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Murphy’s Law

O + + +

A Rookie’s Recipe to Golf

ur goal today is to get begin- ners to love the game of golf. By that, we mean they must embrace every lost golf ball,

every three-putt, every topped iron shot from the middle of the fairway and, yes, every shank. Nobody said this would be easy,

fellow duffer. But we love golf! For some

ungodly, inexplicable reason, we do. And we want others to love it, too. The more, the merrier. Perhaps it’s because misery loves company. Hey, whatever works. So when you get that beginner on

the golf course, you must encourage him or her appropriately. You must learn what you can and cannot say to that beginner. You must have a list of DO’S and DON’Ts:


“Beautiful day, huh? Isn’t it pretty out here?” Too many times, we walk 18 holes

thinking only about our scorecard, our swing flaw, our yips. That’s no way to get a beginner to fall in love with our royal and ancient game. Sometimes, you need to pull back. Go macro. Not only see the forest for the trees, but actually see the beauty in the forest and in the trees. Every golf course we play in

Northern California has its own brand of eye-popping beauty, from the panoramic Bay Area sweep of Oakland’s Metropolitan G.C. to the pine-scented Tahoe air of Kings Beach’s Old Brockway. Remind your beginner how lucky he or she is to be walking outside in God’s country.


“This is a really hard golf hole.” The terrors and pitfalls of golf

will make themselves evident enough to your beginner if he or she plays for a lifetime. So there is no need to plant that seed of doubt. It will grow on its own. Rather, tell your beginner to look

at every hole as an opportunity to suc- ceed. And, yes, while most of us fail to seize that opportunity more often than not, there is no reason to be the gray cloud in your beginner’s blue sky. If you must, be your own gray cloud. No need to share.

+ + + DO SAY:

“Remember that feeling!” Inevitably, the stars will align and

your beginner will have that moment of ecstasy: a golf ball struck on the screws, rising in a true track toward the flag, landing like a butterfly with sore feet, cozying near the flagstick. It happens, and it’s a moment that needs to be recognized. It’s that proverbial “Shot That Keeps You Coming Back.” Don’t let that moment slip away for your beginner. Like Nigel Tufnel did with his guitars in “Spinal Tap,” remind your beginner to play the shot in his or her mind, and to cherish that shot in his or her mind.

+ + + DON’T SAY:

“Take your time looking for that golf ball. We have all day.” As much as we want to ease your

beginner’s mind that all is well on the golf course, we must also gently remind them that we need to finish, as Caddyshack’s Al Czervik so famously said, “While we’re young.” Thus, we

need to gently prod our beginner that after a few minutes of searching for that hopelessly lost foul ball, it may be time to give up the chase and drop one out near the nearest point of relief. There’s a fine line between casually enjoying round of golf, and causing the group behind you to slowly have smoldering steam trickle from its ears.

DO SAY: + + +

“Tempo!” For many of us fellow high-hand-

icappers, sometimes the nerves of an important shot can get the best of us. The mind breaks down first, leading to the body, and all hell breaks loose: a rushed swing, awful mechanics, unspeakable results. One word usually soothes: “Tempo.” Spoken by a friend, or on those rare occasions when you have one, a caddie, it is a soothing balm, a reminder that the process of a golf swing is a fluid one, not a herky-jerky one. It’s a one-word elixir, a form of verbal yoga.

+ + + DON’T SAY:

“Hang on. I’ll catch up as soon as I send a few texts.” Please do not let your beginner think

that it’s OK to start being Cell-Phone- Using-Golfer. Nip that nemesis in the bud. Bobby Jones never sent a text from the links.

+ + + DO SAY:

“That was fun. Want to get a beer?” Camaraderie is your ace in the hole.

Your beginner has had moments of triumph and moments of disaster, and yet you will teach your beginner to treat these two imposters the same—over a post-round cold one. Go over the score- card. Rehash that one hole where he or she soared. Have a laugh at a mishap. Pick up the tab. And then end it with the sweetest of words: “Let’s tee it up again soon.”

BRIAN MURPHY hosts the KNBR morning show “Murph and Mac” and was the San Francisco Chronicle’s golf writer from 2001-04.

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