Tips so you can talk the talk. A few tidbits, some insider information, advice from pros, and stuff you probably never thought of

How Courses Book Their Days If you want to book a shotgun, most courses will ask you to start early in the morning, or between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. This way, they can still get other players out in the afternoon or morning. However, if starting at 11 a.m. is a must for you to meet a time constraint, you can negotiate with the golf course to "buy" this time.

Most courses will offer a shotgun start only if you have at least 72 players. But you'll only get the course to yourselves with 120 to 144 players. Note, however, that 144 players on a course is too slow and you seldom end up with exactly 144. If a course tries to get you to commit to 144 players, don't! Ask if you can have the course with a minimum of 120.

--Tony Ciabattoni, Fairways Corporate Golf, Pittsburgh, Pa. (412) 341-GOLF

Teeing Off in Europe Most golf clubs in Europe are private; if they have accreditation, they do allow outside guests. But never assume: Book tee times in advance and through an agency. Some private clubs have dress codes, on and off the course. Make sure you inform your attendees. "Buggies" (golf carts) are less common in Europe; guests should be prepared to carry their clubs or to use pull carts. Attendees also should be prepared to show their USGA handicap cards.

--Bob Turell, Custom Golf Vacations, Scottsdale, Ariz., (480) 596-6760

VIP Foursomes If you're using a shotgun start, the VIP group should start on hole number one. With straight consecutive tee times, the VIP group should start first. Don't allow the course to send out a beginning group in front of the VIPs.

--Charlie Kent, director of golf, Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, San Antonio

Let There Be Light Be aware of sunrise and sunset times. You want at least half an hour of sunlight before starting a morning shotgun, and at least five hours before sunset to complete an afternoon shotgun. How to find out? Go to http://aa.usno.navy.mil/AA/data/docs/RS_OneYear.html and get a year's worth of sunrise and sunset times for the city of your choice.

--Tony Ciabattoni, Fairways Corporate Golf, Pittsburgh, Pa. (412) 341-GOLF

Best Ball Doesn't Mean Scramble What's the tournament format where everyone drives a ball off the tee and then the whole foursome hits second shots from where the best drive landed, and so on? Sounds like best ball, right? Wrong. It's a scramble. And it's the format to choose if you want to boost camaraderie and make beginners comfortable.