I played my first round of golf with my father-in-law under a sweltering June, Father’s Day sun. Although I had known him for years prior to that day, and we had shared many a heartfelt, “man-to-man” kind of moment, we had never played a round of golf before. He has been a lifelong golfer, competing in countless tournaments, leagues, and even working at a course for a few years in the 1970s. I play about once a year but tend to visit a driving range a little more often than that. So, we decided that Father’s Day was as good of time as any and we booked a tee time. Here is a short list of what I learned:
1. Compliment But Don’t Over Exaggerate
When you or someone in your group makes a good shot, tell them so. Even hand out a few hi-fives. But don’t celebrate every great shot as the game-winning shot. It is far too taxing and embarrassing around other groups.
2. Hydrate and Block the Sun
The 1-to-1 ratio is key to fluids on the course. For every adult beverage, it should be backed up with a bottle of water. This ensures that performance isn’t hindered, (you know, beyond the expected level of hindrance while drinking beer). Also, sun block is crucial for every bit of skin that sees the sun. Make sure you wear a hat or visor, but preferably a hat.
3. Swing with Your Brain, Not Your Ego
After 3 holes, I realized why he did these relatively short, controlled drives versus my big, go-for-broke swings. For 2 of the holes, I was a good 35 yards closer to the pin, but in a poor position for my approach. Meanwhile, he was 35 yards back, but in the middle of the fairway with a clean, unobstructed approach shot. While the long drive feels great in the short term, golf is a numbers game and that methodology just wasn’t going to work out.
4. Negative Emotion Ruins Your Game
This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned that day. While we weren’t keeping score, we were keenly aware how we were doing. On one hole, I lost a ball into the rough and after 3 minutes of searching, determined that there was no other excuse than it had been swallowed by the earth. The next hole I had a mini meltdown about a medium length putt that inexplicably took 3 strokes. Approaching the next tee box, I was still upset by my failure. Consequently, the next drive was off. Afterward, he said with a lot of class and wisdom (but without lecturing) that I had let that cloud my mind. He was right. My father-in-law consciously makes the decision to think about the hole he’s playing, instead of the hole he just finished. I think that translates well to many things in life.
5. Tip Well in the Clubhouse
After our round, we sought 3 things: air conditioning, fried foods, and strong drinks. Naturally, we found them all in the clubhouse. Even though I was paying with a credit card, he suggested I tip in cash, and on every drink. This was both a psychological technique and a social kindness. Getting out there early and often with cash puts it in the bartender/server’s mind that you appreciate good service, but also that there isn’t a paper record of the tips for the waitstaff.