11+ tips for playing golf with strangers in 2023 (Expert pick)12 min read

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Playing golf with strangers

Strangers can turn out to be good company and great golfing buddies. Your common interest in the game would bring you together. Here are 11+ tips on how to become friendly with other golfers when playing golf with strangers.

We have previously discussed playing golf alone or with friends, and how to avoid getting paired up in golf.

Why would you choose to play golf with strangers?

When you’re on the golf course all alone, you can feel like a bit of an outsider. No buddies to talk with, no locals to give you tips or share some insider knowledge. You may as well be on another planet! Golfers who play alone often find that they suffer from a lack of motivation and flagging concentration. This is all very unenjoyable for players and really takes the fun out of the game.

But what happens if you cannot find a partner, or you have no friends who play, or you have rivalries with the three people who normally golf with you? In that case, the answer is to challenge some strangers to a game. You might prefer to join a pair or a threesome to make the best of your time on the course.

On a slightly different note, you can also check out our article on teaching golf without certification.

Photo taken with gopro hero 7 black.  Stock photo of golf practice facility
Photo by tsg pixels on Unsplash

How not to be nervous when playing golf with strangers

1. Introduce yourself when you arrive.

Once you’ve identified someone you’d like to play with, make sure you introduce yourself. This helps establish trust between strangers. Golf is all about trust. A good handshake is always a good start too. Smile and be friendly, but stay professional – nothing overly friendly or personal until your round is started and you get to know each other more.

It would also help if you did not spend too much time on the driving range

Once you and the other players have made all the introductions, head back to the tee and spend no more than 10 minutes warming up for your round. There’s nothing worse than a bunch of strangers standing around together while they warm up.

If you must, find a quiet corner of the driving range or hit into a net – anything to get out of there quickly!

2. Trust your instincts and play the course as you would with a regular partner.

When you’re playing with someone else who’s a stranger, it is tempting to play overly safe and not take as many risks as you normally do, but that can be counter-productive. Trust your gut instinct and play the course as if they were your regular playing partners.

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Authenticity will come a long way in helping you enjoy the game. Despite the fact that you are playing with strangers. Don’t be afraid to bring your a-game, and if you are a beginner, don’t be afraid to give the course your best shot!

Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and others as you are playing golf. If asked, don’t hesitate to tell the truth – people want honesty from those who play with them, especially those who are playing together for the first time.

3. Please stick to the rules and don’t randomly break them.

When playing with strangers, you must obey the rules and adhere to whatever arrangement they’ve made as a team. If they have decided to play a stroke-play format, then that’s the way you must play as well. You might want to show off your best shots, but don’t take stupid risks just to impress them. Please stick to the rules and don’t randomly break them.

It may be tempting to try and break from the shackles of normalcy a bit, but a little consistency will go a very long way in making sure your round with strangers is a pleasant one!

You might also make a new set of friends for yourself.

4. Practice good golfing etiquette

If you are playing with strangers, your best bet is to play the game as you normally would simply. The key here is to be courteous and respectful of other players on the course. After all, they are most likely just as nervous about playing with strangers as you are!

It can be a little challenging to adjust to someone else’s quirks, but the important thing is not to let it bother you.

Here are a few good ideas to keep in mind:

  • Don’t stare. It would probably be okay if you looked at your opponent’s irons, but don’t stare or gawk.
  • When the game is over, make sure you shake hands and wish them well. You can also ask them how they found their game. We’ve discussed how to ask someone their golf score before.
  • If someone looks stressed out during the round, say something like “Let’s have fun” or “You can do this”, just to let them know you’re there for support to help them relax.
  • After finishing the game, make sure you don’t forget to thank them for the game. It is also nice to say goodbye and maybe exchange contact info. We’ve discussed what to say and do after losing a game, and what not to say after winning a game.

You will be able to make friends with your playing partners.

5. Establish some rapport with the other players

Whether you are playing alone or with buddies, you have to converse with the people you are playing against. Here are five questions that help establish rapport:

  • Where do you live?
  • How long have you lived there?
  • What do you do for a living? (or what did you/do you do for a living?) (optional if work is not a good talking point).
  • Are you married? (or do you have a significant other?)
  • Do you have children? (or any pets?)

These would be great conversation starters. However, if you want some that are golf-specific, you can ask them questions like:

  • How long have you played at this course?
  • What’s your favorite thing about this course?
  • What has been your best round on the course?
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In the end, it’s about being polite and respectful to your playing partners. A pleasant conversation always goes a long way in making a round enjoyable.

6. Come prepared with your own equipment.

You will generally need your own golf clubs if you want to play with strangers, so come prepared. It’s also good to know that most courses will be able to supply or rent equipment for use on the course. Of course, it is still polite to ask before borrowing someone else’s clubs!

Many golfers take pride in their equipment. Be prepared to listen to their proud stories about how it was custom built or what kind of grip they prefer.

Do not try and “check out” your playing partners’ equipment without permission! Trust me. They will not appreciate it.

How to play with a stranger and not be intimidated by their score

Although you may feel intimidated by the fact that you’re playing with someone who has a much lower handicap than yours, there’s no need to let your handicap affect your game.

If anything, it could help you play well – knowing that the other person is relatively unknown and unlikely to shoot as high as you do. You’ll know what they can do and if they shoot lower than their handicap, so will you.

7. Don’t be afraid to let them know your handicap

While it is possible that you could be paired with someone who will beat you, that is unlikely. If you are paired with someone who has a lower handicap than yours, there’s no need to be afraid to tell them.

Of course, it’s also polite to ask them if they mind your telling them your handicap. If anything, they are likely to reciprocate and tell you their handicap. This can also be a great conversation starter as you could ask them how they got there.

8. Don’t take your frustrations out on your playing partners!

This is a difficult one, as sometimes a loss can really frustrate you. But remember that you are playing with strangers, and they probably have no idea what you’re going through. You must keep yourself in check and stay professional at all times!

9. Be considerate of your partner’s handicap

Consider not only the ability of the other people playing with you but also their experience. Those who are just starting out might not want to play in games that require them to strike neck shots or chip balls over water hazards, for example.

Getting out on the course is about learning something new, being challenged, being social, and meeting new people. Even if you are playing to be competitive, it doesn’t hurt to be considerate of your partner’s experience and handicap.

How to make friends on the golf course

Making friends on the golf course is easier said than done. A lot of things have to happen for you to make friends with your playing partners. But don’t worry – if you are nice, they will be nice to you too.

10. How to make conversation when playing with strangers

Keep the small talk on the golf course to a minimum and save any personal stuff for after your round.

Consider asking them how their day was or if they have any plans for the weekend. If you are playing with a bunch of people, trying to create a little group atmosphere is always lovely.

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Remember to keep your conversation professional. It’s fine to talk about the course or the day’s play, but avoid making comments about individual shots or personalities – that could come across as rude. If you must make such a comment, make sure it is constructive criticism and objective.

It would help if you left a good impression on your playing partners. They will remember you for the rest of your round, and will think highly of you if you are able to conduct yourself in the game with respect and professionalism.

You might also get invited to play with them again in the near future.

11. Give your playing partners a reason to want to play with you again

Whether they win or lose, if you are nice, even complimentary after your match, they will want to play with you again. Being friendly is one of the most important aspects of making new golfing friends.

It would help if you could compliment them on something they did well, and if you could offer constructive criticism, do so even more! But do it in a nice way. Even if they beat you and belittled your game, don’t let it affect your mood or seem like it doesn’t matter – smile and be positive.

Consider reading our article on what to say and do after losing a game, and what not to say after winning.

No one will want to play with you if you’re always negative.

It would also help if you check if your playing partners are interested in a post-round drink or meal. Sometimes, making friends can be as simple as asking if they want to go grab drinks after the round.

If you enjoy getting to know your playing partners, even better!

13. Be an active listener during conversations with your playing partners

Look at it this way: you’re trying to get them to like you and they’re trying to get you to like them. It would help if you gave them a reason to want to talk with you after the round. And by listening and getting to know them, you’re doing just that.

If they say something interesting, be sure and respond politely and engagingly. Remember, they’re also trying to get a reaction from you!

Avoid being too negative. When you’re on the golf course, it’s a good time to show your best side. You never know who your playing partners will be, so if they invite you to play again, they might have friends with them!

If you are too self-absorbed in your own game or just plain rude to your playing partners, they will most likely avoid you next time they see you on the course.

Final thoughts on playing golf with strangers

Whether you are playing on your own or in a group, consider the previous tips on how to make friends. Most importantly, remember that kindness is key!

If you are on your own, don’t let the thought of playing with strangers get you down. You can always play with someone else! You might even meet some great guys on the course.

If you are playing in a group of people, try to be positive and do your best not to let it affect how you play.

The best way to get better at playing with strangers is to play more.

Michael G

I love investing in people! Michael is on a mission to help organizations and individuals become better. Michael has had a distinguished 10-year career spanning through non-profit and the corporate world. Michael's life purpose is in helping to simplify complex problems to define actionable solutions, which is why through public speaking, Michael is focused on inspiring and impacting people towards the right personal growth formula and generating sustainable business growth.

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