I love golfing alone – always have, always will.
There’s nothing better than tossing your clubs into the car and racing off to the first tee knowing it’s just you and the golf course for the next few hours.
It’s (usually) quiet and peaceful, you can work on techniques in your swing without the pressure of scoring, and – if the fairways are empty – you can cruise along at your own pace without having to worry about a group up your backside.
But for all the positives about playing golf on your own, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and there are definitely two sides to the story – especially if the course is busy, or if you’re looking to enter a club competition as a solo player.
Below I’ve outlined the biggest pros and cons about golfing alone.
Table of contents
Pros of playing golf alone
#1 It’s a great way to relax
Fewer things in life are more serene than walking the fairways alone, sometimes barefoot if you’re like golf legend John Daly, especially late in the day as dusk settles in.
One of my favourite pastimes is knocking off from work on a weekday and sneaking down to my local course on my own for a quick nine holes, and maybe even a beer or two in between shots.
There are normally very few other golfers playing (especially if it’s mid-week), and it’s the perfect way to unwind from the stress that your job can bring and relax your mind for a few hours.
#2 More time to work on skills
If you’ve managed to arrive at the course during a time where there’s little foot traffic, it’s a great opportunity to get in some on-course practice.
Most of us hit the ball well at the driving range, only for things to go pear-shaped when stepping onto the first tee for our local weekend competition round.
Playing golf alone, if the course is quiet, allows you to replicate tournament pressure and practice hitting fairways off the tee, or your approach shots into greens.
You can spend time honing in your yardages, whether it’s by using a rangefinder or course markers to measure the distances of each club.
You can even play two or three balls on each hole to test out different kind of shots.
#3 Improve your course management
To become a low handicap golfer, you need to be a good ball-striker, practice regularly, putt and chip well – but also be a good decision-maker.
Playing your local course alone gives you more time to figure out which clubs to hit at certain moments during your round – whether it’s taking driver or iron off the first tee, and when to be aggressive or conservative on particular holes.
By mapping out the course on your own, it will better prepare you for when you play your next competition round – and help you make better decisions, and score lower, under pressure.
#4 Less pressure to score well
How many times have you been worried about scoring well during a competition round that by the time you walk off the 18th green, you’ve reached complete mental exhaustion? Personally, I’ve lost count.
To get your handicap down, naturally, you have to enter scorecards but sometimes it’s nice to play a round for fun without worrying about bogeys, double bogeys or even triple bogeys ruining your day.
Teeing it up alone is a great opportunity to do this – instead of being so fixated on shooting a good score, instead have some fun and try hitting a few shots that you wouldn’t try during a competition round.
Yes, that includes attempting to drive that short par four and making that elusive eagle you’ve always dreamed of!
#5 Round takes less time to finish
One of the biggest advantages of playing golf alone – provided the course isn’t very busy – is being able to fly through nine or 18 holes in quick time.
We all have lives to lead away from golf (even though many of us would love to be able to play for a living) so time on the fairways is precious, and having a hit on your own means you can cruise through a round in no time at all.
#6 You can play more holes
Because playing alone takes less time to get through each hole, it means you can play more of them – bonus!
You don’t have to worry about your playing partner complaining about how badly they’re hitting the ball and wanting to get into the clubhouse as quickly as possible, instead you can play nine, 18, 27 – as many holes as you like.
The more golf you play, the greater chance you have of improving, so the more holes you can fit in, the better.
#7 No need for small talk
While golf is a great way to meet new people (I’ll touch on that more shortly), sometimes you just want to play your own game without having to exchange pleasantries with playing partners you’ve only just met on the first tee.
Small talk can be distracting during a round, especially if you’re playing badly and your playing partners are chewing your ear off with annoying questions, so teeing it up solo means you can be left alone with your own thoughts to focus fully on your game.
Cons of playing golf alone
While the above points paint a great picture about golfing alone, there are some downsides – especially when it comes to playing in competitions, or submitting a scorecard.
Let’s take a look at some of the cons.
#1 Being paired with annoying partners
Don’t get me wrong, golf is a great way to meet new people and entering a competition round as a single player is one way to do this – but, as is the case in all walks of life, you don’t always ‘click’ with everyone.
Whether it’s a clash of personalities, a big age gap or just having nothing in common, sometimes people just don’t get along – and being stuck playing golf for four hours with a person who is grinding your gears is a low-grade form of torture.
So, if you want to enter a competition round as a solo player, be warned: you may not like the people you play with, and that may adversely affect your golf.
#2 Getting stuck behind other groups
The blessing of playing alone (pace of play) can also be a curse when the course is busy, and will often result in you getting stuck behind bigger groups in front of you.
You’ll spend a lot of time waiting to take your shot, which for golfers who enjoy playing quickly – like me – can be extremely frustrating and ruin any form of rhythm you’re trying to build during your round.
When you golf alone, be prepared for the possibility you’ll get stuck behind other players.
#3 Having to ‘play through’ slow groups
The etiquette in golf is to let through quicker players, however I’ve found that many golfers – especially weekend hackers – don’t often observe this, or have no idea that it’s a thing.
Sometimes, when you arrive behind a slow group on the tee block, you’ll need to ask if it’s okay to play through them to speed things up – unfortunately, that means hitting your next shot in front of a crowd.
There’s arguably no more pressure on a tee shot than one taken after playing through a slow group, and landing your ball anywhere near the fairway is a great result.
If you don’t, you’ll likely scamper after your wayward shot and then rush to hit your next one, which is anything but relaxing – contradicting the reason why you decided to play golf in the first place.
#4 Being unable to enter your scorecard
Another big downside to playing golf alone is the inability to submit your scorecard if you’ve shot a low number, as a valid scorecard requires a signature from a handicap-registered playing partner in order to be valid.
If you’re having a solo hit, there’s no-one to sign your card – meaning that personal best round won’t, unfortunately, slash strokes off your handicap, and instead just be a great story to tell your mates (who might not believe you anyway because no-one was there to see it).
#5 No witnesses for great shots
If you jag a hole-in-one on a golf course but no-one saw it, did it really happen?
It’s the old ‘tree falling in the woods’ adage, but if you pull off an incredible shot on the golf course playing alone, you’re going to have a hard time proving to your golf mates that it actually occurred (unless you recorded it).
While I have never personally hit a hole-in-one, I’d be pretty devastated if it happened while I was out on the course by myself – with no-one to celebrate it with, or validate that it was legitimate.
While there are a few negatives to playing golf alone, personally I find the experience overwhelmingly positive.
If you are planning to play golf alone, I would advise the following:
- Play at a time when the course is quiet, rather than busy
- Set yourself a goal and work towards it (improving your driving accuracy, approach into the greens etc)
- Don’t take yourself too seriously: have fun
- If the course is busy, be prepared that you might have to wait to take your shots, and don’t let it frustrate you
If you decide to play golf alone, head to the first tee with a positive and clear mindset and you’ll find it an incredibly rewarding experience.