124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

Casual Rounds: Walking vs. riding, booze, and sneaking out for 9

By Sam Weinman Illustrations by Peter Arkle
December 13, 2016

The problem with casual golf is one person’s definition of casual differs from the next. In mixed company, it can be a small minefield. Walking versus riding, bringing your kids, whether it’s OK to pop open a few beers -- these are all questions that can arise on any given Sunday, so it helps to have some general guidelines to follow.

Can we play as as fivesome?
It depends. If you call for a tee-time and tell them you’ll be five, don’t be surprised if you get a dial tone in return. But the reality is a fivesome or even a sixsome is totally fine provided you’re not slowing anyone down behind you. In fact, it sometimes happens where playing in bigger groups forces you to play faster because you inherently understand you can’t dawdle the same way as usual. As long as you’re not blatantly disregarding the rules of the club, we say give it a try. Just make sure you keep moving.


My kid really wants to learn to play. When can I take him or out for a round?
Here’s the deal with kids on the golf course: We all love the idea in the abstract, but less so when they can’t make solid contact and they’re set to tee off in the group in front of you. Depending on your kids’ experience level, we find quiet hours like evening time to be the best to bring them onto the golf course and teach them intricacies like tending the flagstick, raking bunkers or riding in a cart. As they get older, you can start experimenting with busier times, provided they’re prepared to pick up and move on to the next hole when appropriate. Kids on the golf course are really cute until there’s a back-up on the tee.

I like to walk when I play but everyone wants to ride. What do I do?
If you want to walk, then you walk! The only time this would be a problem is when A) you’re playing one of those goofy ride-only courses that builds greens miles away from the next tee; or B) you’re just super slow. As you can tell, a big theme with these guidelines is maintaining pace of play, and in our experience, a conscientious walker can be just as fast as guys in a cart. Don’t hold the group back and take solace knowing you’re playing quickly AND getting good exercise.

Everyone wants to walk, but I want to ride. What’s the deal there? The same principles apply about staying true to yourself. However, if you’re a guest at a course and your host prefers the group to walk, it’s good to follow that person’s lead. It could be a course rule, or your host could just be looking for opportunities to talk in between shots. We’re believers in walking in general because it’s just a better way to enjoy the game, but there are always exceptions when it comes to seniors or people with physical limitations. And we’d much rather you play with a cart than not play at all.

I’ve never really used a caddie before. What do I need to know?
It’s normal to feel strange that first time someone else is carrying your bag or raking your bunker. But just remember, a caddie is getting paid to be there, and he wants to do a good job for you. So let them. Enjoy the walk in between shots, ask for advice on club selection or reading greens, but also don’t apologize if you want to play the way you want to play. A good caddie is there to make sure you enjoy your round, whatever that means.

How much is appropriate to drink on the golf course?
This is another one of those feel things. Some people feel like a few beers (or whatever) adds to the golf experience, and our view is that unless you’re under the legal age or playing in the U.S. Open, then you should free to do what you want (by the way, if you’re underage AND playing in the U.S. Open, consider us impressed). Again, though, there are subtle guidelines to follow. You probably don’t want to be the only guy partaking, particularly if you’re a guest, and a good general rule for life is you never want to be the guy who everyone is talking about the next day because you played the last three holes with no pants. We say loosen up if you feel like it, but keep it in check. Golf should be enough of a high on its own.


Is it cool to ‘sneak out’ on the back nine of your club?
It’s something of a rite of passage to sneak out for a few holes when the golf course is otherwise closed unoccupied. Those quiet moments tend to be when golf feels most special. BUT...and this is a big but, part of what makes a golf course special is because there’s a whole crew of people who are paid to look after it. And that means legitimate paying customers. If you’re a dues-paying member of a golf course and you know no one’s going to get hurt if you sneak in a few holes at dusk, we won’t tell on you. Just don’t make a habit out of it.