There are a very, very few golf clubs in America that are so legendary, so special, and are such a rare invite that they are truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced several clubs of this type over the course of my golfing life. I thought this would be a good place to discuss some of the “Dos and Don’ts” when a once in a lifetime golf experience comes along.
DO NOT go into cardiac arrest if you are sitting in your office minding your own business when one of your friends calls and greets you with “Hey, how would you like to visit (insert name of legendary golf club here)? If you have a massive coronary at this point it is almost certain that you will miss out on the golf trip.
DO ask your friend “Are you being serious?” at least two, three or maybe even eight times. It’s a good idea to make sure that you are not the victim of a practical joke . . . especially when the invitation comes out of left field and from one of your friends who might be known to enjoy a good prank.
DO say “Yes!” Whatever is on your calendar, CLEAR IT.
DO try to contain your enthusiasm a little bit. Resist the urge to tell everyone you’ve ever met, random strangers on the street and the checkout clerk at the grocery store about your upcoming trip. This is a good time to exercise some restraint and a little humility.
DO NOT engage in any dangerous, strenuous or “risky” activities in the weeks leading up to your big trip. Avoid the handling of knives, the lifting of heavy objects and the petting of stray and potentially rabid dogs. In fact, avoid ALL activities that could result in bodily injury before your trip to the point that your wife thinks you’ve lost your mind.
DO NOT completely freak out if the above guideline is overlooked and one of the members of your group sustains an injury just weeks before the trip. Modern medicine and pure will power are an amazing combination.
DO take your car to the service station for a full checkup. This will allow you to make the road trip with confidence that you won’t have unexpected car trouble. Maybe you’ll even want to check the pressure on the spare tire just to be safe . . . What? I don’t think that’s weird. Can you ever really be TOO cautious in situations like these? I certainly don’t think so.
DO plan to arrive to the area a day early. This way if something happens while traveling you have a little bit of a buffer. Use the extra day in the area to visit another nearby course for a practice round before the big event.
DO wear something that you won’t cringe at 20 years from now. There’s a good chance you will have your photo taken somewhere on the course. Maybe there will even be an iconic bridge on the second nine that makes for a perfect group photo opportunity. It would be a shame if that photo featured you decked out in a flat billed hat, white belt and Loudmouth pants.
DO arrive on time to the club on the appointed day. If you are told to arrive at 7:30 in the morning then be there at 7:30. Not 7:15 and not 7:35. In order to time this correctly I suggest driving to, I don’t know, maybe a CVS Pharmacy across the street from the club entrance. Here you and your friends can stretch out and swing clubs in the parking lot while keeping a close eye on the time. At the strike of 7:29 you can hop back in the car and drive across the street to the club. That’s just one suggestion . . .
DO respect the club you are visiting and the host who invited you. Find out if photos are allowed. If they are, find out if it is acceptable to share them in public forums or if they are to be for personal use only. If the club values their privacy, respect the rules and don’t publicly share the intimate details of your visit. If there is any uncertainty whatsoever or you are too scared to ask, always err on the side of caution.
DO NOT play the back tees unless you are really, really good. This is a once in a lifetime experience . . . make it fun, not frustrating. It would be fun to post a good score and the likelihood of that happening is MUCH greater from the regular/member tees.
DO NOT worry about your score. If you play well, that’s great. If you play poorly, that’s alright too. It’s about the experience, not the score.
DO remember the little things from your trip. If you are about to go to the practice green and your caddie holds out your putter but doesn’t let go when you grab it, that’s because he wants you to pay attention to what he’s about to say. Maybe after watching you on the range he could tell that you were a little nervous and wants to give you some sage advice from his four decades of working at the club. As you both stand there with your hands on the putter he may look you square in the eye and in a soft southern drawl advise you to “Just relax and have fun. Most people will never be here”. With a nod of his head he’ll release the putter into your hand. If this happens, try not to let the others in your group see you tear up as the gravity of the situation hits you.
DO take deep breaths to calm your nerves before teeing off on the 1st hole. Think back to the advice your caddie just gave you before you went to the practice green. Again, try not to let the others see you get emotional.
DO expect a lot of three-putts and maybe even one four-putt at the 5th hole when your approach hits the green, but is in the WRONG spot.
DO take special note of any unique or unusual bunkers on the course that are in the signature style of the course architect.
DO whisper a little prayer of thanks when you first lay eyes upon any special and famous holes that may be located in a tiny corner of the property.
DO try to hit a nice shot into the green on any world famous par 3 holes. Even if you have a 10-15 foot birdie putt be very, very happy with your par.
DO NOT try to play any of the course’s famous par 5s the same way the pros do. Most of us are not that good. Forget about eagle and just play your game. Birdie is still in play and par is a great score on these holes.
DO be sure to take note of any special trees on the property . . . they may not be there forever.
DO have the club’s most famous food item during lunch in the grill room between rounds.
DO spend as much time on the golf course as possible. If the legendary club has a par 3 course on the property you may be given the choice of playing the par 3 course or having another loop around the big course. While there is no bad decision in this case, my personal preference is always going to be to spend another four hours making a second loop around one of the world’s greatest and most famous golf courses.
DO soak in the club atmosphere. You may be very surprised at just how laid back and relaxed a prestigious club can be.
DO pay special attention to your host throughout the day. He will likely be full of fun stories and interesting club history. Do less talking and more listening.
DO visit the special spots on the course where legendary shots, chips and putts have taken place during any professional tournaments that the club may host.
DO take a full tour of the clubhouse and see all of the cool rooms, nooks and crannies of the clubhouse and locker room(s).
DO make sure to give a sincere and heartfelt thank you to your host at the end of the trip to let him or her know how much the experience meant to you and how appreciative you are.
I can’t even come close to relaying how special and rare these once in a lifetime golf opportunities are. It’s a humbling experience to play a game on golf’s most hallowed grounds. I am grateful and forever thankful to a couple of very special friends.