Golf public courses guide

in Practice

As you'd expect from their name, public courses are open to anyone who can afford the greens fee. They tend to be busy, especially on weekends and holidays. At premier public courses like Bethpage Black, the site of the 2002 U.S. Open, some golfers sleep in their cars overnight so they'll be first in line for a tee time the next morning. Sleeping in a car may not sound like much fun, but I'm told it's a great bonding experience.

Each course has its own tee-time policy. Many let you book a time up to a week in advance. Others follow a strange rule: You must show up at a designated time midweek to sign up for weekend play. And some courses you can't book at all. You just show up and take your chance (hence, the overnight gang sleeping in their cars). My advice is simple: Phone ahead and find out the policy at the course you want to play.

Okay, I'll assume that you've jumped through whatever hoops are necessary and you know when you're supposed to play. So you pull into the parking lot about an hour before your tee time. What next? Most courses have a clubhouse. You may want to stop inside to change clothes, and maybe buy something to eat or drink.

By all means, make use of the clubhouse, but don't change your shoes in there. If you're already dressed to hit the greens, put on your golf shoes in the parking lot. Then throw your street shoes into the trunk. Don't worry about looking goofy as you lace those spikes with your foot on the car bumper. Everyone does it!

then,the first thing to do at the clubhouse is to confirm your time with the pro or starter, and then pay for your round. The pro is sure to be in one of two places: teaching on the practice range or hanging out in the pro shop. If the pro doesn't take the money, the starter adjacent to the first tee usually will. As for cost, the price depends on the course and its location. You can pay anything from $10 to more than $150. At gorgeous Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, the greens fee is more than $400!

After the financial formalities are out of the way, hit some balls on the driving range to warm up those creaky joints of yours.

Your practice sessions may not be as long as mine, but then you're not trying to figure out how to beat Hale Irwin on the Champions Tour!

Here's what I do when I'm playing in a pro event: I get to the course one hour before my starting time. I go to the putting green and practice short shots — chip shots and short pitches. This gives me an idea how fast the greens are and slowly loosens me up for fullswing shots.

Make sure that you're allowed to pitch to the practice green on your course — some courses prohibit it.

Then I wander over to the practice tee and loosen up with some of the exercises. Start with the wedges and work your way up to the driver.

Next, I hit my 3-wood (some players call this titanium club the 3-metal — a more accurate term, but it clangs in my ears). Then I proceed to bomb the driver. (If John Daly is next to me, I quietly wait for him to finish, and then I hit my driver.) Immediately after hitting practice drives — ten balls at most — I hit some short sand-wedge shots to slow down my metabolism.

I visit the putting green next, usually 15 minutes before I tee off. I start with simple 2- to 3-foot putts straight up a hill, to build my confidence. Then I proceed to very long putts — aiming not for the hole, but for the far fringe of the green. I do this because I don't want to become target-conscious on long putts. Putting the ball to the fringe lets me work on speed. It's the last thing I do before going to the tee. (Well, if it's a big tournament and my knees are shaking, I'll make a detour to the restroom.)

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Golf public courses guide

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This article was published on 2010/11/10