OK, so by now you’ve read our 20 reasons to love golf right now — and if you haven’t, click here, we’ll wait — but now it’s time for you to make the most of it. Here are 21 ways to take advantage of the greatest sport on Earth in 2021. [Edited by John Ledesma and Sean Zak]
1. Get serious about your range time
As Ben Hogan once famously said, “The secret is in the dirt.” What he meant is if you’re trying to improve your game, you must find it out there, on the range, in the dirt between your feet. Well, range sessions these days look a bit different. Generally, there’s some technology involved, sometimes a lot.
Portable gadgets such as the FlightScope Mevo, Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor or Voice Caddie’s Swing Caddie SC300 provide some of the same data points that launch monitors 20 times their price provide. Although these portable launch monitors each sell for less than $500, they still capture crucial data such as ball speed, spin, carry distance and more. You can receive the experience of a high-end learning center on your local range, rather than simply watching the ball fly with the naked eye.
Kick things up a notch with a LiveView Pro device, which allows you to see, analyze and improve your swing in real time with its Digital Swing Mirror technology. It sells for around $400, can fit in your pocket and pairs with your phone or tablet for easy use.
If that somehow isn’t enough tech for you, further customize your own learning center with a metronome for tempo, a rangefinder to confirm distances and a Bluetooth speaker to help curate your desired vibes. That ought to do the trick.
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Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
2. Become a mentor
Instead of focusing on yourself and grinding to get better on your own, look outward. Find a non-golfer who is interested in dabbling with the game (or maybe never knew he or she would enjoy it). Start them at the driving range. Gift them the backup clubs you have in the garage. Caddie for them at the pitch ’n’ putt. Buy them an intro lesson with a local teaching pro. Helping someone else get hooked on this game is twice as rewarding as lowering your own handicap.
3. Dial in your distances and fix gaps
Perhaps your swing got longer last year. Perhaps you struck it more consistently. Perhaps you took six months off with an injury or paternal golf leave. It’s a good idea to press reset and take stock of how far you hit each club — not how far you hit one perfectly, pured at the flag, but how far you hit most shots. Changes can creep up in your game, and there might be a gap that’s worth filling with a simple, fun swipe of the credit card.
4. Play a ‘different’ game
It’s time to change things up. Even if you enjoy playing a scramble every now and then, make it a recurring game on the first Thursday of every month. The bothersome truth is most amateur golfers play this game just one way: counting every stroke on every hole. That’s stale. Remember, this game was built on foursomes and fourballs, with stableford as a dominant format overseas. There are endlessly enjoyable ways to get the golf in.
5. Reboot your buddy trip
Call your pals, pack your bags, fill up the gas tank and get ready for your revamped buddy trip. There’s really no wrong way to do a golf trip with your friends, but there are certainly ways to crank it up a notch.
Add a trophy. Perfect for bragging rights in the off-season.
Introduce a ceremony. Start the trip off right with a formal dinner the night before the first match. Announce teams, honor past champions, maybe even let the previous year’s winner pick the menu. It only heightens the anticipation.
Mix up the rota. Nothing wrong with a few 18-hole rounds, but broaden your horizons and see if there’s a lively par-3 course or hidden gem nearby that will alter the pace. Think “10-some at twilight.” That’s the good stuff.
Call an audible. Put the extra wedges and long irons away and call a changeup for one of the rounds. Four-club challenge? Yes, please. Pick your opponent’s club off the tee? Intriguing! Anything to spice it up just a touch. You can thank us later.
6. Play some tunes
Between the lawn mowers, the “Fore!” calls and the starter shack shouting out tee times, whoever said this sport has to be a quiet one? Only the most traditional clubs demand that music-free is the way to be. Elsewhere, music player companies like Bose, Rokform and Wingman have designed speakers with modern golfers in mind. Music has become a wonderful part of the game.
7. Learn a trick shot
Like Jon Rahm on 16 at last year’s Masters, you can be the coolest kid in your foursome by mastering your own “pond skipper” approach shot. Here’s the secret sauce from Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs:
“First, find a downslope near the water’s edge — that’s where this shot works best from,” Riggs says. “Next, choose either a 6- or 5-iron. Too much loft won’t skip enough and too little won’t have enough backspin to get out of the water. Try to hit down a little more than normal and cut off the follow-through. Make sure you add a little speed at the bottom and try to hit a fade. That skips the best. If the lip on the far side of the pond is too high, it’s almost impossible to pull it off, so choose your target wisely.”
While we can’t guarantee you’ll jar it like Rahm did, your friends will still be impressed. Unless you dunk it in the drink.
8. Embrace advanced technology
Believe it or not, there’s room to get a leg up on your weekend foursome. While your buds are walking around thinking they know your home track, cozy up to a state-of-the-art green book made just for you. GolfLogix, one of GOLF’s sister companies, has charted more than 14,000 courses with 3D mapping… down to the centimeter. You could get a read on all 18 greens for about $30 and win it all back during your first round out.
GolfLogix Greens Books
9. Have a non-traditional set of clubs
We’ve all reached that fork in the road at some point, where our current set just isn’t cutting it. You’re the coach here — put it on the bench for a month! Having a Sunday bag or a half set of clubs ready to go at a moment’s notice is more valuable than you might think. Clubs you’ve trusted in the past that you didn’t want to get rid of? Repurpose them when you need them most. You never know, you might find out there’s a little magic still left in them.
10. Make your own course
Who says you need to play the same set of tees the course superintendent has set up for you? Next time you play, start with the championship tees on the 1st hole and the forward tees on the next. Scout the course the night before and figure out which short par 4 can become even more drivable from the senior tees. You’ll learn more about the designer’s intentions in the process.
11. Tune in to the LPGA
For sure, the average amateur can learn more from the women’s pro game than the men’s. LPGA Tour players use more flexible shafts, have more relatable swing speeds and don’t bother much with 2- or 3-irons. Hybrids all the way! Sound like you? Watch the next LPGA broadcast to catch some great golf and improve your own game.
12. Embrace playing alone
As you look toward a new golf season, there’s no better way to continue celebrating the power of open spaces than by playing golf alone. First off in the early morning? Perfect. Last one out at dusk? Even better.
How do you play golf alone? You just do. Gratefully. Mask- and anxiety-free. With one golf ball or two or five.
There’s a temptation to turn solo rounds into practice sessions. We’d encourage you to just play. There’s no better time to learn about yourself as a golfer. Do you play better on your own, or do you require outside scrutiny to keep concentration? Do you need a full scorecard, properly kept, with an official score recorded? Or are you content with a flushed iron into the sunset, birdies and bogeys be damned? Alone is the best way to truly play the game on your own terms.
13. Up your golf social game
Endlessly scrolling on your phone might not help your game much, but if you follow the right accounts it’ll serve as great inspiration to get out there and play. Here are 10 feeds from people who play a ton and will get you back in the mood by proxy:
14. Place your bets
Anyone who has lifted a remote to watch the PGA Tour from home knows that gambling is on the rise in golf. Some industry leaders would even tell you golf is one of the best sports for wagering. Between tempting props, low-man-in-the-group bets and some juicy odds to win, it has never been more tempting (and easier!) to get involved in golf gambling.
You can whet your appetite for it by first experimenting on the Chirp app. Developed by GOLF’s parent company 8AM Golf, Chirp allows you to place future and live bets with virtual funds. Rack up the big bucks and you’ll be in line for weekly prizes that are anything but fake. From a brand-new set of clubs to a trip to Cabot, there is plenty of loot to be won.
Once you get the hang of things as a golf gambler, immerse yourself even further through sites like DraftKings or FanDuel. And when you’re truly ready to go all-in, plan your next Vegas trip during one of next year’s major championships. Suddenly, gambling on golf becomes a communal exercise and we’re in the same boat with you.
15. Get fit. No, really
If there’s one thing the entire golf industry has agreed upon in recent years, it’s customization. You can make this game yours, and the best way is to get fit. Fit for a driver, fit for irons, wedges, even the golf ball you tee up each week. True Spec Golf, GOLF’s sister company, is one of the fitting companies that make it super easy on the golfer. Show up, hit some shots, dial in what works for you and they deliver the equipment that perfectly matches your game.
16. Form your own world of golf
Who said you need a country club membership? Not us. You can create a fully sanctioned club of your own with the USGA or a regional golf association. All you need is (at least) nine friends to join. Seriously, that’s it! Our very own editor in chief created the Macanudo Golf Club in Southern California in the ’90s. They hosted a season full of events and amassed a total membership of 70 players. Take it from us — it can be done, and it’s a ton of fun.
17. Eat better, play better
Prep for your next round like a pro would. Dial it in to the minute, like so: a not-too-filling breakfast 75 minutes before tee time, peanut-butter sandwich after the 6th hole, full bag of trail mix after birdie on 12, Gatorade to wash it all down. Feeling your best often leads to playing your best.
18. Find role model(s) around you
As comfortable and reassuring as it is to play with similarly skilled golfers, are they helping you get better? Maybe sometimes. Playing with definitively better golfers helps your game every single time. So schedule an extra round each month with your buddy who plays to scratch. Or introduce yourself to the club champion on the driving range. You’re sure to pick up some helpful habits. And you might be surprised how willing people can be to share their secrets.
19. Become a volunteer
St. Louis native Randy Ochs is proud of his city’s golf culture and wanted to do his part to show it off to the world. So he volunteered as a marshal at the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive. He was stationed at the 10th tee and ended up a front-and-center witness to Tiger’s epic charge on Sunday that fell just short. He texted a picture of the mayhem to his wife, who replied, “I guess it was worth the week’s worth of sweat!” It was quite an understatement. “The fans all got their money’s worth in the end,” Ochs said. “Don’t you think?” And Randy’s free time was also well rewarded. You never know when something special is going to happen.
20. Build that short-game area
Work from home has changed our lives, but could it change your short game too? With a backyard practice facility, we’d like to think you’d benefit. Check out any of the leading artificial grass companies — like Southwest Greens, for example — and let them wreak havoc on your backyard. They’ll deliver a patch like you’ve never seen. Now you have no excuses left!
21. Play virtually with friends
Advances in technology have made simulators as real as ever. The NGF estimates that four million people engage in the virtual experience — a number sure to increase. Simulators function as winter options at country clubs, pop up in high-end sports bars, even as luxury amenities in some apartments. Find a go-to virtual outlet in 2021. It’s closer than you think.