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9 ways to spot the best players at your club

November 02, 2022
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Ken Redding

You can often spot the best players at your club from several holes over, not just by their swing, but by their subtle actions. Certain mannerisms and habits seem to go hand-in-hand with a low handicap.

We’ve identified nine ways in which you can tell if someone is a good player, which should be helpful when trying to pick out your next four-ball partner, and perhaps make you look like a better player yourself. Granted, not every low handicap exhibits all of these tendencies, but if someone at your course checks at least half of these boxes, it’s a safe bet they’re a favorite for the club championship.

1. A pre- and post-shot club twirl

As golf fans who lived through a couple decades of Tiger Woods’ dominance (or have seen the evidence on YouTube), we’re all familiar with a post-shot club twirl. Sometimes violent, sometimes subtle, these often-stylish shows of confidence are typically reserved for when elite players hit the exact shot they intended.

A more discreet indicator is a twirl of the club as a player steps into a shot. If someone is club twirling both pre- and post-shot, they’re either the best player at your club—or the one who thinks they’re the best player at your club.

2. Reading a putt with their feet

Many slow-play horror videos begin with this common sight—a tour player straddling their line to get a feel for the break with their feet. More often than not, it’s reserved for high-level players seeking more information about a read than their eyes can provide. Spot someone at your course straddling their line? They’re either an elite putter, or they’ve chosen a particularly slow tour player as a role model.

3. Using the right kind of training aids

Of the many devices claiming to improve your game, there are a few distinctly “low handicap” training aids. Pay attention to what gadgets golfers are using to spot the best (and worst) players around. On the putting green, you’ll often find the best players using a mirror, a chalk line and a few tees in the ground. On the range, look for a couple alignment sticks or maybe a glove under an arm.

4. Looking at the tops of trees to check for wind

Golfers love to throw grass on a windy day. Elite players take this one step further by often looking to the tops of the trees, where the wind is theoretically stronger, to gauge the situation.

5. Hitting a two-foot putt

Tongue and cheek here, folks. Stay with us. For most of us, a good chip or lag putt that finishes inside the circle of friendship is enough to call it a hole. Pick it up. That’s good.

If you’re watching someone in the group in front of you mark, clean and line up a two-foot putt, either their playing partners are about as generous as a kid with candy, or they’re one of the best players at your club.

Yes, good players often take “gimmes,” but many times, they’ll putt everything out. The reasons vary—maybe they’re preparing for an upcoming tournament or off to a hot start and have the course record in their sights. Either way, if someone is giving a two-footer their full attention, there’s (hopefully) a pretty good explanation.

6. Playing with a perfectly clean golf ball

A clean golf ball, devoid of any mud, dirt or scuffs is one less variable that a player has to worry about. When a good player knocks one off the cart path and scuffs a new ball, they’re quick to sub it out for a fresh one. The fact that a player can detect such cosmetic imperfections—let alone take the ball out of play—usually means they know what they’re doing—and suggests an endless amount of pro shop credit.

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warrengoldswain

7. Using a tee to clean and sharpen grooves

Much like always having a clean golf ball, low handicaps are constantly making sure their grooves are sharp, especially on their wedges, to ensure they get the contact and spin they’re looking for.

Tour pros take this to an extreme, often propping a towel up on an alignment stick while on the range to ensure easy access to a cleaning tool after every shot. If you spot this setup at your course, you’re likely looking at a player with a handicap on the more attractive side of zero.

8. Studying the line as the ball rolls past the hole

Many of us can’t stand to look at a ball as it steamrolls past the hole. In reality, that’s when you have the opportunity to study the exact line you’ll soon be putting on coming back. Elite players know to pay close attention.

9. Lowering the tee with the driver head

With the previous eight habits, we’ve qualified them by saying they likely mean someone is a good player. No guarantees. With this final one, however, we’re confident if you see someone do this, they’re not only a good player, they are 100 percent the best player at your club.

When most of us realize the tee is too high, we either bend back down and lower it or just be content with the likelihood that the drive is going to leave a mark on the top of our driver.

The best players have devised a third option. They’ll carefully tap the top of the ball with their driver head, moving the tee slightly further into the ground without the ball falling off. It’s the most pro move of all moves, and rare to see. If you witness someone doing it, make sure you don’t play them for money.