10 things every golfer needs to know before playing a fancy course like Winged Foot

There are lots of unwritten rules that come with a fancy invite.

(Getty Images)

There are so many great golf courses, and this week, with the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club, golf fans get a first-hand look at one of the best there is. It doesn’t matter how long or short you have played the game, that invitation to play a course you have always dreamed to play is exciting. Here is a list of things your should consider to prepare for your special day.

1. Take a lesson (or two)

I’ve always said it is so much more fun to play good golf and this may be particularly so when you are playing a course that is a special occasion. Plan ahead and make sure your game is in as good of condition as it can be.

Plan ahead if you can and take a tune-up lesson from your professional. In a perfect world, try taking two lessons so you can make any technique adjustments necessary and also give you time to practice a bit to add self discovery and enough balls to make it more comfortable. If your professional knows you are scheduled to play and when they should only suggest adjustments they know you can comfortably make and implement before your round.

2. A good outfit

Having the right outfit can also help make your day. Not only will you feel good in your best or new outfit, it will improve your photos. You may want to double check with your host, though, or by calling the club in advance to see if there are any particular dress code rules that you need to follow to avoid any potential embarrassment.

3. No unnecessary items (or clubs) in your bag

The maximum number of clubs you are allowed to carry in your bag according to the rules of golf is 14. Be sure to double check that you only have this many and not more and while you are checking this, also be sure that your bag is not weighed down with a ton of golf balls and other unnecessary things that could make your bag unnecessarily heavy.

At caddy clubs, I have seen golfers who show up and their golf bag is too heavy, be asked to switch to a lighter bag, typically provided by the club. If you can anticipate this and know in advance, you can avoid being the center of attention for the wrong reason before you tee off.

4. Arrive early so you don’t feel rushed

Keeping in mind that it will certainly be a more enjoyable day if you play respectably, arriving on time so that you have plenty of time to warm up before you play can make a big difference when you take that walk to the first tee.

Arriving early enough will allow you to change into your golf shoes in the locker room, hit some golf balls on the range, and ideally roll a few putts on the putting green to get a feel for the speed of the greens, will allow you to be best prepared and therefore relaxed when you do start your round. Also, arriving early enough, will keep you from needing to rush and help you to be more calm and relaxed and this often leads to a better round of golf.

5. Follow the lead of your host

Every club is different and they all have their own personalities and traditions. Your host will be the best person to set the rhythm and plan of what happens. Once you agree upon a time to meet and where, it will be the most simple to just follow their lead like a chameleon.

I played at a very high-end club once and I wasn’t exactly sure where to go, and my host wasn’t there yet, so by accident, I ended up parking in the wrong location.

I thought it might have been a good idea to hit some balls before they arrived and I was then told I was not to be on the range until my host arrived.

So, learn from my mistake and follow your host’s lead only will they know where everything is located, they will also know what typically happens at the club as to procedures with teeing off as well as interacting with the staff.

6. Know tipping policies

It is always a good idea to travel with some cash when you play a nicer course or any course for that matter. Once again different clubs have different policies when it comes to tipping. You can always attempt to tip and if the club does not allow it, the staff member will tell you so.
The areas where you may need to tip are valet if they take your clubs and park your car, the caddy if you take one (the club can tell you the per bag rate and also if you should tip on top of this amount) as well as any outside staff members who may help you with your cart or clean your clubs upon finishing your round.

Also, if the locker room attendant is particularly helpful or cleans your shoes, a tip would also be an appropriate gesture.

7. Be respectful of the pace of the course

Courses have their own personalities and traditions and you need to be mindful when you are a visitor. You may want to try to get the most of your round and enjoy every experience and shot, it is extremely important that you and your group move at the pace of the course and some are faster than others.

Be sure to get to your ball as quickly as possible and ready to play when your turn and keep an eye on that group in front of you.

I teach at a beautiful club in Jackson, Wyoming in the summer, Shooting Star and we host playing clinics on the course. The pace of this course is very fast and we often pick up our balls and move ahead to keep with the pace of the course and this faster pace makes the game enjoyable for all.

8. Don’t be shy to shop in the clubhouse

Many of these great golf clubs have recognizable logos and great merchandise in their shops. It is always very nice to have something to remember your day with the club logo, like a hat, shirt, belt, nice ball marker, etc.

This can also be a great opportunity to purchase gifts for the golfers in your life so plan ahead to have a little time in the shop before or after your round.

9. Have a “go to” shot

We all know that some days are better than others on the golf course. It is a way of life for all golfers. Having a rough day on your special course can make it more difficult to enjoy the day, so plan ahead and have a go-to, “plan b” shot.

For example, if you are struggling with your full swing, going to more club and a knock down type swing where it is limited in size can often help to get through a round with less embarrassment and failure. Another example would be if you are struggling with your high pitch shots, it may be more reliable to defer to a chip or bump and run approach that would allow you to make a smaller swing and therefore be less risky. Having other choices can help you to remain calm and make good decisions and help you to have a good day on the course even when you are not playing your best.

10. Enjoy yourself!

Most golfers are playing golf for fun and the challenge the game provides and the opportunity to improve if you choose to apply yourself. There are so many great golf courses out there and so many are accessible to all golfers.

When you do have the chance to play the course that is special to you remember to just enjoy the experience. Take it the views. Take some photos. Enjoy your best shots.

Make the best of what your game gives you and then start planning your next game at one of your “dream” courses.

Each of us has our golf course we dream of playing. There are so many amazing options out there. This may be a great way to motivate you to improve your game as you prepare for this special round.

These suggestions should help you make the most of your day.

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