5 devious ways to get under your match-play opponent’s skin

You can beat your buddies by shooting under par — or by getting under their skin.

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Later this week, at Quail Hollow Club, in North Carolina, two 12-man teams will collide in a biennial match-play competition called the Presidents Cup.

The rest of us, meantime, will keep trying to beat our buddies at our local clubs.

One way to do this is to shoot under par. But an easier way is to get under their skin.

Because all is fair in love and war and match play, here are 5 perfectly legal — if not entirely upstanding — tactics designed to throw your opponents off their games.

Kevin Kisner
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1. Talk to their ball

There are two types of weirdos in this world: People who talk to golf balls, and people who get annoyed by people who talk to golf balls. The latter demographic comes easily unhinged. Repeat after us: Sit down! Fly, ball! Grow legs! Spin!

2. Slow play them

Pace off every yardage to the nearest sprinkler head, then triple check the distance with your laser. Read putts from 16 angles. Toss a meadow’s worth of grass to gauge the wind. It might take a while, but you’ll win the match, even as they lose their mind.

3. Ask innocent questions

Pretend that you’re a cop in a police procedural, posing fake-friendly questions meant to soften up your suspect. But instead of saying, “You must be thirsty. Can I get you something to drink?” you might offer, “Hmm, I never noticed that. Have you always cupped your left wrist at the top of your swing?” Getting them to overthink can be even more effective than jangling change.

Luke List, Kevin Kisner
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4. Act the opposite

If your opponent is the quiet type, pepper them with conversation. If they’re chatty, give them the silent treatment. In relationships, opposites attract. In matches, they result in your sweeping the skins.

5. Play gimme mind games

Don’t give them that two-footer. Not until they’ve finished lining it up, that is, at which point you can say with phony casualness, “Oh, of course that’s good.” The other option: Don’t give them that two-footer, period. Both are tried-and-true rattlers.

josh sens

Josh Sens

Golf.com Photographer

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.