Is a golf league right for me?

DEAR MOLLY: Whenever I get paired up with an enthusiastic golfer, they tell me I really should join a club. Why should I bother? I’m not worried about always playing by the rules, I just want to have a good time.

MOLLY: First of all, I hope you said, “Thank you,” because when an avid golfer makes a suggestion like that, they mean it as a high compliment. Avid golfers tend to be members of men’s and women’s leagues inside public and private golf courses because they enjoy the camaraderie, competition and socializing that come with membership.

This golfer obviously enjoyed playing with you and would have liked to suggest a game of some sort. But, you don’t have an official Handicap Index®, do you? Some golfers might hesitate to initiate any sort of competition with you because there wouldn’t be a fair way to offer or ask for strokes. Do you really think you can just say, “I usually shoot around 95,” and a scratch golfer will give you 23 strokes? CGA membership allows you to establish a USGA index you can use to play against anyone, anywhere, anytime through the World Handicap System.

So that’s why you should bother. Not to mention the possibility that you will have an even better time playing 19 holes of golf with a rotating cast of characters who may be just like you (thus expanding your social network), not at all like you (thus expanding your world view), better golfers than you (thus elevating your game) or poorer golfers than you (giving you an opportunity to practice kindness and magnanimity).

As to your second point, yes, you will have fun.  Each club has a different personality. Some come up with fun, zany game formats; others stick to individual stroke play. Some will award you pro shop money you can spend at the end of the season, while smaller clubs may hand out a small amount of cash dollars each week. Some want you to sign up weeks in advance, others let you decide on Wednesday whether you want to play Saturday. Some are highly competitive, others are basic introductory leagues which are overseen by a Handicap Chair. These leagues help you establish your handicap and give you access to CGA Member Events to play with other members.

I’ve belonged now to six clubs: The first was an introductory league (good for establishing a handicap but with no events or prizes); the second was full of terribly slow high-handicappers who thought nothing of spending five and a half hours on the golf course (I didn’t stay long there); the third was a small group of delightfully fun ladies who taught me about birdie juice, played loosely by the rules and passed around a few dollars every week (my favorite, I confess, but I moved away to play golf with Mr. McMulligan, who by the way hates parentheses); the fourth a competitive league of interesting women with ideal weekend tee-times; the fifth a weekday club where most players left right after the round (not a fit for me); and the sixth a Denver municipal course club that has flex play days and the friendliest attitude toward newbies I’ve seen.

I rejoined Nos. 4 and 6 for the 2022 season. They do play by the Rules of Golf. Does this make them (me? gasp!) rules-obsessed? You and I may have to debate that at the 19th hole sometime. If you’re not interested in the structured play and commitment of joining a club, but want to track your progress and take advantage of the tools and opportunities that come with establishing a Handicap Index, I can enthusiastically recommend the CGA’s E-club – but, when you post a score, it is assumed you have played by the Rules of Golf, with a few exceptions such as picking up short putts and taking a mulligan or two expected in casual rounds.

If you don’t want to play by the Rules of Golf and prefer to continue playing recreational golf unattached, I hope you will adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Be ready to play when it’s your turn so that your group keeps up with the group in front.
  • Be safe: Never take a mulligan when others have started moving or drive/walk in front of another player’s ball.

Finally, be polite. Next time someone suggests you join a club, smile and say, “Thanks. I’ll look into that!” And please do.

To learn more about CGA E-clubs, click HERE.

Molly McMulligan, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. She deeply appreciates the experiences and relationships golf has brought her as she’s played everywhere from famed Cypress Point to a remote Scottish nine that had an honors collection box at check-in. Trust us, you don’t want to take swing lessons from Molly. But if you’ve got a question about etiquette, relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado, Molly will find the answer. Send your questions along HERE.