Beginner's Guide to Golf
Golf may seem like a complicated game – it has its lingo and etiquette and has a lot of different equipment. What are the rules? What do you wear? Where do you practice? You may have a ton of questions, but this guide will break it down.
Walking into the golf section of your nearby sports store may seem overwhelming with rows and rows of clubs. Truth is, when you’re starting, you only need a few key clubs. Once you develop your skills you can add on to your golf bag. Some key clubs to start with are a driver, putter, sand wedge. From there, you can add on a 6-iron, 8-iron, pitching wedge, and a fairway wood or hybrid. Some stores sell starter sets, or you can take a look at discounted or used clubs to help get started without breaking the bank.
Beyond the actual clubs, you’ll also need to invest in some golf balls. In the beginning, you’re probably going to lose a lot of balls out on the course, so don’t splurge on the most expensive sleeves of balls.
Learning the Game
Golf is a really difficult game to just pick up on your own. In the beginning, you may benefit from taking a few lessons. This way, you can learn from a professional and not develop bad habits that may hinder you down the road. These professionals specialize in teaching others how to play, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed or nervous. They are happy to dish out tips and teach you a few tricks that can help break down how to properly swing. Learning even a few fundamentals will make a huge difference to alleviate some frustration out on the golf course.
Take time to hit the driving range to practice. The driving range is the perfect place to work on what you’ve learned during your lesson while also going at your own pace. You may be tempted to try and hit the ball as far as you can, but starting with learning the fundamentals will help in the long run. Beyond the driving range, it’s also important to practice your short game as well. Spend time with your wedges or putter.
There are a few fundamental shots you’ll want in your arsenal. You’ll start each hole hitting a tee shot. The length of the hole ultimately determines which club you’ll use to tee off, but in the beginning, you may just use the same club until you get more comfortable.
After your tee shot, you’ll hit a series of approach shots depending on where your tee shot lands. You could be in the fairway or the rough, each of these may require a different club. If you’re close to the green you may opt to hit a chip or a pitch. A chip shot runs low along the ground, perfect when you’re trying to cover a lot of ground without having to worry about an obstacle. A pitch flies up further in the air and doesn’t roll as much, so you may find this helpful when trying to avoid a bunker.
When you finally reach the green, you’ll have to putt. A great way to work on your putting is either on the practice putting green, or by playing a round of miniature golf. The club may not be as sophisticated as your golf club, but it’s a great opportunity to work on your routine and technique.
The golf rule book is nearly 200 pages long. No, you don’t need to know every single rule to go out and play but knowing a few key rules will help you out.
Don’t Move Your Ball
One of the most fundamental rules is to not move your ball. The only time you can move your ball is when you’re on the putting green; you can place a ball marker, something as simple as a coin, on the ground and pick up your ball. Otherwise, you must play your ball as it lies unless an obstruction interferes with it; like if your ball lands right in front of a sprinkler, for example.
Play Your Own Ball
Play your own ball throughout the round. You may come across other balls while out on the course, but it’s important to not pick them up. Another golfer may have hit a stray ball and will be on the lookout for their ball. If that ends up being you and your ball finds its way onto another hole, you should play it as it lies as long as it’s not out of bounds. Out of bounds are designated by white stakes or lines on the ground. Just be sure you aren’t interfering with the players on the other hole. Let them play through unless they give you permission to hit your shot.
Searching for Your Ball
If you can’t find your ball, be mindful of how much time you’re taking to look for it. You can enlist your playing partners’ help in finding your ball. A good rule of thumb is if you have not found your ball after five minutes of searching, you take a one-stroke penalty and play another shot from as close as possible to the spot you last played from. To help you when searching, mark your golf ball before your round. You can use a sharpie and either write your initials or draw a dot or symbol that’s easily identifiable to you. You’re likely going to encounter other balls, so this is an easy way to identify your ball.
It’s easy to feel intimidated when it comes to golf etiquette, but it’s something you’ll become more familiar with the more you play. Still, there are a few fundamentals that are worth noting.
Play ready golf. This doesn’t mean rushing your shot but you also shouldn’t take multiple practice swings for every shot. Pace of play around a golf course is very important to golfers, so maintaining at least a half a hole gap between your group and the one in front and behind you is a good rule of thumb.
Honor is very important when determining who plays when. Typically, the person with the best score on the previous hole will tee off first. From there, the player furthest from the tee, or “away”, will hit next. So on and so forth until you hole out on the green. Communication is key when playing with others, so you know who is getting ready to hit their shot.
Keep an eye on your shot. Even the most seasoned golfer will have a shot get away from them from time to time. If a shot of yours has the possibility of hitting another person on the course, it is your responsibility to alert them. Yelling “Fore!” is completely acceptable if you are warning other golfers of a ball in their vicinity; the key here is to yell right away so you give the golfers time to move away.
Take Care of the Golf Course
Golf courses are beautiful, and it is up to players to help keep it that way. If you are renting a golf cart for your round, be mindful of all signage and cart paths. Never drive your golf cart up on the putting green. When hitting your shot, if you take a chunk of turf out with your shot, known as a divot, you should fix it. This varies by golf course - you may just need to replace the divot by carefully placing the piece that came out back into the spot or you may need to fill the hole with sand. If you’re unsure what a particular golf course requires, ask before heading out on your round.
Be sure to rake the bunker if you hit a shot into the sand. When your approach shot hits the green, you will also likely leave a mark on the green. You’ll need to fix this. Your playing partners or golf course staff can easily show you how to do this so you don’t further damage the green. The key will all of these is to try and keep the course as beautiful as you found it for the next golfer.
What to Wear
Knowing what to wear on the golf course goes beyond simply making a fashion statement. Oftentimes, clubs have a dress code of some sort that they enforce. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to either call ahead or check a club’s website to know what the expectations are.
A good staple of any golfer’s closet is a collared shirt. Oftentimes, clubs will prohibit t-shirts or spaghetti strap tops, so a collared shirt is a safe bet. Depending on where you live or are playing you may want to consider a shirt made with moisture-wicking material; this will help keep you dry on those hot days.
The types of bottoms you can wear depending on the club. Jeans, yoga pants, cargo pants or sweatpants, are not typically allowed, instead, opt for a khaki or technical material. Similar to your top, you’ll want this material to also be breathable and comfortable. Shorts, skirts, pants, or dresses are great options to consider.
Dress for the Weather
Bring your accessories and dress for the weather. If you’re heading out for a round of golf on a sunny day, you’ll want some type of headwear and sunglasses. When it comes to sunglasses, be sure the lenses block UVA and UVB rays and the sunglasses wrap around your eyes to over complete coverage. If it looks like you’re heading out on a rainy day, pack a rain jacket and a dry towel.
You may be tempted to go out and buy golf shoes, however, sneakers are just as acceptable for beginners. You will want to stay as level with the ground as possible, so running shoes may not be the best option since they tend to have too much cushion under the heel of your foot.
In addition to all your attire, it’s also important to pack some sunblock. Whenever spending ample amounts of time in the sun, it is vital to apply sunblock with an SPF of at least 30. Spray sunblock’s make for easy reapplication.