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When it comes to golfing in urban, well-populated areas such as Chicago, there is a lot to love. There are many courses to choose from with varying levels of price and difficulty. However, with that you have to accept the negative of slow play and at times massive overcrowding. Rather than complain or play less golf, let’s all learn how to navigate the course smarter. It’s all about knowing your game and how you can safely speed up your round.
Get a repeatable routine that won’t get you called a human rain delay. You know who no one likes? The “10 practice swing, shank, and stare at the ground wondering where it all went wrong” guy. Don’t be that guy. A common problem for amateur players is a drawn out pre-shot routine that only locks them up and increases pressure. Keep the practice swings to two tops, and minimize swing thoughts before gripping and ripping. Useful tip: this is a little outside the box, but I find that a helpful mental routine involves pretending like you already hit a terrible shot and this next one is just for fun when it is actually your first attempt. That can be a calming influence and can help you to relax before you fire away.
Know your partner and ease the tension. One of the greatest golf instructors of all time famously stated, “It’s all in the hips”. Easing the tension can be critical for some players, as golf can be much more stressful for players who aren’t exactly striping every shot. You don’t need to cheerlead, but take a second to pump your partner up if need be. You’d be surprised how quickly it can help get a round back in gear and get everyone back on pace. Useful tip: Never, under any circumstances, do the actual stand behind someone and wiggle back and forth ala Chubbs. That could result in getting booted from any respectable course.
Be smart about cart golf. When I think of recreational golf, I think of lazy Saturdays with a couple brews and good friends. That also means I am typically scooting around in a golf cart as opposed to hoofing it. Do not assume that getting a cart automatically speeds up play. I have seen countless “lost” carts zooming back and forth searching for balls and slowing everyone down. If you hit it far from your partner, hop out and set up your next shot. This seems simple, but it is followed shockingly little. Useful tip: It is much easier to lose clubs when you are playing in a cart. Take the extra 5 seconds to scan the green when the hole is over to ensure no one forgot a club or cover. Nothing ruins a round like the frustrated back-track search to find forgotten items.
Learn your definition of course management. Like many recreational players, my scores can vary depending on how I am feeling during any given round. If you are in the zone, there is no reason to not take the extra minute to go for a green or try and clear some trees on a dog leg. However, if it’s a day where you just don’t have it – don’t be a hero. Play smart golf and try and steal some pars. Like they say in basketball, sometimes all you need is that first shot to go in before you catch fire. You can start shooting low by playing conservative and speeding up a round, so don’t pull out that 3 wood from 275 on a day when you can’t hit your 9 iron straight. Useful tip: If your partner is struggling on any given hole, don’t be afraid to move ahead (safely of course) and get to your ball in order to get the group through as quickly as possible. You don’t need to make them feel worse by sitting there watching several consecutive duffs.