Is your New Year’s resolution to take up golf? Here are 18 things to know before you do.

Deciding to take up golf is a lot like deciding to bring a child into this world. It’s a serious undertaking that will result in many sleepless nights, a depleted bank account, and years of therapy. Don’t get me wrong—it’s the best decision you’ll ever make, and the pros far outweigh the cons, but there will still be moments when you end up scratching your head and mumbling to yourself, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” So without further adieu, here are the 18 things you should know before playing golf:

The Front 9

Golf will not save your marriage. 

Golf might start out as a great hobby that you and your significant other can enjoy together—something that gets you out of the house, away from your phones, laptops and social media, but inevitably one of you will become better than the other. One of you will likely even become obsessed. Soon, you’ll each develop your own “golf cliques.” Before long, you’ll be in couples’ therapy and then quickly realize the money you are spending on therapy could be spent on golf and send your spouse into a rage on their way to divorce filings. 

Do not invest in expensive clubs until you break 80.

Who wouldn’t wanna look like a rockstar duffer with $3000 custom forged Miura irons? But if you swing like Charles Barkley on quaaludes, and your score makes a pro bowler envious, you’re just wasting money, not to mention inviting a ton of behind-the-back ridicule. Besides, here’s a little secret… It ain’t the clubs, baby! So do yourself a favor and spend the extra money on lessons.

You will NEVER play enough golf to make a club membership worth it.

But who cares? Join one anyway! Even if you have to take out a second mortgage (never get a second job—that’ll cut into your golf time!) to avoid the initiation fee, there’s nothing like being on a first-name basis with the cart staff and having the bartender know your “usual” post-round intoxicant. Even better, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with saying to your friends or your boss: “See you at the club, Tommy…”

Prepare to watch a ton of YouTube videos.

YouTube has become the go-to destination for DIY and How-To explainer videos. Problem is, anyone can make them. YouTube doesn’t screen its video creators’ credentials for knowledge or expertise. So if you’re looking for legit tips on hitting a lob wedge, reading the break of a green, or getting out of a pot bunker, it’s a mixed bag of what you’ll find—and the visual tutorial you’ll receive. Ditto for club reviews, ball reviews, golf gadget reviews and the oh-so-important golf-specific divorce lawyer reviews. 

A round of golf does not make for a great alibi.

There are plenty of opportunities to sneak off a golf course in the middle of a round and do something—dare I say it—illegal, and then rejoin your group as if nothing ever happened. Problem is, the cops are hip to this ploy. And considering it makes the other members of your foursome accomplices to your little transgression—you just know Barry’s gonna sing like a canary the moment a detective leans on him—be creative and come up with another plan that doesn’t involve golf.

Be prepared to throw your fashion sense into the toilet.

Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the game of golf is not an invitation to start committing fashion felonies. And yet it seems that nearly every golfer on the links didn’t get the memo. Plaids and stripes? Polka dots and checks? Multicolor geometric patterns that resemble bad acid trips? C’mon people, you’re better than that. And even if you’re not, do yourself—and your playing partners—a favor and pretend that you are!

Learn the lingo.

Birdies are NOT those things you smack repeatedly when playing badminton. Bogeys are NOT enemy aircraft. Eagles are NOT… You get the picture! And keep in mind that you cannot tell a proper golf joke without knowing the sport’s basic verbiage.

Friends don’t let friends take Mulligans.

You don’t get do-overs in life, so why should you get ‘em on the golf course? Seriously, Mulligans are a sign of weakness—that you don’t have the skills or the creativity to recover from an errant shot. So put on your big pants on and take a penalty stroke or simply play it where it lies. But don’t ever wave the white flag and ask for a Mulligan. What’s next? A participation trophy from the scramble you lost? Jeez!

You do NOT need to rent a storage locker for extra clubs.

14 clubs, skippy. That’s the maximum allowed in your bag for a round according to the rules of golf sanctioned by the USGA (United States Golf Association) and the R & A (Royal & Ancient). So before you get it in your head that you need “different horses for different courses” and go hog wild on eBay buying clubs of every imaginable length, loft and flex that you absolutely do not need, try adhering to a simple principle that works for everything from gold chains around your neck to salt in your food: Less is more!

The Back 9

You can’t blame golf for missing important functions.

Dinner with your in-laws. The christening of your boss’s new yacht. Your best friend’s newborn son’s bris (Who doesn’t like a good circumcision?). Being late to any of those aforementioned events—or missing them altogether—because your round took longer than anticipated is a recipe for disaster. While there is a distant possibility that a fellow golf-obsessive will understand and give you a free pass, it’s far more likely that you’ll be sleeping on the couch, removed from the holiday cards and fruitcake list, and get passed over for a promotion. But, if you’re like us, and GOLF IS TRULY ALL THAT MATTERS, you won’t give two shits!

Fully accept that golf’s four major championships (Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, The Open Championship) should be viewed as national holidays.

That means you can rightfully skip work, sit in front of the television (or be a part of the gallery!), and watch every second of coverage you possibly can without being expected to do anything else. Anyone who doesn’t respect your wishes is, frankly, un-American and no friend of yours (and the golf community) and should be kicked to the curb post-haste.

Commit a list of golf-specific excuses to memory for when you hit a shitty shot.

Things like “It was a buried lie”. Or The clubhead caught a root. Someone yelled during my backswing. A bug flew in my ear is one of my favorites. Now that doesn’t mean you should claim a hardship every time your shot goes awry; pick and choose your moments. Otherwise, you’re just a whiner.

All your vacation spots must now be golf destinations.

That doesn’t mean you need to remove debauchery-filled trips to Amsterdam and Bangkok from your bucket list, but once you take up golf, those excursions will undoubtedly fall to the bottom of that list. But hey, don’t worry. You can always take time out from whatever other crazy activities you had in mind to tee it up, as Amsterdam and Bangkok have some terrific golf courses.

Prepare to engage in a slew of unwinnable debates.

Arnie vs. Jack. Tiger vs. Phil. Cast irons vs. forged irons. Blade vs. mallet. Innies vs. outies. Chicken vs. egg. Ribbed vs. smooth. The list goes on.

Embrace the fact that the pros you see on television are even better than you originally thought.

This means those shots they routinely make look easy are anything but, and your chances of pulling them off are slim to none. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t—remember, blind squirrels still find acorns every now and then, and a broken clock is still right twice a day. If nothing else, you’ll have a greater appreciation for the skill level of the household name Sticks you root for week in and week out.

Consider making a deal with the devil to qualify for the U.S. Open.

The beauty of any Open Championship is that they’re open to anyone—anyone who can qualify, that is. And unless you’ve got serious game, sad to say the Open is not in your future. But if you’re willing to commit your soul to Hell for all eternity, I’m sure ol’ Satan will give you the necessary tools to compete. We think it’s a small price to pay!

Learn how to gamble.

More specifically, learn how to gamble in a manner that jives with your specific golf game. For example, if breaking 100 is an alien concept but you’re long off the tee, press your playing partners to accept long drive wagers. Or if your game sets up better for specific holes, propose you play for Skins and hope there are some carry-overs involved when you reach your favorites. Regardless of your ability, tailor your betting action to your strengths and navigate around your weaknesses. Some of the best golf hustlers on the planet are Hacks!

Golf cart operators can be prosecuted for DUI.

Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t think you can pound down the adult beverages on your favorite links, get lights-out blotto, hop behind the wheel of an electric cart, smash into something and get off scot-free. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. DUI laws can be enforced on even the most private courses in the land. Plus, legalities aside, golf carts don’t have seatbelts. Smash into a tree and a shitty swing will be the least of your problems!