Mission Impossible: A Golf-Course Date

By Stina Sternberg Illustrations by John Ritter
March 30, 2014

There are delicate golf situations—like the first time you play with your boss or an important client—that can make anyone nervous. But most of them pale in comparison to the mac daddy of anxiety-ridden rounds: the first golf date. In a short amount of time (four hours—although if it doesn't go well, it might feel like four days), your date will be exposed to all your personality traits, even those you'd hoped to keep hidden. There's no disguising who you really are on the golf course. It can be a moment of great potential. (My last golf date went so well we're now married with two kids.) Or it can be a disaster (on-course breakups are a real thing). Here are seven tips to ensure it goes smoothly.

1. Toss out chivalry.

Women like a guy to have manners, but there are few female golfers who want to be treated like a delicate flower—especially on the course. Show her respect, like you would any playing partner, but don't coddle or try to help her too much. And whatever you do, never give her unsolicited advice on how to play.

2. Stay neutral all the time.

Don't get overly excited when she hits a good shot. It can be misconstrued as condescension. And don't try to cheer her up when she skulls one into a bunker. She might think you aren't taking her golf game seriously. Women find hidden messages in everything men say and do. The sooner you learn to deal with that, the faster you'll find a lasting relationship.

3. Bring food.

Everyone knows the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but few men realize it's the same with women—for different reasons. If you pull out a carefully made peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich on the fourth hole and offer her half, you're telling her: A) You're reliable because you plan ahead and can take care of yourself. B) You're thoughtful, because you made enough to share with her. (But you're also not presumptuous, because you didn't make a whole extra sandwich.) c) You're in touch with your inner child and don't take yourself too seriously. I think men who eat PB&Js are adorable.

4. Find a mutual adversary.

Laughter is key, and nothing builds a bond faster than poking fun at the clueless ranger or the slow-playing guy in the group in front of you wearing capri pants. Use them as running inside jokes with your date. Just don't be cruel, and keep the barbs to yourselves.


5. Put your phone away.

Not because of any course rules, but because it says she matters more than your Twitter feed. It's OK to pull the phone out to take a date selfie and post it to Instagram—just don't use emoticons. Real men never use emoticons.

6. Don't flare up, even once.

You might think you're just blowing off a little well-earned steam after a botched tee shot, but the minute she hears you lose your temper, her mind will start racing. In 60 seconds she'll go from thinking about your troubled childhood to whether you have anger issues to eventually considering life without you as a single parent. And the angrier you react about a crappy shot, the faster she'll be looking for an escape route.

7. Tip well.

Nothing says husband potential like a good but discreet tipper. And we notice. Count on it.