last summer's Open Championship — by putting around a cavernous bunker. A decent putt from the fringe ends up closer than the vast majority of chips and flop shots.

Tee it up on par-3s. Plenty of golfers hit their tee shots right off the turf on par-3 holes. Bad idea! Using a tee, preferably a broken one you find in the tee box, helps your chances. Don’t tee your ball too high on par-3s— a half inch is enough to simulate a nice, fluffy lie. As Jack Nicklaus said, “Through years of experience, I have found that air offers less resistance than dirt.”

When in doubt, take more club. More than 90 percent of approach shots from off the green end up short of the hole. If you’re wondering whether to hit a 6-iron or a 7, reach for the 6.

Know some entertaining golf lore. Did you know Sam Snead won bets by leaping to touch ceilings with his foot? Your playing partners probably don’t. Legendary gambler Titanic Thompson bet he could drive a ball 500 yards — and collected after waiting till winter and smacking one onto a frozen lake. Did you know that the hole is 4¼ inches in diameter because that was the size of drain pipes Old Tom Morris repurposed as cup liners at St. Andrews? If not for an accident of Scottish plumbing, we might all make more putts.

Finally, remember three phrases that make you a great golf partner: “Good swing.” “Bad bounce.” And when the beverage cart rolls by, “I’m buying.”

Follow Article Topics: Health-&-Fitness