Golf guide for Beginners – Everything You Need to Know About Golf

Golfer hitting golf shot with club on course while on summer vacation

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

Rules of golf on green grass with golf ball

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.

Golf etiquette

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:

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    Do not walk through people’s lines (a line between a one’s ball and the hole)
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    Do not talk while someone is doing a backswing
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    Always show up on time for a match
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    Do not get angry after a bad shot

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.

Golf clubs

Golf club in bag on grass

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.

Golf balls

Golf Balls. A full bucket of golfballs

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 Bag

Best Golf Bags

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:

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    Staff bags – these are considered to be top-notch golf bags. They are big, heavy, and are usually used by professionals, who have a caddy to carry it around for them.
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    Cart bags – lighter and smaller than staff bags, cart bags are meant to be carried on a golf cart. All of their compartments can be easily accessed without removing them from the cart.
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    Stand bags – these bags have retractable legs which help the bag stand upright on its own. They can be carried on one’s back or strapped onto a cart. A good choice for those who want to walk.
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    Carry bags – these are the lightest golf bags available, and they are intended for players who like to walk the course. These bags contain plenty of pockets for things like balls, tees, and beverages.
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    Golf travel bags – the purpose of these bags is to protect your clubs when traveling, so they are not made to be brought to the course.

Golf accessories

Golf equipment on wood floor preparing for good game

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.

Apparel

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    Hats – the hats that people use when on the course range from standard baseball caps to old-school flat caps. Visors are also not uncommon. The conclusion is that there isn’t one specific type of hat for the game, but rather the players choose the best golf hat for them. A good piece of advice would be to pick a hat that’s appropriate for the given season (summer, winter, etc.)
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    Shoes – similar to the hats, the type of shoes that golfers wear are usually a matter of personal preference. Many players use sneakers, some use moccasins or sandals, while others choose shoes specifically made for golf. The latter is designed to help one keep his/her balance while playing, but they are not at all necessary. You can find out more about this topic here.
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    Sunglasses – this accessory is quite important especially when playing during sunny, summer days. The difference between ‘normal’ sunglasses and golf sunglasses is that the former have lenses which are cut differently. They are designed so that the player always has a clear and sharp view all while having their eyes protected from the rays.
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    Gloves – golf gloves provide players with a better grip as well as protection for their hands. Golfers wear only one glove, and they do so on the hand which grips the club. The main factors that you need to consider before buying are the size and the hand (left/right) that holds the club.

On-course accessories

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    Divot tool – these small tools are used to repair pitch marks, which refers to the indents that the ball makes on the surface when hitting the ground. They have a small grip for holding and two prongs used to penetrate the ground.
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    Ball marker – this accessory is commonly used in instances when two balls end up very close to each other on the course, so one needs to be removed to let the other player take the shot. The marker is placed in the spot of the removed ball so that it can be put back in the same place later. They basically look like small metal coins.
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    Golf club cleaner – the club cleaner is a brush or a set of brushes used to clean the club heads before or after a game. They come in different styles and designs, and are usually paired with a detergent.
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    Golf ball retriever – retrievers, are long, telescopic poles with a small cup at the end, used for reaching (retrieving) balls which fell into ponds, sand, or other hard-to-reach places on the course. They are a big money-saver, as golf balls are usually not very cheap.

Gadgets

Golf GPS device - technology has come a long way and owning a golf GPS device (also known as golf rangefinders) 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.

Golf Tournaments

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.

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    The Masters – begins on the first week of April and it takes place in the Augusta National Golf Club.
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    The US Open – it is held in June, and the location varies between different golf courses in the United States
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    The Barclays – held in June and is played at golf courses somewhere around New York
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    The Travelers – begins in late June and the location is TPC River Highlands
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    The Open – also known as ‘the British Open,’ it takes place on various courses around the UK and starts in the middle of July
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    PGA Championship – begins around the middle of August on the East coast of the United States
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    The Ryder Cup – the most important tournament of the year, and it takes place in the US and Europe

Golf Courses

Golf player walking and carrying bag on course during summer game golfing

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

Hand putting golf ball on tee in golf course

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!

FAQs

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