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Teeing it Up With the Big Boys

One of the great things about golf is that you can play, compete and enjoy the game with other players of different levels and genders. Unfortunately if you're new to the game, playing with strangers and in particular, men, many female players seem to be intimidated and play unusually badly under the eye of the opposite sex. A lot of my students at my golfThink Instruction Programs express their fears when playing with men and in this, my first contribution to OB Golf and Lifestyle, you'll learn some serious and not so serious tips for teeing it up with the big boys.

Something to be aware of before you tee off is that most male golfers (perhaps excluding Vijay Singh) will gladly tee it up with a woman regardless of your level of play. As a Golf Professional, I only expect one thing of my playing partners (regardless of gender) during the round, and that is that they keep up with the pace of play. You can walk across my line of putt, talk when I'm swinging, cheat, even break wind, but if you slow the group down and we hold people up, then don't expect to be on my Christmas card list. If you took a survey of my male counterparts, I'm sure they would say the same thing, and probably add the following expectations: observe proper golf etiquette, play by the rules, and make sure you don't forget why you're out there (to have fun).

So how do you keep up when, especially if you've just started, and you're hitting many more shots than your playing partners? Easy. You walk directly to your ball when its safe to do so, and do not wait and watch every single shot your partners are hitting. As you're walking to the ball you decide what club to hit. One practice swing is enough. Let me repeat. One practice swing is enough. At address, spend as little a time over the ball as possible, and spend more time looking at the target than you do looking at the ball. There is nothing wrong with taking 10 shots on every hole if you keep up. There is something wrong with taking 15 practice swings, then addressing the ball and thinking about how you must keep your down while keeping your left arm straight, pronating your hips while maintaining maximum centrifugal force, only to hit a shot that travels 20 yards. Unless you're playing in the US Open or Masters, if you're having a bad hole and successfully making progress towards the earths core while unsuccessfully trying to get out of a bunker, then consider picking up and moving to the next tee.

So, you've been invited to play with Mr. Big or your idea of Mr. Right, and in your mind, there's a lot at stake. Either a business deal, a possible future wedding, or both. As in life, preparations are key. Make sure you arrive on time so you can hit some balls. Remember the range is for warming up - you're not going to cure any 50 yard slices 30 minutes before your tee time. Hit whatever clubs you want, but it's a good idea to hit whatever club you'll hit off the first tee, last, and make sure you end on a good shot.

So you're on the tee, the Men have teed off, appearing nonchalant and confident. What you don't know is chances are, they were thinking "Please, please let me hit a good shot and not embarrass myself in front of this beauty" (That's you). Now it's your turn, you're standing over your shot thinking "what if I duff it, what if I miss it, etc" Well, since I'm in the business of guaranteeing, I'll guarantee you, that if you think you will duff it, or think you'll hit it in the water, nine times out of ten you will. And don't use the reverse of that - "Please don't hit it in the water, please don't miss it etc" For some reason your brain doesn't register the "don't" and all it hears is "Hit it in the water". The only effective way, and the way the Pro's use, is to use positive visualization and get any negative thoughts out of your mind. Pick a target and keep focused on it and never let yourself think about anything but that target and the ball sailing out there. It takes practice, but if you stick with it, it'll be one of the most useful "tricks" you ever learn. Also remember a bad shot is just a bad shot, and if you hit one, it just increases the chances of you hitting a good one on your next shot. Everybody hits bad shots, and if you're going to play this game, you better just accept it or take up a different sport. So you've made it off the first and the hard parts over.

A good way to break the ice and to lighten the mood is to offer to play for a small sum of money, just to keep things interesting. If a lady golfer was to offer a small bet to me, I would probably propose (marriage) to her on the spot, (especially if she could hit a 2-iron) but not only that, I'd be thinking "Hey, this lady is going to be fun to be play with." You also have nothing to lose, (except a few bucks) and it will sure go a long way towards keeping things fun. Don't be afraid of a bit of heckling either. If one of the guys duffs one and doesn't get it past the ladies tee, make sure you rub it in a bit. Make a subtle comment like "You thought I was getting lonely and wanted to come over and keep me company?" or "Is my beauty distracting you". There are several more unprintable comments that I suggest for terrible bosses and male chauvinists, although don't forget that if you give it out, you better be prepared to get it back.

Now a word of caution. You will also come across those golfers who are so serious about their game and themselves, nothing you do will satisfy them or put a smile on their grim faces. There is not much you can do with people like this. Just smile, play your own game, stay out of their way and whatever you do, don't let them ruin your round. On this subject, the only thing that can ruin your round is you. Even if it rains, if you have a slow group in front, if the greens are no good, if your playing partner hasn't showered in two days, you have a choice to decide how you will react. I always used to like playing in the rain or on recently cored greens because almost everybody lets it get to them and uses it as an excuse to play badly. You have to decide that if it rains, you love playing in the rain. If it's hot, you play your best golf when it's hot. If the greens are slow, you're a great putter on slow greens. You get the point. It's no coincidence the best players have the best attitudes, and the best thing about it is it doesn't cost you anything to get one.

Finally, since I'm in the golf instruction business, I can't resist offering you a little advice on golf lessons, which if you lucky enough to find a good Pro, will help your game under any circumstances. Be careful whom you select. Take one lesson, and see if you get along with them. Think of it as a business decision. You wouldn't just sign a deal with someone you've only met for a few minutes (or not at all) would you? I can help some people more than others simply because most people relate better with certain people. I personally pick up most of my students and take them to the golf course so I can chat with them on the way out to the golf course. Not just to know about their game, but the better I know them personally, the better I can teach them. My instruction business is based upon a 100% money-back guarantee, which firstly puts trust into people minds. You need to trust your teacher if your going to learn anything. The other factor I believe greatly in is simulating course conditions whenever possible. I see so many players who hit it great on the range, but when they get on the course, they can't find a fairway. Unless someone is serious and has the time and commitment to make a major swing change, a playing lesson is a lot more beneficial for the average golfer.

Take a lesson, try some of the above suggestions and you might just find yourself welcome in your spouses regular foursome. Playing golf with the men doesn't have to be a harrowing experience. Just observe a few simple "Do's" and you'll be invited back. Your comments are always welcome and if you're coming to Bangkok and would like a lesson, share a golf story over a coffee, or need any advice on golf in Thailand, I'd be happy to hear from you.

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