Golf sports an intimidating array of nuances, special rules and traditions for people unfamiliar with this historic game.
As a primer for some and reminder for others, we contacted the pros for some insights on how to better enjoy the sport. Bradford Bean, the general manager and PGA director of Harbor Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, and Stephen Havrilla, golf director for Seaview Golf Resort in Galloway Township, provide an "18-hole course" of tips both to improve play and observe etiquette.
Playing tips from Bradford Bean:
1. Warm up. It's a big part of the game.
"When you go right from your car to the pro shop and then the first tee, it might be six or seven holes before you figure out what to do," Bean says. "Get your muscles loose and hit some balls - but not too many of anything. That will be counterproductive.
2. Saga of the sand, from the front of the bunker: Trust the loft of the sand wedge and come down through the ball with good acceleration. Don't hit the ball if possible. The acceleration and the effect of the blade on the sand will "blast," or explode, the ball out.
3. Saga of the sand, from a back part of the bunker: An explosion shot is much harder, but put more weight on your back leg - perhaps 70 percent instead of the normal 50 percent - and keep good club speed through the ball.
4. For fairway bunkers, it's a different matter. Take one more club than usual and contact the ball.
5. Water: It can get in your mind. Pretend it's a green and after you are in the situation long enough, it won't be intimidating.
6. But, as a precaution, "take one more club than you normally hit. It's better to be long than wet."
7. Obtain hybrid clubs and learn to both chip with them and use the putting stroke. Hybrid clubs provide the power of a wood with the control of an iron. They are especially helpful on long shots, but can also be a shotmaker's dream when around the green.
8. Manage the course. Don't be afraid to hit an iron for your second shot on a long par 5 if a wood is not going to get you to the green anyway.
9. Alignment. Set up your swing plane so the follow through is straight, usually aimed at a target such as the flag.
Etiquette tips from Stephen Havrilla
10. Repair ball marks on the green. Use a divot tool or a tee. This helps preserve the life of the green and the putting line of the player who follows you.
11. Replace divots. It's good to "take a divot" when you swing, but replace it and/or fill the hole with sand from a bottle if it has been placed nearby.
12. Don't talk when other players are hitting.
13. Avoid standing in the line of another player's sight
14. Tend the flag when necessary, but if someone is off the green, leave it in.
15. Play ready golf. If you ride a cart, take a couple clubs to your ball rather than taking one and later needing a different one.
16. Rake the sand traps after you hit out of them.
17. Playing through is often counterproductive unless an entire hole is open ahead of you.
18. If a tee shot appears lost, hit a provisional ball. "Make sure it's a different one than the first one you used, and if you still can't find the original, don't take more than five minutes to look for it," Havrilla says.