When You Have to Play Golf Out of Your League

How to Handle the Walk from One Shot to the Next 
July 26, 2018
Empowering Women on the Links and at the Car Dealership
August 6, 2018

When You Have to Play Golf Out of Your League

Whether it's a business round or a fun foursome, every woman from beginner to tour player will one day find herself among heavyweights whose game is far beyond hers. Try these coping strategies.
Topic : Advice, Jenn Harris,

Written By:

Jenn Harris

Jenn created High Heel Golfer, teaching women how to achieve their personal and professional goals by instilling confidence and using golf as a networking tool. She then went on to run Street Swings, bringing golf simulators, putting greens, and a photo lounges to events. Street Swings fulfills clients’ entertainment, team building, lead generation, and fundraising needs through golf and is changing the way busy people experience the game.

I’m not a beginner anymore, but there are days on the golf course when it feels like the other three players in my foursome are playing a different game. Usually that’s when I’m playing business golf, paired with single-digit media guys and maybe even a scratch-golfing pro. Or, when we’ve teamed up for a scramble benefitting a charity. Other times we’ve been paired in a casual round showcasing the golf course.

Whatever the scenario, everyone else is walloping their drives 300 yards while my best rolls to 150. I’m agonizing over carrying a ravine that they don’t even notice. They’re putting for birdies and I’m putting for bogeys.

Do I have any fun in this situation? Sometimes I do. And I’ve learned that whether I do is usually up to me. Here’s what I try to remember that might help when you find yourself in similarly intimidating settings.


You can help your team in a scramble, no matter how pathetic your game.

If I am teamed with Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and Lexi Thompson, I might not be of much use. They’ll drive the ball 350 from the back tees, and when I get to the front tees I’ll say, “Oh, why don’t I just play from where you are?” Then I’ll be hitting 8-iron while they’re hitting wedge, and maybe I’ll get lucky and knock mine close. Maybe they’ll let me go first when we putt, and maybe I’ll get lucky and drop one. Face it, though, mostly I’ll just be going gaga about their games and wondering when I can get autographs.

But this is not typical. If you’re with three men, they’ll hit from the longer tees and one or all of their drives might go astray. So see if you can hit first. You get to hit from shorter tees, and if you put the ball in the middle of the fairway you’ll free the sluggers to swing away. Even if not one of your shots is chosen during the round, you might help with a putt. And even if you’re no help on the greens, you can foster camaraderie by praising your teammates, keeping your sense of humor, and flagging down the beverage cart.


In business golf with the guys, don’t let yourself be left out. 

Whether you are host or guest, boss or peon, executive or client, remember that your goal today is to connect with your companions. Should you play from their tee? Only if you can drive the ball as far as they do. Otherwise, go on up to their tee with driver in hand while they’re hitting, so that you don’t miss out on the conversation. Be ready to walk forward or quickly ride to your own tee.

I believe you should also join in on any fair wagers. My husband was shocked recently when I accepted a $5 Nassau wager from a stranger on the first tee. Well, I noticed the man listening as my husband and I used the USGA handicap system and course ratings to equitably work out our own strokes and wager. The stranger realized that by this system he would be giving me a stroke a hole, yet he still wanted a game. It was a fair wager — and I went away with $10 and a new friend.

If you are a mid- to high-handicapper playing with single-digit guys, I do think it is fair to avoid “birdies and greenies” wagers. If you can’t reach most greens in regulation, you can reasonably say, “Sorry guys, I just don’t have that game. How about net birdies and greenies?” And they will then say, “Uh, nevermind.”


Unless you have paid for a lesson, give the pro a day off. 

Yes, it’s tempting when playing with an LPGA or PGA teaching professional to bombard them with questions about your swing and your short game. But on a rare day when they get to play their own game, wouldn’t it be rude to hit them up for freebies?

Still, you’re probably feeling their eyes on you, critiquing your swing. This can be intimidating. Try this: Early in the round — at about the time when they see you’re not preparing to join the mini-tour — say something like, “Wow, I feel so fortunate to be out on the golf course with a professional teacher, but I want you to take the day off and enjoy yourself. Maybe at the end of the round, you could give me three suggestions about my game?” Now you’re all free to enjoy the day, knowing that at the end (but not before then) the teacher may teach and you may take away a few pointers.


Find a non-confrontational way to deal with unsolicited advice.

From practice range to 19th hole, women can expect men to try to help them with their game. Golf, however, is not much fun when played with a head cluttered with tips. And many of us already have teachers we consult or philosophies we follow.

So what to say to that unqualified guy who has something to say — “the ball was a little far forward,” “you looked up,” “you didn’t turn your shoulders” — after each of your shots? Maybe “thank you,” if you can ignore the comments to come. Or try, “Uh oh, are you giving me a lesson? Cuz I did not bring my checkbook.”

My line, delivered with a teasing smile, is, “Sorry, but my mom told me never to accept candy or golf tips from strangers.” Think up your own, or be prepared to block out the never-ending barrage.


Play your own game.

Nobody else cares about your game. Those three guys you’re playing with, they care about their own game, not yours. And you cannot play their game, you can play only your own. Do not pick up because they are on the green in two and you are about to chip your fourth. Just get over your self-consciousness and focus on keeping pace and being good company.


Stay for the 19th hole.

Sit down for drinks and revel in your companions’ successes, pay off bets, talk business, and trade cards. On a recent Fairmont media invitational, I played Fairmont’s Chateau Whistler course with head golf professional Padraic O’Rourke and two single-digit men. Padraic, a tall, lean bomber, had just returned from a disappointing round at British Columbia’s Club Professional Championship, and he clearly enjoyed showing us his Audubon-certified golf course on a lovely morning on the Coast mountain range.

In the clubhouse, I boasted about Padraic’s round of eight birdies. As for my game? It was enough for me to hear him say, “We had a nice day with good company.”

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kathy golie

Thank you for this today. I was misflighted and am golfing with 12 handicappers and I have a 24. Yesterday I wanted to quit but today I’ll go do my best and try and better my score. I needed this today as I am not a quitter but I was almost in tears.

Stacey Frank

Great article, good advice and great tips! I love your advice, “play your own game!”
We all have days we feel like we don’t belong on the greens with our teammates, but picking up our ball or quitting should never be an option.
Thanks, now let’s play golf!

Roxie Rider-King

This was a great article – I have a 32 handicap but I keep pace of play. I love the game, but it can become very frustrating for me since most the time I’m the “worst” player in the four some…there have been many times I’ve wanted to quit, but haven’t – however, now I won’t be picking up my ball…..
Great advice. Thank you.


Great article! I am an 11 hdcp and frequently play with high handicappers who feel intimidated. I don’t mind playing with anyone as long as they keep the game moving and I think that is the mind set of most decent players. I’d rather play with someone quick than a slow long hitter. Play your game!