Golf Digest editors picks

The 36 Most Common Mistakes in Golf

And how to steer clear of them

September 2014

We don't love the term "mistakes" here. It sounds kind of pompous and preachy, like we're going to rap you on the knuckles or start slapping behinds if we get you to admit to any of these little gaffes. That's not our intent at all (even if you're into that kind of thing). We're well aware of our own shortcomings—in fact, they were the catalyst for and provider of much of the content that follows. Think of our advice as coming from a good friend, a caring golf partner or the guy you tortured last Saturday by taking three practice swings before every damn shot.

Our so-called mistakes are not limited to swing or playing faults. In fact, the bulk of them fall into the social and emotional realms, like hitting on the beverage-cart girl or thinking everybody wants to hear the blow-by-blow of the 98 you just fired. Our tips are mostly common sense, which golf sometimes has a funny way of taking away from us. So open your mind, and let's go.

Common mistakes

1.TALKING TO ANOTHER GUY'S BALL

Screaming "Get up! Get up!" when your playing partner's ball is flirting with a water hazard doesn't promote friendship the way the screamer thinks. Most partners are ambivalent about it, but opponents downright hate it. Why? Well-intentioned though your shouts may be, there's always the suspicion that you aren't as sincere as you would be if it were your ball.

2. NOT PLAYING READY GOLF

"Is it you or me?" "After you." "Are you sure?" Meanwhile, paint is drying, civilizations are rising and falling, and the folks playing behind you are trying to quell their rising fury. Forget the honor—hit when ready.

3. WEARING BLACK SOCKS WITH KHAKIS

"The contrast is murder," says our fashion guru, Marty Hackel. "Black is excellent for funerals and job interviews in law enforcement, but it doesn't go well with neutral-colored golf clothing. Your socks should be the same color—or lighter—than your pants or shorts."

4. STUFFING YOUR FACE RIGHT BEFORE YOU TEE OFF

The legendary Paul Runyan, winner of the 1934 and '38 PGA Championships, said his easiest opponent was one who had just consumed ham for breakfast. Too slow to digest. Likewise, scarfing down the Double Eagle Burger before heading to the first tee will teach you a hard lesson about playing golf in the throes of digestion.

Common mistakes

5. NOT GETTING FIT FOR CLUBS

Back when bloodletting and reading tea leaves were all the rage, golfers performed clubfitting in some strange ways. To test shaft flex, they waggled the club or even leaned on it. For lie angle, they simply peered down at address. Today, the performance advantages—especially distance—of getting fit make it the only way to go.

6. GOING FOR THE FLAG

It's a free country: You can fire at that pin set three paces from the edge of a pond if you like. But when you're weary of writing Xs on your scorecard, you'll learn there's no shame in aiming for the middle of the green. As Ken Venturi used to say: "Take your par, and walk away quietly."

Common mistakes

7. HAVING NO CLUE ABOUT YELLOW STAKES

If you hit into a yellow-staked area, you have three options:
(1) Play it as it lies; (2) Drop as far back as you want, keeping the point where your ball went in between you and the hole; (3) Replay from where you last hit the ball. Nos. 2 and 3 will cost you a stroke. iddle of the green. As Ken Venturi used to say: "Take your par, and walk away quietly."

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