Football is the unofficial sport of Thanksgiving, but backyard pigskin works better as an idea than an activity. Half the players aren't fit enough to play, there's always one guy delivering cheap-shots and hard tackles, and the quarterbacks are so bad they make Ryan Fitzpatrick look competent. Plus, nothing screams "holiday cheer" like a trip to the E.R. for a broken nose.

Which is why we humbly propose a new Thanksgiving tradition: a round of golf. Yes, putting together any golf outing can be an endeavor, so it's understandable the holiday hoopla can throw extra wrenches into the process. But fear not. Our insider’s guide to the proper Thanksgiving golf outing will give you all the tools you need to tee it up this Turkey Day.

How do I play golf without my loved ones disowning me?

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering, but at some point, everyone needs their space. Don't worry about offending your family by heading out to golf; they're probably getting sick of you anyway. Besides, chances are part of the clan is going shopping. Their journey to the mall is your ticket to the course.

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Do I have to bring the rest of the family?

Depends. Make sure everyone feels included; conversely, this is not the time for your 94-year-old grandma to pick up the game. If a family member isn't totally foreign to the sport, pass along the invite.

Keep it a family affair, or can my friends come too?

You wouldn't think twice about sending the invite if it was backyard football, and many friendships are just as important, if not more so, than family relations. Plus, odds are you're going to need a few bodies to fill out your groups, yielding a sound reason for bringing your buds along.

When should we play?

Morning. There are negatives to this. Chiefly, it's going to be on the colder side, and -- depending on the prior night's events -- it could be a challenge to roll out of bed. However, the later in the day, the more likely you're going to be foiling family obligations. And there's a good probability your mom and sisters are doing their shopping before lunch, making the morning window your best opportunity.

Speaking of cold, weather around Thanksgiving can be dicey. What’s the cut-off for acceptable playing weather?

Is it snowing or raining? No? Then layer up and get your butt to the course.

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Where should we play?

This ain't the time to travel, pal. You may know of a charming little joint an hour or so off the beaten path, but save that for a lazy summer weekend. Same goes with your town's most challenging test of golf. Stick to something local that won't throw curveballs to the higher handicappers of your outing.

Standard rules?

It's OK to relax the rules. Play everything as a lateral, free drops if leaves are possibly hiding the ball, be generous on the gimmes. Don't start cracking out the USGA Decisions guide. Stick with an informal approach, which will lead to lower scores. More importantly, it will keep things moving.

Even for my sister’s new boyfriend, who everyone thinks is kind of a dolt?

Make that bastard putt everything out.

Stroke play, or is there another preferred format?

Sticking with the casual theme, we vouch for scramble. It keeps the fringe, recreational players involved while reducing the risk their play submarines the round. It also stands to reason that, at this time of the season, no one is bringing their "A" game. Not often that you're allowed to shake off your bad shots while celebrating the gems. Take advantage of this while you can.

This almost sounds like you’re taking the competitiveness out.

Easy there, Sack. Creating a more inclusive environment doesn't mean we're handing out participation medals. The name of the game remains getting the lowest score as possible, which allows plenty of room for competitive fire and cageyness.

So it’s cool to break out the Patrick Reed “ssshh” after sinking a birdie putt?

I thought you said your sister’s boyfriend was the dolt.

Fair enough. Keep it to nine holes or stretch it to 18?

No one will put up a fuss if you're out playing football for 90 minutes. A five-hour golf excursion might raise some eyebrows. If the course is open and things are moving, forward on, but chances are you won't be the only group out. Pray for 18, prepare for nine.

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Do we have the green-light to enjoy some spirits on the course?

We aren't advocating to get liquored up, but there's nothing wrong with carrying a Thermos with a little spiked cider or enjoying a Pumpkin Ale. It will likely be a tad nippy out; putting that beer coat on is almost a matter of health.

Any final suggestions?

The holidays can be hectic, and sometimes your family will drive you crazy. Organizing a golf outing during this time can definitely present its obstacles, but once you get out on the course, savor the moment. Thanksgiving is period of recognizing your blessings. What better gift than teeing it up with your loved ones.


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