Golf is played in three places: at public facilities, at private clubs, and on resort courses. Some courses have only 9 holes, while a few resorts offer half a dozen 18-hole courses, or even more. You can also hit balls at driving ranges, which is where you should start.

Driving ranges

Driving ranges are fun. You can make all the mistakes you want. You can miss the ball, slice it, duff it, top it — do anything. The only people who’ll know are the ones next to you, and they’re probably making the same mistakes.

Driving ranges are basically large fields, stretching as far as 500 yards in length. Any good driving range will have signs marking off 50 yards, 100 yards, 150 yards, and so on. You can practice hitting to these targets with any club.

Some driving ranges will lend or rent you clubs, but most expect you to bring your own. As for balls, you buy loaner bucketsful for a few dollars — how many dollars depends on where you are.

Public golf courses

Public courses are open to anyone who can afford the greens fee. They tend to be busy, especially on weekends and holidays.

Each course has its own tee-time policy. Many let you book a time up to a week in advance. Others follow a strange rule: You must show up at a designated time midweek to sign up for weekend play. And some courses you can’t book at all. You just show up and take your chance.

Confirm your time with the pro or starter, and then pay for your round. As for cost, the price depends on the course and its location. You can pay anything from $10 to more than $150.

Country clubs for playing golf

In your early days as a golfer, you probably won’t play much at country clubs. But if you do play at a country club, to avoid committing any social faux pas, remember a few formalities:

  • Before you leave home, make sure you’re wearing the right clothes. Wear a shirt with a collar and, if shorts are allowed, go for the tailored variety that stops just short of your knees.

  • Time your arrival so that you have just an hour to spare before you tee off. Drive right up to the clubhouse and look for a Bag Drop sign. A person will no doubt be waiting to greet you. Tell him who you're playing with, then get out of the car, pop the trunk, remove your spikes, and hand him your keys (and be sure to tip!). Your clubs will either be loaded onto a cart of handed to a caddie.

  • If you have a caddie, trust that caddie’s advice — he or she knows the course better than you do. Caddie fees at fancy clubs average about $50, which is added to your greens fee. You should tip your caddie half the caddie fee at the end of the round, so that’s another $25.

  • When you change back into your street shoes, you’ll often find them newly polished — that means another few dollars to tip the locker-room attendant. And when you leave, your golf shoes will have been done, too.

  • Give a few bucks to the person who delivers your car back to you and loads your clubs into the trunk.

Resort golf courses

You’re on vacation, and you’re dying to play golf. Where to go? To a resort course, of course. The great thing about resort courses is that you don’t have to be a member or even have one in tow. The only problem arises when you aren’t staying in the right place. Some courses are for certain hotel guests only. And again, prices vary, depending on the course and its location. Generally, though, resort courses cost a good deal more than public courses.

You’ll probably have to rent a cart. Carts are mandatory at almost every resort golf course in the world. So enjoy the ride!

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