So you’ve decided to take up golf? Great decision! However, you soon realize that the sport involves a lot of rules and equipment that you’re meeting for the first time, and you feel overwhelmed. Do not worry as this is a common occurrence with almost all newcomers to this sport.
What you need right now is a simple, well-structured beginner’s guide to golf that is going to clarify all the uncertainties or dilemmas that you might have, and that’s just what I have in store for you. Today’s article is fit for a person who already has a few games under their belt as well as those who have never even held a golf club in their hands.
I have divided this piece into sections that talk about the essentials of the sport. Here, I will try to cover all the questions that newbies commonly have, such as: How many clubs do I need? How do I hold the club? What’s the proper golf clothing? How do I practice my skills? You get the point.
Now, all that’s left for you to do is to get to reading as soon as possible, because every moment you waste could be spent productively on the course.
Golf rules, etiquette & acronym
About the rules
The first and most important thing that you should to learn are the rules of the game. Because there are many, I will not get very specific in this article, but you can read all about them here, on the official USGA website.
Don’t be discouraged if it seems that the rules are too complicated to grasp at first reading, as you will be going over them with your friends and more experienced players on the course. Remember, the course is where the real learning happens.
Etiquette is a code of conduct which tells you how you should or should not behave in a given situation or place (a golf game/course, in this case). The golf etiquette has some written and unwritten rules, and it is considered to be basic knowledge of manners that someone entering the course should possess.
Here are a few examples:
The above are some tips that you might not learn at every golf school, but that are widely acknowledged and are standard practice, so it’s good to know them.
Where does the name “golf” come from?
In case you have ever been interested in this, you might have come across an explanation that says golf is an acronym for Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden. As hilarious as this might sound, it is unfortunately not true. The word ‘golf’ was an old Scottish word for ‘club,’ so that’s where the game got the name from.
The first time this word was officially mentioned was in 1457 in Edinburgh, when the king banned golf and football since people were neglecting archery practice because of those sports.
You’ve all seen golfers that carry around big bags full of clubs, and many of you have probably wondered how many types of clubs are there? There are five kinds of clubs used in modern golf: woods, irons, hybrids, wedges, and putters. Each type is built for a particular kind of shot, so, for example, woods are used for long shots while wedges are used for sand and greens.
Manufacturers of these products put together club sets which are commonly aimed at beginners. A set usually includes all of the before mentioned along with a bag, tees, and balls.
As for the number of clubs that a golfer is allowed to bring to a match, the maximum is fourteen pieces. However, you can bring only two or three if you like.
When it comes to beginners, it would not be such a good idea to go out and buy the best golf clubs you can find right away, as those tend to be quite pricey. It would be much wiser to get cheaper models at first because you will be wrecking and damaging them as you learn correct swinging and hitting techniques.
As your skills become more refined, you will require more sophisticated equipment.
Let’s talk about some basic information regarding golf balls. Contrary to some people’s opinions, not all golf balls are made equal, so there are different kinds of balls available. However, there are general rules which determine which ones can be used in a game.
For example, common features of all golf balls are their size and weight. According to USGA and R&A, a ball cannot be smaller than 1.680 inches or heavier than 1.620 ounces.
Balls may differ in the number of dimples (small indents) that they have on their surface. The number of dimples ranges from 300 to 500. Is this important? Well, yes and no. Experts would argue that balls with fewer dimples (e.g., 300) are more suitable for better golfers, while those with higher dimple counts should be the choice of beginners and low-skilled players.
The balls can also differ in material and construction. There are two main types of balls construction-wise: one piece and multi-layer. One piece balls are made from a single material, they are cheaper, and harder which means that cannot fly as well as multi-layered ones. Multi-layered balls can give you more distance, but they are preferable for intermediate players.If you are a beginner, go for one piece balls as they cost less and are more durable so you won’t destroy them very easily. If you are looking for the best golf ball on the market, you should consider all of the factors mentioned above and then make a choice.
Golf bags used to be just plain old bags made for carrying around clubs, but in recent years they have been turned into a science. Nowadays, there are several types of bags, and it’s easy to get confused when trying to figure out which one is the best for you.
To ease your troubles, I have comprised a list of golf bag categories along with their descriptions. Have a look below:
Golf accessories make up a small universe of their own, as there is an extensive number of gadgets, apparel, and all kinds of useful products available on the market. In order to avoid confusion, I have decided to break up these accessories into two main groups.
Golf GPS device - technology has come a long way and owning a golf GPS device can give you a serious advantage in the game. What this gadget does is tell you the exact distance from where you are standing to other parts of the golf course such as hazards, holes, etc. By knowing these distances, you’ll be able to choose the right club and swing speed for the shot.This product is usually made in the form of a watch, but it can also resemble a smartphone. In case you want a cheaper alternative to a GPS device, you can try some of the golf GPS smartphone apps. However, apps are much less precise than the actual devices.
Swing trainer analyzer - this convenient little gadget is becoming more and more popular in the world of golf. It attaches to your club or, in some cases, hand and captures data about your swings. You can then connect the gadget to your computer or smartphone and extract the data about the club speed, club plane, hand plane, and so on.
Some models will even render a 3D model of your swing, which is a nice addition.
Many hardcore golf fans love watching big golf tournaments, and if you find yourself in this position after some time, you’ll probably like to do it too. There are plenty of major tournaments taking place all throughout spring and summer. The season begins in April and ends in September, so now I’m going to introduce you to some of the biggest events of the year.
What’s interesting about golf is that (unlike many other sports) it doesn’t have a standardized playing surface. This means that golf courses can differ greatly, and the owners can do almost anything they want to their course.
However, each golf course has to have some or all of the essential elements – teeing ground, fairway, rough, hazards, and greens.
Teeing ground (a.k.a. tee box) is the area where the game begins. This is where the player places the tee and the ball and takes their first shot.
The putting green or simply ‘green’ is the ground surrounding the hole. This grass in this area is cut very, very short and the surface should be as even as possible to help players take precise shots.
Fairway and rough are the areas between the teeing ground and the putting green. The difference between the two is that the grass on the fairway is cut very short whereas the rough area grass is left a bit taller.
Hazards are places such as ponds, lakes, rivers, sand traps and bunkers.Golf course maintenance is done by trained professionals who follow strict standards to ensure that the quality of the course is always the same and on a high level. Take a look at some of the best courses in the world.
Tips for beginners
Some things in golf can only be learned by experience or as some would call it ‘the hard way,’ and I agree that there is no substitute for that. But, I also believe that researching and acquiring information about certain technical things can be of great help, for beginners and advanced players alike.
Now, I would like to present some of this information in forms of simple, actionable tips that beginners will find great value in. Take a look at the list below:
1. Learn the basic rules and etiquette
This tip is undoubtedly a good place to start if you are new to the game. It is common sense really because there is no way to play unless you know the rules. Sit down, read the rules, so when you get to the course you will have a good theoretical foundation, and it will be easier to follow your senior players.
As I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of rules, so you don’t have to know them all instantly, so try to catch the basics, like scoring and differences between clubs.
Another thing that’s almost as important is the etiquette, or proper behavior on the course. If know all your ‘golf manners’ right from the start chances are that experienced players will take a liking to you and you might make some new friends. You’ll also get a chance to learn from them, which is even more valuable.
2. Get your technique right
Try to learn good form from the very beginning as this will give you a solid base on which you can build your skills further. So where should you start? Well, from the very basics, such as learning the grip.
A swing starts with a good grip, so this would be the very first thing you need to get a hold of. It might take some adjustment, but just like any sport, golf too requires repetition and practice in order to learn it correctly. After you master this, you can move up to learning the swing and then other specific skills such as putting, chipping, iron play and so on.
Keep in mind that golf is a game that you can play for a lifetime, so be patient and practice with diligence. The chances are that it will bring you more joy than you’ve ever hoped for.
3. Choose the course that’s right for you
Pick an easy course, one that’s flat and doesn’t have too many hazards. Jumping into a challenging course straight away can be discouraging as it might take you hours to even get to the first green.
Also, on the teeing ground, go to the forward set of tees as it will give you a significant advantage (easy-mode, if you will). The shorter distance will make it more convenient for you to reach the green.
Lastly, you don’t have to play an 18-hole game. As a matter of fact, start as low as 3 holes. Once you are confident about that, and you can finish that game within a required time, move on up to more holes.
4. Use golf clubs for beginners
Same as the course, the clubs should also be chosen according to your skill level. Beginners should opt for clubs which will allow them to hit the ball more easily, or decrease the chance of a miss-shot if you will. Now the question remains, which clubs are good for newcomers?
My advice would be to look for hybrids rather than irons. The reason for this is that the hybrid club head was designed to make shots easier for inexperienced players. If you, for some reason, really want to play with an iron, then go for those with wider soles (the bottom of the club). A forgiving sole should measure the width of two fingers.
Another tip for you would be to try before you buy. Go to a golf equipment store, tell the clerk what you need and then try it out. Get the club which feels most appropriate.
5. Yell “Fore!” when necessary
You will probably be facing the need to yell out the word “fore” when starting out as a golfer, and you have to learn what it means and how to use it. This word basically translates to “watch out” and it is used when you suspect that your ball will end up in another player’s course.
So when should you shout this word?
Shout it when you think that there is even the slightest chance that your ball will hit someone. Be sure to really yell it out loud so that the players can hear you. This is a crucial point.
You can also yell “fore left” or “fore right” depending on the ball's trajectory. The more specific you are, the better, just make sure to do it if there is a need for it. Do not feel stupid to shout if it’s your first time, because you might end up seriously hurting someone!
What is a par?
A “par” is the number of strokes an expert player is expected to require in order to complete one hole on the course.
How long does a game of golf last?
A standard round of golf (18 holes) played by four golfers is expected to be finished within the time frame of four and a half hours.
How do I keep score?
Count the number of swings that you took until you put the ball in the hole. Do it for each hole, add up the numbers, and you will get your total score for that round.
What types of courses are there?
There are four types of courses:
Public courses – open to everyone who wants to play, commonly owned and maintained by the local government. Players usually have to pay a daily fee.
Resort courses – courses included within a resort.
Semi-private courses – courses which have private members but also accept non-members who wish to play.
Private courses – courses that allow only paying members to play.
Does every golf course have a dress code?
No. Some do, and some do not.
What is the price of golf lessons?
Prices go from 25-30$ per lesson on the low end, to 100-150$ per lesson on the high end.
Do I need a full set of clubs to start?
No. A full set is not necessary. Most beginners are advised to get a short set.
What is the price of golf clubs?
This depends on the type of club. The price for a new golf club goes from 120$ to 600$.
What is the meaning of the numbers on the golf balls?
The numbers are used for identification of the player.
Do I need to tip at the golf course?
This depends on the course. Some courses do not require tips, and some actually forbid them. Other courses, especially private ones are the places where tips are expected. Players often tip the valet, caddy, food and drink servers, etc.