As a native New Englander, I’ve played golf in sweltering 90 degree heat and humidity (which I personally love), I’ve put my clubs in a closet for months at a time, and I’ve searched for (and lost) many ProV1’s just off the fairway under fallen foliage in early November. In contrast, Northern California has it’s own authentic style of golf. Here are the top 10 things that I’ve learned about golf, from playing golf in the greater Bay Area.
PACE OF PLAY
Much like the surf culture and skateboard culture that exists in these parts, there is a soulful vibe that blankets many of the golf courses in the area. As a result, I’ve learned to play faster, grind less, but all the while, be more thoughtful. I’ve learned that it’s the time spent between shots that’s important, not the time spent standing over shots.
TAKE A WALK
The topography of this area is nothing short of spectacular. There is enough awe and sheer wonder across all the various golf courses that a round of golf much more than a round of golf. It’s quite often a perfect hike, as well. Now, I may take some proverbial flack for feeling so strongly about this, but it’s undeniable. I can count on one hand the number of golf carts I ride in per year, and that makes me rather content. This brings me to my next point…
COMFORTABLE SHOES AND WATERPROOF SHOES
Gone are the days where leather Footjoys are the only choice for your foundation. The very first lesson I learned is that in order to play golf for 12 straight months here, waterproof footwear is essential. It’s not recommended - it’s mandatory from November to May. With that said, a comfortable pair of sneaker-like golf shoes for the dry months will serve you well for the other half of the year.
PLAY THE PROPER TEES
This is a big one. Check your egos at the pro shop. Leave your bravado in the trunk of your car. Play the proper set of tees. I grew up thinking I had to play the back tees to “see the whole course” and to “get the most out of the round”, but guess what? Here’s what I was missing out on:
Playing up a tee box or two will yield lower scores. Yeah, I know, that sounds terrible.
Playing up a tee box will improve pace of play. Again, that’s awful, I know.
And here’s what you get out of playing the tips:
A reminder that you don’t average 305 off the tee.
A few “who does this guy think he is” type looks from other foursomes.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a time and place for the black tees, but be mindful of who you are playing with, and what you want to get out of the day.
DON’T SLEEP ON THE NINE HOLE COURSES
If you haven’t checked out all of the 9-hole golf courses in your area, you’re likely missing out. The 9-holer has a reputation far and wide for being less-than-a-real-golf-course. I regret not visiting some of the better 9-hole courses in New England. These courses are often hidden gems, local treasures, and peaceful enclaves. Do yourself a favor and explore the 9-hole courses in your area - you’ll likely be pleasantly rewarded.
We are surrounded by hills. It rains heavily for months at a time. Certain golf courses might have soggy spots and rock hard spots on the same hole. Oh and it can get windy, too. Learn all the shots - each one is a valuable weapon. Personally I’ve added a 2-Utility Iron, and a third wedge, with nothing but positive results. I would estimate that only 1 out of every 3 shots with an iron is a stock/full/normal iron shot. Use that time between shots to consider the elements, the topography, and the turf conditions and plan your next shot mindfully.
This one seems overly simple, but required a spot on this list. Help your playing partners. Look for their ball when you can. This includes keeping an eye on it off the tee. Get the flagstick if you are the first person to hole out (that is, if your group wants the flagstick out these days). Share yardages from your spot. The list goes on, but the message is the same.
LAYERS, LAYERS, LAYERS
Trying to predict the weather is like trying to predict traffic. You can do all the research you want, but it’s still ‘gonna do what it’s ‘gonna do. Be prepared. Nobody has ever complained about being comfortable.
BE OPEN MINDED ABOUT VARIETY
Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t avoid a golf course because of preconceived notions. You truly never know what type of day you might have until you experience it for yourself. Golf courses come in so many forms - Private, Public, 18 holes, 9 holes, flat, hilly, old, new, pristine, shaggy, etc. Remember that your perspective is personal to you. Don’t let other golfers dictate what you should like and dislike. Form your own opinions about courses. Share your own hidden gems or personal favorites with others.
Last but not least, go home after you play (perhaps after some clubhouse banter) and get on with your day, with your life. Do not let a mediocre morning on the course impact the rest of your day. After all, you got to spend time outside with your friends playing a game. How bad is that, really? Remember that you are likely a role model for someone else out there - perhaps a young golfer, or a family member - so carry yourself with dignity and go easy on yourself. After all, golf is hard.