Thanks to this website, I have played a lot more golf in the past year than ever before. Through the many rounds, I’ve come across a number of golfing concepts that have helped me to enjoy my time on the course more. To kick off a new year, I want to present five recommendations you can use to inject more fun into your golfing experience.
Walk the Course
Walking during a round of golf is the way the game is meant to be played. Motorized golf carts were introduced in the 1960s and are now a seemingly essential part of the American golf experience. However, there are numerous benefits to walking instead of riding. From a fitness perspective, I have averaged 5-miles walking versus just 2.5-miles while riding in a cart. It’s cheaper to walk, with most courses charging around $15 to ride. Golf is a social game, and walking allows for better conversation with ALL the members of your group. Lastly, studies have shown it improves scoring.
While walking, there are additional ways to improve your experience. This year I vowed to walk more and was gifted a nice push cart from Caddytek for Christmas. There are lots of versions of push or pull carts, but most new models have great features that make walking just as easy as riding. Quality push carts cost around $150, so it takes only about 10 rounds to start saving money. Another option is to use a “Sunday bag,” which is a lightweight carrying bag meant for a smaller set of clubs. I found a brand new Ping Moonlite bag at a thrift store for $8. Some of these can get expensive, but budget versions are available for around $40.
Over the years I’ve viewed playing just 9-holes as an inferior option. After all, I was missing out on half of the holes of an 18-hole course! But as my free time has become more limited, a 9-hole round is more frequently the best option I have to play any golf at all. Playing nine I’ve often been able to zip around in an hour and a half or less, perfect for a busy husband/dad/businessman. It’s a great alternative to visiting the driving range just to hit balls. This summer I was confronted with that very option a few times and choose to walk nine instead of slapping balls on the range, paying the same price for actual golf.
While most courses offer 9-hole rates, you’ll typically pay a bit of a premium to play half the holes. Some courses offer early-bird options and most have reasonable twilight 9-hole rates. Unfortunately there aren’t many 9-hole facilities in our region. We also don’t have many short courses (executive or par-3) around, which also fits this suggestion. Heritage Creek in Bucks County originally opened as a 6-hole facility, which could be played one to three times. Around the country, more new or reconfigured courses are looking at increments of 6-holes, including 12-hole courses and 18-hole courses with three 6-hole loops. Hopefully in the coming years, we’ll see options like that around Philadelphia as well.
Don’t Keep Score
There are lots of options that fall under this recommendation, but the main idea is to stop keeping track of your strokes in the traditional manner. The most fun and freeing choice is to just simply not keep score. If you’re playing well or badly, you’ll know it. We American golfers are way too obsessed with those little numbers on the scorecard, where a crooked number often ruins the enjoyment of a round. Free yourself to just enjoy hitting golf shots!
The other option is to play a different type of game than stroke play. There are many other golf games – like Match Play, Stableford, Wolf Hammer, or even a Scramble. This year, thanks to some winter reading, when I played with my 14-year-old son I would turn our rounds into matches. With roughly a 14-stroke difference in handicap, I would spot him a stroke on the 14 hardest holes. A fierce competitor, it has helped him keep engaged in the round if he had a particularly bad hole. Match Play changes the focus of the competition, where winning a hole is more important than a stroke (or 8).
If you’re playing in a larger group, the Scramble format is a good way to keep things interesting. Usually used for charity outings, we implemented this over the summer for my wife’s semi-annual family reunion. Most of the family members rarely play, so there would regularly be scores in the 100s, lots of frustration and not much fun. This year I had the (brilliant) idea to play as three 3-man scramble teams. We normally only play two rounds over the two weeks, but added a third as people were having so much more fun. Two of the matches went to extra holes with teams tied at 2-under par after 18.
Use Fewer Clubs
If you’re looking for a challenge, take some of your clubs out of the bag. Play with half a set. Or with just five clubs. Removing a few clubs from play will force you to think more about the shots you want to hit. Say I’m 165 out and don’t have my 6-iron, do I muscle up a 7-iron or back off a 5-iron? Besides being fun, it can be a way to sharpen your game, requiring more focus and pre-shot thought. For beginners, it’s a much better idea to start with a limited set of clubs. The gaps in distance don’t matter as much as making solid contact. Beginners should get comfortable with a few clubs before expanding to a full set.
Tee it Forward
I’ve never been one to insist on playing the back tees, but as I’ve gotten older I rarely head to the back tees now. Playing the right set of tees is very important for both enjoyment and for pace of play. I usually choose the tees that are around 6,300 yards, but have also found it’s also fun to play a tee box ahead of where I normally would. On a course you’re really familiar with, moving up a tee lets you to hit different shots than you normally would.
The PGA of America and the USGA have been encouraging this for many years with the “Tee It Forward” program. They surveyed golfers and found the following benefits:
- 56% played faster
- 56% are likely to play golf more often
- 83% hit more-lofted clubs into greens
- 85% had more fun
- 93% will TEE IT FORWARD again
It’s particularly important for kids to play shorter length holes while learning the game. I started my oldest son playing from lengths loosely based on the Longleaf Tee System. I would have him play from a percentage ratio of my hole length (ex. 400 yards at 60% would yield 240 yards for him). As he’s grown, that ratio changed. Instead of hitting 4-6 shots before he reached the green area, he would hit 1-3 and it made the game more fun for him, take less time and be more similar to how I played.
Hopefully you’ll be able inject a few of these recommendations into your rounds this year. For the ultimate upgrade, you can combine all five in the same round! Grab a couple buddies, play nine at twilight in a 5-club challenge, walking and playing the forward tees, and forget to pick up a scorecard. I promise, it’ll be a lot of fun.