You can often tell how good a golfer is without even seeing them swing a club. Admit it, you’ve built a picture of how good/not so good a player you’ve never met before is going to be just by spending a few moments with them in the clubhouse.
Then there are those occasions where you arrive for a knockout match and observe the opposition from the corner of your eye as you casually take a few practice swings; it’s like turning up for a game of football and watching the other team warm-up.
Here are the 5 ways to identify a good golfer, without seeing their swing. Don’t be scared, you can still beat them, especially if you start to learn some of the things that all great golfers do.
1. The Looks
Who would you rather play in a knockout match? The player who turns up looking like a catalog model with clothes that fit perfectly, or the player who turns up in old, ragged, ill-fitting clobber?
Although looks can be deceiving, generally speaking, you can tell a good player by the clothes that they wear – there’s a confidence about the way they walk, and they take pride in their appearance. So, if you’re opponent strolls onto the first tee head to toe in Galvin Green, slim fit, looks immaculate, you could be in trouble…
2. The Putting Stroke
You don’t get to low single figures and better without having a fairly decent putting stroke. Some players will tell you that the only reason they aren’t even lower is that they don’t hole enough putts, but you can generally spot a handy golfer by the way they roll the ball.
You can pick out the good golfers on the putting green – their strike is centered and their roll is consistent, usually ending up, should it miss, 12-18 inches beyond the hole. More often than not, they’ll go through a pre shot routine, too, more evidence that they have a clear idea of what they’re doing.
3. The Gear
True, there is that saying, ‘all the gear and no idea’. However, you can often spot a good golfer just by looking at their golf clubs. If a set of blades and/or the presence of a 2-iron doesn’t scream ‘single figure golfer’, the vintage Ping Anser putter should. Then there’s the footwear. Nothing says ‘good player’ quite like a pair of traditional FootJoys.
Useful golfers also have a tendency to use the following: pencils bags, a clear sign of how confident they are of heading out for a knock with just a half set of clubs; laser rangefinders, because decent golfers demand pinpoint yardages; and training aids, evidence that they take their practice seriously.
4. The Warm Up
We all know someone who can turn up for their tee time with just a few minutes to spare and stripe one down the middle of the fairway (yes, very annoying). However, you can normally spot a good player by the way they go about their business before they tee off, especially when it comes to a big tournament, such as the Club Championship.
The more accomplished players tend to follow more of a professional routine: they arrive in good time, head to the range to hit some drives, and spend a good 10-15 minutes on the short game area before hitting a few putts. The player that hit balls after they’ve played a round… that’s usually another sign of quality. As for the player who warms up with their AirPods in, now we’re talking seriously good.
5. First Tee Signs
You’ve arrived for a game and you’re on the first tee grouped with a couple of golfers you’ve never met before. Now you’re about to find out how good your playing partners are. Watch out for these mannerisms, many of which good players display…
Again, there’s usually a well-drilled pre shout routine, which often involves a player holding their club in the air to pick a line, a bit like Justin Rose does. Something you might also witness, gentle little thumps of the driver head on the ground, a ‘go sign’ and/or release of tension, something some of the pros do during a pre shot routine. And a good player, because they play a fair bit in competitions and do things by the book, they’ll clearly state what ball they’re playing.
The final sign of a good golfer… “Right, I’m just going to hit a soft draw here.”