Ready, Set…Golf!

Tee off with authority, and get in shape while you’re at it.
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Learn the Lingo

Fore: Duck and cover. A flying golf ball is incoming when you hear this term.

Playing through: If the group ahead of you is so slow that you're consistently catching them at the tee box, they may take mercy on you and ask if you'd like to play through (pass them).

Hitting into the next group: Never do this. If you're perceived as playing too slowly, rude golfers might begin hitting their balls close to where you're standing. If it happens more than once, notify a course marshal.

Foot wedge: Never tee off without this essential tool, which can get your ball out of any tight spot without even requiring a stroke. Can't find it at the pro shop? That's because it's your foot. A friendly game might allow this "illegal" move.

Shank: Usually preceded by an expletive, this terrible shot happens when the neck of the club strikes the ball first.

Par: The number of strokes an average "scratch" golfer — essentially someone who consistently doesn't mess up — would need to complete a hole.

Bogey: Going one stroke over par. A double bogey is two over par.

Birdie: Finishing a hole one stroke under par.

Eagle: If you get an eagle, or two strokes under par, congratulations. You either got a hole-in-one on a par-three or you had some incredible shots.

Tee box: The area where you tee off on each hole. Most courses have tee-off areas at multiple distances, catering to different skill levels. Remember: There's no shame in hitting from the closest tee box.

Mulligan: Redoing a botched shot in an informal game. Ask your group if it's OK to take mulligans before you start a round. If they say yes, don't go overboard.

Chip shot: A shot taken close to the green, typically with a wedge (an iron with a high amount of loft). If done correctly, the ball will bounce gently on the green and stop close to the pin.

Pitch shot: This shot would be between 50 and 100 yards from the green with a high iron or a pitching wedge.

Sand bunker: Avoid this course obstacle if you can; once your ball goes in, it's tough to get it out, especially if your ball sinks deep.

Fairway: A trimmed grassy area running lengthwise toward the putting green. Hit your ball here and it will bounce and roll much farther.

Rough: An area of thicker grass and vegetation that will slow down your ball and make your next shot tough.

Fringe: A narrow strip of grass surrounding the green, mowed slightly higher than the putting green.

Out of bounds: A marked area of the course where the ball is deemed unplayable. If your ball ends up here, it's a one-stroke penalty.

Golfing is the best way to work out without even realizing you're doing it. You can burn more than 300 calories an hour during a casual Sunday-morning round with your friends, if you're carrying your clubs. And you don't have to be Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods.

Here are just a few reasons why golf is good medicine:

It’s a walking game
As long as you don’t wimp out and rent a cart, that is. Walking the greens and chasing your ball for a few hours offers enough activity to help protect against heart disease, according to former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop. One reason may be that it positively affects your cholesterol levels; cardiologist and golf fitness expert Edward A. Palank, MD found that walking golfers reduced their levels of bad cholesterol while keeping their good cholesterol steady.

You can adjust the poundage
If lugging a heavy golf bag around a course doesn't sound like your idea of a relaxing day, there are alternatives, says Patrick Ward, MS, CSCS, a fitness trainer and massage therapist for golfers around Phoenix, Arizona.

"You may want to opt for getting a rolling type of cart for your bag instead of having that extra load to shoulder for nine or 18 holes," Ward says. (Or you could hire a caddie — though a rolling bag will be much cheaper over time.)

It’s a social outlet
Most of the time, sports like running and biking are often done alone. Working out at the gym? You may have a hundred people around you, but you probably interact with very few — by choice. Some people don’t mind these forms of solitude, but others want to get more socialization and interaction while they exercise. Golf can be just the ticket, especially if you want to get outside while you burn calories. "It's more social, it’s outdoors, and you can interact with friends," Ward says.

You won’t quit early
If you've ever started to run and found yourself slowing down and quitting five minutes later, golf is the ideal sport. Unless you end the round early, losing the greens fees in the process and possibly angering your buddy (if you’re playing with a partner on the course), you’re almost guaranteed to get at least a few hours of healthy activity and exercise during a golf session.

"You can be out for a considerable amount of time," Ward says. If you play 18 holes, that can require three-and-a-half hours of activity, while you might walk on a treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes at a gym and call it a day.

Newbies progress quickly
Advanced golfers work relentlessly in hopes of trimming a few strokes. Not so with beginners. Through practice, dedication and a little professional help, you can shave a huge number of strokes off your game in just a few months — and that will help keep you enthused.

"Initially, if you're totally new to golf, you have a large window for progress," Ward says. "If you've never played, six months to a year will be an exciting time of learning for your body, for your brain, and you can make a very large improvement."

You don’t need a lot of equipment to play
OK, you need some. And it’s not exactly cheap. But at the start, you need a lot less than most golfing magazines would lead you to think. Beginners don't need expensive high-tech golf balls, oversize drivers, or a laser range-finder. That money would be better spent investing in lessons and working on your game.

"You have to start by learning how to play," Ward says. "I wouldn't be too concerned with all the gizmos and gadgets. I'd rather go out to the course, hit some balls and just learn how to play the game and become more proficient."

It’s a great stress-reliever
Golf offers a way to escape day-to-day stress for a few hours. If you don’t start taking your game too seriously, that is. Unfortunately, some golfers never get the memo. That’s why they wrap golf clubs around trees after missing a putt. Even if you send a whole pack of balls into the water on the front nine, relax and enjoy the rest of the game, advises Ward. It’s supposed to be fun. And much better golfers than you have faced humiliation for missed shots and blown games, as well as other transgressions.

“The last thing you need to do is put more stress on yourself when you're away from other stresses that we tend to face throughout the day,” Ward adds. “Remember, we're not on the PGA tour, we're not playing for a million dollars, it's not the end of the world. If you hit a bad shot, just let it go and think about what we can do with the next shot.”

If you slice that one into the pond, though, feel free to wrap your club around a tree.

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