At the start of spring this year, I was getting excited about kicking off another golf season. It'd been a cold and boring winter, but as I started to think about my next tee time, I came to a startling realization:
Where did my golf buddies go?
In taking stock of the people I'd most often text to round out a foursome, I realized that filling one was getting tough. I'd been living in this city of 1-million-plus residents for 13 years. How did this happen?
Well, a couple buddies moved, another got a new job and stricter schedule and another joined a private club. One bought a house and then tweaked his back. Schedules and parenting obligations changed due to COVID-19. I'd given up on others over time because they always said no (or worse, canceled last-minute) too often. So at dinner one night I sort of sheepishly confessed to my wife I was running out of golf buddies and was determined to find more.
Life happens and your golf crew will rise and fall like the tides. A wise older golfer once told me that the best thing you could possibly have in the game of golf is a regular foursome of good friends who can play the same course at the same time as you and have a similar ability and you enjoy each other's company.
"Hold on to that as long as you can," he told me. That sounds like a golf goal worth working towards.
If you're new to golf, you may have no buddies bench at all to begin with. But there are golfers everywhere, and in 2021, there are a lot of people either starting in the sport or picking it back up after some time off. You can literally never have too many golf contacts. I've had some success over the years using a combination of the tactics below.
Local golf leagues and clinics
Weekday leagues, beginner clinics and social meetups are a good first place to start, especially in the summertime when it stays light out well after work. Evening nine-hole leagues on weekdays have proliferated in the past year as many people got back into golf after some years on the sideline. These leagues are especially prolific in the Midwest and Northeast. To find one for you, check in with every public-access course near you to see what their league or golf association offerings. View bulletin boards in or around the locker room for potential events and sign up for their email lists for announcements of new programming. These leagues range from serious to "Wine and 9" where socialization is more of the goal than going low.
One relatively new example that is ideal for newer players is Spark Golf, a nine-hole league that is growing coast-to-coast and promotes a very casual, two-person team environment. They are held at public courses that features a net-scoring system. No official handicap is required, and it even includes gimme putts. Golfers can come alone and get paired up or bring a golf buddy.
If you are brand new to golf, you may be too nervous to join a league with scoring at first. Instead, look for group clinics on the evening or weekends to join. These are full of new and aspiring golfers who are probably in need of making golf buddies as well.
Find your ideal social media platform
Using social media in the digital age to make new golf friends is a no-brainer - golfers love talking golf to anyone who will listen. Which platform you decide to use will be the tricky part.
Twitter has a gigantic mass of users and the golf community is a lively place, especially on the weekends when tournaments are happening. I have watched connections form on Twitter as like-minded golf buddies connect through a shared picture or comment. This past year I've been invited to play golf via Twitter by new friends both at home and when traveling. Many of our GolfPass Local Advisors have engaged with one another on Twitter through their love of course reviews and have ultimately arranged their own meetups.
Twitter seems to be an especially useful tool for golfers traveling to a new town and looking for a game. It might be tougher to meet hometown golfers on such a wide-reaching, global platform. But if you become known as an avid Twitter poster of the courses in your area, you will definitely get noticed by other area golfers.
Instagram is more visual as golfers post photos or videos and engage with one another via comments on posts or direct messages. Some influencers like to announce events on Instagram and you can sign up to attend if it seems like the kind of vibe you're looking for. Personally, I have connected with a a handful of new golf friends on Instagram locally. But I have actually had more success reconnecting with old friends and playing with them when I'm in their city.
Depending on your location, Facebook Groups are also an option, but will vary greatly by the groups that are active in your city. Facebook is a big, busy platform and will require some hunting to uncover the most active golf group seeking new people.
Lastly, don't look past LinkedIn. After all, golf and business networking have gone hand-in-hand since the game's early days. I have made some golf-professional connections on there.
Online golf forums, apps and message boards
Since the advent of the internet, entrepreneurs and hobbyists alike have sought to solve the "how to make golf buddies" dilemma. It doesn't seem like any one website or social network has been able to achieve a place of dominance. Golf dating apps even pop up time-to-time. When I first moved to Austin, I joined a local group on "Meetup" that has since gone defunct. Golf Match was a popular app a few years ago that has also since fizzled. Upstarts constantly emerge, but building a large enough user base to be useful to all is a daunting task. That's why meeting golfers through other services or apps that have other purposes may make more sense.
Some websites (golf-specific or otherwise) have message boards with golfers of all skill levels and interests on them. GolfWRX has a Courses & Travel section of their forum that is separated out by region. Find yours, jump in and introduce yourself and start engaging. Others include TheGrint, which has a social feed and you can find and follow friends on the app or find and follow golfers playing the same courses as you. TheHackersParadise.com also has a lively message board.
If you've downloaded the GolfNow app to book tee times, you can use the "Friends" feature to search your contacts to see who else has the app. That's a good indication they're active in the sport. You can also book tee times together and use the GolfNow Compete app to play a wide variety of games with each other like Stableford, a points-based scoring system that is rewarding for good play but less penalizing for a bad hole.
Join a golf or country club
You may be hesitant to commit to a private club right off the bat as a beginning golfer - it's a significant financial and time commitment. But clubs thrive at programming and it's in their best interest to make sure you mingle and meet as many fellow members as possible. If you want to get both better at golf and make more golf buddies fast, put your money and time into a club. You don't necessarily have to join a private club. Some semi-private and daily-fee/municipal courses have golf associations you can join for an annual fee instead of an upfront initiation and monthly commitment.
Each city has a club that carries a reputation as the "Fun Club." Seek out that club.
Keep inviting your non-golfing buddies
Here's a tactic to stick with: constantly invite your non-golfing buddies to the driving range, or Topgolf, or an executive course or pitch 'n putt, or when that fails, Putt-Putt. I've been playing golf for 30 years now and while I always enjoy matches against golfers of similar ability, I am not shy about inviting out new or aspiring players, either. Inviting a friend to the driving range or happy hour at Topgolf is a great way to start. They may get the golf bug one of these outings and start asking to go play a full round in no time at all. Earlier this year, I invited someone out to the course for the first time in five years. Turns out, he had been interested in getting back onto the course himself but hadn't been invited. Now he's got the full-blown golf itch (and a new set of irons).
Wear golf gear out and about
Golfers are all around you, everywhere you go. So how do you send a subtle signal that you are part of the tribe? Cloak yourself in golf stuff, of course. Logoed polos and hats, accidentally wearing your golf glove to the bar (kidding), practicing a swing while gripping a carrot by the snack tray...golfers who recognize the regalia of others will no doubt seek each other out at parks, bars, kids' birthday parties, etc. If you're at a party with a dozen other parents standing around, I'd be willing to bet that at least one other parent there plays golf and wishes they played more. So wearing a hat or tee shirt from your local club when at social events is a great way to send out a signal to other golfers. This tactic has worked well for me and translated to some new golf buddies and at the very least some fun stuff to talk about.
Just book a tee time alone and get paired up
Inevitably, though, you're probably going to have to play some rounds alone or get paired up with a group. You should feel no shame in that (and you should always be welcoming to a single who gets paired up with you - I cringe hard when I see internet memes making fun of singles joining a group). I show up alone often, especially if I have a last-minute opening in my schedule (with small kids, I can't let even the smallest window of free time go to waste). I'll zip out to the nearest course on my own with no hesitation and don't care if I am paired up or play alone. But I have also made golf buddies from being paired up with new people, and you may, too. A connection is especially possible if you go out midweek, where you're sharing tee times with golfers with more flexible schedules. They're surely looking to make more golf buddies as well. If you have similar temperament on the course, play at a similar pace and have comparable skill, you may have lucked into a new favorite golf buddy.
I'd love to hear how you've met golf buddies. Let me and your fellow golfers know in the comments below!
Breaking into the game: Beginners
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