Whether you feel an anxious excitement to meet the people you’ll be playing with in your foursome or are apprehensive about potentially embarrassing yourself in front of everyone, playing in a golf tournament usually comes with some level of nerves, regardless of your skill or experience.

Making the leap from putting around the golf course with your friends to actually competing in a Pro-Am alongside an actual professional can be daunting to say the least. But like with most everything in life, things are much easier to handle when you’re prepared.

This year marks the second annual Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s all-female Pro-Am. The idea behind the event was to help close the gap between men and women participating in Pro-Ams by encouraging women of all skill levels to participate and learn to “Live Fearless” through golf.

“Early in my career, there were countless times I was invited to the golf course but said no because I wasn’t confident in my skills. Finally, I decided to Live Fearless and learn the game, and it has been so rewarding for me—both personally and professionally.  That’s what I want for all women regardless of the obstacle,” said Reagan Greene Pruitt, Blue Cross NC Vice President of Marketing and Community Engagement. “Blue Cross NC is proud to support the LPGA Q-Series golfers and the countless women they are inspiring to Live Fearless.”

So, let’s shake off those first tee jitters and prepare to “live fearless” yourself when competing in your first Pro-Am.

Planning

Your preparation for playing in a Pro-Am actually begins well before that 8 AM shotgun start. The first step in helping yourself feel more comfortable for the big day starts when you first sign up for the Pro-Am. Here is where you’re going to want to keep your eyes peeled for the event information that will make you feel like an old hat at Pro-Ams come game day.

The format.

Depending on how you look at it, all the different ways golf can be played can make or break the game for new players. On the one hand, it can shake things up when the game’s starting to feel stale, and on the other, it can add another level of complication to an already seemingly complicated game.

Nevertheless, Pro-Ams tend to usually shy away from typical every-woman-for-herself single player golf in favor of one of two formats:

A Scramble where each member of a foursome individually tees off from their assigned tee box but then hit all their following shots from the location of the best shot out of the group. Individual scores are not calculated, but rather the score is collected through everyone’s best efforts.

AND

Best Ball where each player goes through the hole as they would in a typical single player round, but only the lowest score out of the foursome is recorded as the team’s score.

Either way, these alternative formats are a lifesaver for a beginner golfer because there is less pressure to perform as well as everyone else. You’re not letting anyone down by not really being able to get out of the bunker in a reasonable number of strokes, and you have room to relax and have fun with your group. Even better, you’re playing on a team with a professional golfer, whose skills are sure to help your group score low during the event.

Other things to look out for include the start times, tournament organizers’ contact information, tournament fees (if any), and any additional information about the event you may need. When in doubt, always contact the tournament organizers or the pro shop at the golf course if you have any questions. It’s always better to have too much information and be prepared rather than having to deal with a surprise emergency in the moment.

Equipment

What to wear and what to bring can be a little confusing as a beginner, so don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start. The good news is that outside of the very rare exceptions, most Pro-Ams are going to expect generally the same things apparel- and equipment-wise.

Clothes

The best way to make sure you don’t attract any disapproving glares from the others at a Pro-Am is to play it safe with some tried and true golf essentials: collared shirt, skirt or shorts at least 18 inches long, and some sneakers.

There are loads of really great golf clothes for women nowadays—many of them with pockets!—though they can be hard to find if you’re only shopping around what just happens to be on the rack at your local pro shop.

Each golf course can vary in their exact dress code so be sure to check with the pro shop or the course’s website ahead of time if you have never played that course before.

Equipment

Apart from the obvious—your golf clubs, golf balls, and tees—it’s good to fill those golf bag pockets with some helpful goodies that can really make or break your round.

Bring a golf glove, water bottle, extra tees, at least half a dozen golf balls more than your think you’ll need, a towel to clean your club in between shots, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and sunsleeves (your skin will thank us when you’re older), bug spray, an umbrella, a small first aid kit, and, most importantly, some small snacks. Even if you’re sure you won’t want one, there’s no telling who in your group might be feeling a dip in their blood sugar and will gladly take that granola bar off your hands.

Arrival

Think of arriving at the golf course for a Pro-Am like you were catching a flight at the airport. By no means are we suggesting that you should camp out in the golf course parking lot two hours early ready to go with your shoes and belt in your hands, but you should plan on arriving early.

An 8 AM tee time means pretty much the same thing as an 8 AM departure time for a flight (assuming you live in a world where delays don’t exist). You wouldn’t arrive at the airport at 8 AM and you shouldn’t arrive at the golf course at the start of your tee time either.

Much like a flight, you need to check in, join the rest of your group, load up your equipment, and make sure your liquids are in bottles less than 100ml . . . (okay, we made that last one up).

Regardless, a good rule of thumb is to arrive about 45 minutes to an hour before your tee time. This will give you plenty of wiggle room to get situated, meet the rest of your foursome, and maybe even warm up with a few stretches and practice shots at the driving range.

When in Rome . . .

. . . do as the Romans do. It’s an oldy but a goody, especially when it comes to biting back those concerns about proper etiquette.

We’re not going to lie . . . there are a lot of rules and customs to remember on the golf course. Before you set out on any golf venture, you should have a basic foundation of knowledge around golf etiquette (there’s got to be a German word for that). But once you have the basics down, there is no reason to deny yourself the fun of playing in a Pro-Am just because you don’t have the USGA’s Rules of Golf committed to memory.

Instead, take your cues from the other players in your group. By reading the room and getting a vibe from them, you can follow their lead when it comes to the etiquette of the game you’re not sure about.

It may take a bit more mental effort to be consciously aware of where you place your bag or stand when someone else is putting, but soon it will all become second nature.

The Big Universal Secret to Acing a Pro-Am

So now that you’ve got your surefire game plan, and your perfect golf outfit with all the bells and whistles, there’s just one more thing you should do before competing in order to be completely successful at playing in a pro-am.

Grab that little pencil that comes with your scorecard, write this one down, and keep it with you always.

Have fun.

It feels kind of weird to have that as part of your checklist without it feeling disingenuous, but it can really be helpful to remind yourself to have fun during each part of the actual Pro-Am from start to finish.

Have fun researching the Pro-Am format.

Have fun picking out your perfect golf outfit.

Have fun packing your golf bag,

And have fun getting to know the people in your foursome.

Stress and anxiety have the worst way of spoiling the things that make participating in a Pro-Am so special.

So, don’t sweat the small stuff. Appreciate the good shots, and the good company. Take a Mulligan when you need to, make memories, and spend time making some new friends.

And be sure to come back here and tell us all about it.

What you most looking forward to in your next Pro-Am event? Let us know in the comments below.