So, You're Thinking of Playing Golf

What to do before you ever take one step onto the fairways and greens of a golf course.

Golf isn't easy. It takes practice, time and lots of patience. Before you play a round, though, it's critical to take a golf lesson or two from a Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA) professional, who can teach you the proper fundamentals before you hit the links.

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"I still see salespeople that come to corporate golf outings, with no [golf] shoes and no clubs," says Bill Storer, president of Business Golf Strategies, who has worked with clients from Chubb Insurance and Verizon. "Why in God's name would you ever think that would be OK?"

Suzanne Woo, founder of BizGolf Dynamics, works with many beginners and businesswomen who are interested in learning the game. Her clients include Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and National Car Rental. Woo believes in first setting realistic golfing expectations for her clients.

"If [CIOs] are unrealistic about their abilities, they might also be unrealistic about the business relationship," Woo says, which can be a red flag to others—if a CIO overstate his golf abilities, then how do the others know that he isn't overstating his commitment to the relationship? (Read "Mastering the Secret Etiquette of Golf" for a primer on corporate golf.)

The biggest concern for beginners should be keeping up with the other players in the group, or "the pace of play" in golfspeak. Woo says one effective tactic for a beginner is to let everyone know that she is a beginner on the first tee but also to tell them that she will keep up the pace of play. "Using some golf buzzwords will set them at ease," Woo says.

If the beginner also knows what his United States Golf Association handicap index (which indicates a golfer's skill, based on previous rounds) is, or says that he'll practice the 10-shot rule (stopping play on that hole once he has reached 10 shots), that can also clue the others in on his seriousness of the outing.

David Guzman, a former CIO who's now chief research officer of The Yankee Group, doesn't mind playing with beginners so long as they keep up the pace and don't get too down on themselves. "If you are lousy, don't fret about it," he says. "We were all there at one point, and there is a fraternity of patience. So do not continually apologize, it gets tiresome."

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