Blasting the ball 300 yards will make your playing partners talk, gawk, even applaud. But it won't make them like you. We all want to be liked, after all. And if being Mr. Popularity means you're the guy who gets that last-minute invite to Pebble, so be it. Follow these simple rules, and they'll like you, really like you!
Be a Super Looper. Caddies are going the way of orange balls all the more reason to step up and perform a few simple tasks. No, you don't have to carry the bags, but you should...
Keep a pocketful of tees. In two sizes: regular and porn star. If you see someone groping for a peg, toss him one. Same goes for ball markers. (Coins, please, not those little plastic discs with the pokey thing on the bottom.)
Be a bird dog. Saying "It started right" or "I heard it hit a branch" doesn't cut it. Watch every tee ball until it comes to rest, then mark the spot. Look for a distinctive tree or nearby landmark. Stakes, rocks, walls, electric boxes, cart paths, bunkers courses are covered in marking aids. Every caddie worth his bib knows that a player always thinks the ball went farther than it did. When you're helping someone search, the first place to check is 20 yards behind him. When your group's hitting into the sun, hold your hat out at arm's length to reduce glare and maximize your field of view.
Watch every approach shot too. How many times have we seen a ball carom off the green, and the optimistwho hit it goes up and looksin the hole?
Know your partners' tendencies. Bill's a sod farmer? If you've already hit, retrieve his divot or grab the jug of green divot mix and sprinkle some in the gouge. (You'll be a hero to the superintendent too.) Tom's a yardage addict? Find the nearest marker and be ready with a number. And be precise--Bushnell's new laser rangefinder, the Pinseeker, not only gives you exact distances up to 1,500 yards (for those pesky par-12s) but ignores background objects that mess with your readings--so you won't home in on that plumb-bobbing slow-poke on the green. ($399; available in february in golf shops and sporting-good stores.) Just don't use it in competition.
Park your cart on the side of the green that's nearest the next tee. You already know that, but how many foursomes forget? In the fairway, the guy whose ball is closer to the green is in charge of moving the buggy along.
Rake the trap. If you're on the green and someone else is bunkered, stand ready to rake. You'll save your group a precious minute.
If someone's pitch mark is near yours, fix them both.
Tend the flag. And do it righ. There's more to the job than not stomping on everyone's line, says Damon Green, who has looped for Tour winners Zach Johnson and Scott Hoch: "Stand as far from the hole as you can, so you don't leave a lot of footprints," Green says. "Stay on the high side, above the break, so that balls will roll away from you, so other players don't have to putt through your tracks. Hold the flag so it doesn't flap. Remove the pin from the bottom of the cup and rest it on the shallower part, tilting it away from the guy putting."
Play like Fay. If you know the Rules, any disputes can be resolved quickly. But you needn't possess a nerd's knowledge of the game, or even a bow tie (no offense to USGA cheif David Fay). Just keep a copy of The Rules of Golf in Plain English ($11, University of Chicago Press) in your bag. It's a handy, user-friendly guide to the game's myriad strictures. Partner up...Some call golf a solitary game, a test of Man vs. Himself. Wrong! Golf's about playing well with others. Here's how to make your on-course relationships work:
Ask your partners which tees they prefer. Don't let the 3-handicap bully the chops into teeing it up from the tips. And don't be that bully.
Arranging bets? Know the comfort level of all players. If someone is out of his league, suggest smaller stakes without naming names. Unless the last gung-ho bettor in your group is a modern-day Titanic Thompson, limit the maximum loss to $20 or $30. This isn't Vegas, baby. (Note: tip does not apply in Las Vegas.)
Pick it up! No, not that three-footer. Pick up your ball, if you're building a snowman on your scorecard. There's nothing worse in life than waiting for Hank the Clank to line up a quintuple-bogey putt.
No sulking. When your slumped shoulders say, "I give up," a dark cloud follows your foursome, explains Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi. "Bad body language becomes a habit and can lead to more bad shots." says Tomasi, who advises struggling players to stay in the game by tending the flag, reading putts and cheering on comrades. If you're struggling, stay in the game by tending the flag, reading putts and cheering on comrades. Also, "Think about the good shots you've hit in the past," Tomasi says. "If you walk with your head held high, your body believes you're playing well. That's why my advice is: Fake it till you make it."
Play the blame game, then move on. Golf does not mean never having to say you're sorry. You shouldn't apologize for every mis-hit, but neither should you pretend you didn't just yip a short putt to win a hole. "If you spill a bottle of wine on someone, you say you're sorry," says Tomasi. "Why not do the same if you miss a key three-footer in a big match. If you have a good teammate, he'll say, 'No problem, partner. Let's get him on the next one.' This kind of honesty can help you bond, and you'll play better as a team."
Know when to play first. Gauge your playing partner's mindset. If he seems unsure of his club selection or the line or speed of his putt, go first to give him extra time. "Farthest from the hole hits first" is a Rule of Golf follow this tip only in casual rounds.
...And be a pal. The best way to be a mashie-wielding mensch is to help the rest of your group have a good round. You needn't burble like a cruise director, but a few nice touches can go a long way:
Take a cheap shot. Keep a disposable camera in your bag to record momentous events, like aces, eagles and the one time your miserly brother-in-law springs for a round of drinks. Send prints to the other guys or, better yet, email them. Kodak's 35-mm Plus Digital one-time-use camera is affordable ($10-$15, available in grocery and drug stores), and you get a picture CD back with your prints for online sharing.
If there's a refreshment cart, buy the first round. And don't just say, "Want anything?" Make the offer specific. "I'm buying. What'll you guys have beer, soda, Snickers?" And give the cart girl a hefty tip so you'll see her again soon and because it's the right thing to do.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Diamonds may be forever, but cigars make a memorable moment Leave the Swisher Sweets at home and try Davidoff's Double R Churchill ($24 each; in most cigar and tobacco shops), a mild, medium-body cigar great for those who rarely smoke. To spendy? The The PadrÃ³n 1964 Anniversary Torpedo has a spicy vanilla flavor and a wallet-friedlier $15 price. Want to stoke your pal's stogie in style? Dunhill's Unique Turbo Sports blowtorch lighter ($550; 800-776-4053; dunhill.com) works in British Open-caliber gales-and it helps make a great crÃ¨me brulÃ©e.
Be the medicine cabinet. Keep sunblock (use SPF 15 or higher), pain relievers and Band-Aids handy.
Spread compliments widely and wisely. Instead of hollering "good ball" from across the fairway, wait until you're near the player and say, "Hell of a knockdown do you practice that?" But wait until the ball's at rest. If your partner's getting more bad breaks than Greg Norman, try this: "Tough luck, but don't sweat it. You're swinging great."
Keep your sense of humor. Everyone's chipper when he chips in. It takes a real man to laugh at his tops, chunks lip-outs. A little self-effacing humor will earn your group's respect and keep you loose. Some quick quips:
Know when to bite your lip. Unless your last name is Harmon, never, ever offer anyone swing tips. If your struggling partner pleads for help, hit him with the old Sam Snead line: "You've got just one problem--you stand too close to the ball after you've hit it." Then remind him that however bad he feels, Greg Norman felt worse.
Tee up your pals. During a lull in play, ask your partners about the best shot they ever hit. It lets them brag without feeling vain. Speaking of shots, a shared flask of single-malt will dull the pain of any bogey. Neiman Marcus offers a nifty gift set for golfers; it includes an 8-ounce stainless steel flask with a black leather cover, four golf tees and a funnel. ($40; 888-888-4757; neimanmarcus.com, keyword: golf flask).
Pack a pack of cards. Keep a deck in your bag to pass time during slow play or rain delays, or to settle simple arguments with a high-low draw. Ohio-based Newt's Playing Cards makes waterproof cards that come in snazzy plastic cases in four colors ($6.50; 866-834-9368; newtsplayingcards.com).
Give your buddies a hand. After the last player putts out on the 18th green, everyone gets a firm handshake and a smile. (If you're wearing a hat, doff it.) Tell them how much you enjoyed the round-and how blatantly you'll beat them next time.
Pay up. If you lost, pony up promptly. If you won, win with grace ("You guys gave us a great match") and use your winnings to cover lunch or drinks. Everyone loves a good winner.
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