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Golf Country Clubs guide

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, don't panic. You're still playing golf; it's just that the “goal posts” have been shifted slightly.

To avoid committing any social faux pas, remember a few formalities:

Before you leave home, make sure you're wearing the right clothes. A sweat shirt announcing you as an avid follower of the Chicago Bulls or those cool (in your mind, anyway) cutoff jeans won't work in this environment. Wear a shirt with a collar and, if shorts are allowed, go for the tailored variety that stops just short of your knees. Short shorts are a no-no at most country clubs. In the fall and winter, slacks are acceptable for women. In the summer, shorts cut just above the knees are fine.

Get good directions to your destination. It won't do your heart rate or your golf game any good to have a stressful journey full of wrong turns.

Time your arrival so that you have just an hour to spare before you tee off. When you drive your car up the road toward the clubhouse, don't make the simple mistake of turning sharply into the parking lot. Go right up to the clubhouse. Look for a sign that reads “BAG DROP.” A person will no doubt be waiting to greet you. Acknowledge his cheery hello as if this is something you do every day. Tell him who you're playing with — your host. Then get out of your car, pop the trunk, remove your spikes and hand him your keys. Tip him a few bucks (or a $ 5 bill at a fancy club like Trump International), and stroll into the clubhouse.Don't worry about your car or your clubs. The car will be parked for you, and the clubs will either be loaded onto a cart or handed to a caddie.

When you're inside the clubhouse, head for the locker room. Drop your street shoes off next to your host's locker and then ask for directions to the bar, or to wherever your host is waiting. Don't offer to buy your host a drink. First, he or she is the host. And second, you probably won't be able to buy anything anyway. Your host will most likely sign the tab and be billed at the end of the month. (The only place where your cash/plastic will be accepted is the pro shop. The pro will sell you anything, but take my advice: Skip the purchase of that neat-looking shirt with the club logo on it. Every time you wear it, people will assume you're a member there. The questions will soon get old.)

If you have a caddie, remember that he or she is there to help you. Trust your 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. (Savvy golfers sometimes tip the caddie master before a round — slipping him a $ 10 bill can get you the best caddie he's got.)

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