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When my spouse first expressed interest in picking up golf, I was already part of a long-standing group of four players who hit the greens twice a week at my club in Ontario, Canada.
As the manager of a large retail outlet for a major Canadian chain, I rarely had the opportunity to play golf on weekends. Fortunately, we were able to coordinate our schedules to play on weekday mornings.
From the very start, my wife was enamored with the game, which undoubtedly helped her learn quickly. However, like anyone learning a new sport, she required some guidance.
But instead of focusing solely on her swing, we focused on the mental aspect of the game. Specifically, we worked on her mindset, helping her develop the confidence to feel comfortable on a country club-style golf course while also dealing with the scrutiny that comes with it, whether perceived or actual.
So take pressure off new golfers by teaching good pace, which is the essence of this article.
Early morning golf on my home course with my wife
Playing the "big course"
Rising early to play weekday rounds at my club meant teeing off amidst the regulars; a group of low handicappers who laid claim to the first six or seven tee times beginning at 7:30 am. They saw anyone who dared to book in between them as an intrusion.
But my wife was determined to learn the sport on the big course, among these players. We'd tried all the nearby driving ranges, pitch and putts, and even the local cow pasture courses. However, that would take me away from my home course, where my membership was generously provided by my employer as a work perk. (Gotta love free golf!)
To supplement her learning, she signed up for a beginners' group lesson once a week for ten weeks during her first summer playing. This helped her improve her swing technique, but to be honest, she was mostly self-taught. She observed other players' swings and analyzed the pros on TV, meticulously mimicking their positions until she developed her own picture-perfect swing.
Now, you might wonder how the pace of play factors into her rapid progress. Well, let me tell you, in just five short Canadian months, my wife's skill and confidence on the course blossomed. And keeping pace with our fellow players certainly played a role in her quick improvement.
Challenges to new golfers, especially those nearing retirement age.
For many new golfers, particularly those approaching retirement age, the biggest hurdle is feeling like they belong on the course. It can be tough to navigate the unwritten rules and etiquette of the game, especially when it comes to keeping pace with other players.
When a newbie unwittingly slows down the group, they often don't realize the impact it has on those behind them. But when someone finally speaks up and suggests they pick up the pace, the pressure can mount quickly. Suddenly, it feels like they're doing everything wrong and holding everyone up.
It's important to remember that golf is just a game, and it's meant to be enjoyable. If you find yourself struggling on a hole, don't hesitate to pick up your ball and move on to the next one.
Throwing clubs, cursing, or shedding tears won't do you any favors, and it certainly won't impress the players behind you who are shaking their heads in disapproval.
So, keep a level head, take deep breaths, and focus on having fun and getting some exercise. And if all else fails, don't be afraid to ask the pro shop for some tips or take a few lessons to improve your game. Remember, everyone starts somewhere!
Teeing off first...talk about pressure for my wife.
We scored a prime tee time of 7:30 am on a Monday morning, leading the pack as the first group to go out. But, of course, we were scheduled to play in front of the seasoned old boys' group.
We arrived at the club early, at 7 am, and grabbed a quick bite to eat and some coffee before heading to the practice green for a few warm-up putts.
Just as we were wrapping up our practice routine, the starter strolled over and inquired if we were the 7:30 twosome.
We nodded in affirmation, and the starter promptly alerted us that we needed to get going and keep up the pace because those old boys played fast and aimed to finish in three and a half hours. They didn't appreciate anyone slowing them down, needless to say.
No pressure, right?
As we strolled up to the first tee, a group of regulars, who typically occupy the first tee time, were gathered, probably wondering who had the audacity to book their coveted spot.
With a confident swing, I managed to get the ball on the fairway. Meanwhile, my wife wheeled her cart towards the red tees, and as she teed up, I could sense her unease under the watchful eyes of the onlookers.
As soon as my wife hit her tee shot down the middle of the fairway, we headed to our balls. But we didn't even make it to the fairway when we heard a voice telling us not to hold them up.
Apparently, they play in three and a half hours and have no time for slow players. Talk about pressure!
The rest of the first hole wasn't much better for my wife as she struggled to get the ball in the air and eventually took five shots to reach the green on the short 265-yard par 4. After three putts, she picked up for an eight.
As we were walking off the green, a foursome waiting to chip on made a comment just loud enough for us to hear, "C'mon, let's pick up the pace."
After just one hole, Carmen was already feeling intimidated by the group behind us. I tried to reassure her and told her not to worry about them and to just play her game. But the pressure was already weighing heavily on her mind, and it showed in her shots.
She was struggling to get the ball off the ground, and it seemed like every shot was more about staying ahead of the group behind us than playing the game itself. It's amazing how much of an impact other people's expectations can have on our own performance.
An important lesson my wife learned early on.
As we started to settle into the round, my wife learned a valuable lesson about the importance of pace in golf. It can make or break your enjoyment of the game. She discovered that if we kept some distance between us and the group behind us, the pressure was off.
To achieve this, we developed a system where I would hit my shot and then she would quickly hit hers and walk directly to her ball. This helped us maintain a good pace and avoid feeling rushed.
If she was struggling on a hole, she would pick up after reaching her max score of 8. This prevented her from getting bogged down on a single hole and allowed us to keep up our momentum.
As we settled into our comfortable pace, my wife's confidence grew and she started hitting some solid shots. The pressure from behind was no longer a concern and we were able to enjoy the round.
It's unfortunate that new golfers are not taught about the importance of pace, especially on busy courses. My wife learned this lesson early on and it greatly improved her experience on the course.
Golfing at our golf community.
Our home is situated in a serene gated community that boasts of four beautiful golf courses. However, three of these courses are incredibly popular and often teeming with golf enthusiasts, especially during snowbird season. This means that you could find yourself playing with strangers or being chased from behind by other golfers.
Sadly, I have seen many new golfers become overwhelmed by the pressure of keeping up with the pace of play, which can take away from the fun of the game and discourage them from pursuing it further.
Over the years, my wife and I have played at numerous golf courses across Canada and the United States. We have encountered various courses, ranging from the easy to the most challenging ones. We have also been paired with different players, but this has never been a problem for my wife.
She has grown accustomed to keeping up with the pace of play, and now, she effortlessly maintains it, regardless of who she is playing with. It's safe to say that she has surpassed the initial nervousness she felt when playing with unfamiliar people. As a result, she occasionally shoots in the 80s and has become an avid golfer.
A good read about Pace is Golf's Pace of Play Bible by Lucius Riccio. Click here to see more details about the book.