Golf is a game enjoyed by people across all demographics, from heads of large corporations to heads of state.
Like any sport, the most difficult part of learning how to golf is just getting started. It’s a complex game and highly competitive, even when that competition is good-natured. On the field of play, everything is working against you: the terrain, physics, and the very weather are all obstacles to overcome. One bad round can sour you on the game for a long time, but no one was born good at this game. That’s why we’ve assembled our list of the ten best golf tips for beginners.
Sadly, you will not be the next Tiger Woods or Arnold Palmer once you finish this article, but you will know how to start your journey towards becoming a golfer. These golf tips for beginners are meant to show you that while it’s not going to be easy, perfecting your golf game is something you can do. It won’t happen overnight, nor will it be without frustration. But that is the joy of learning and mastering a sport! You just have to want it. With your fair share of effort and these golf tips for beginners, you’ll be well on your way to hitting the links with the best of them.
A Bit About Golf
Before you get out on the green, there are a few things to know about golf. We've broken down a brief history and other aspects regarding the sport to give you a working knowledge of the sport before taking your first swing.
The History of Golf
There is an awesome thing that happens with humans when they get creative: they independently come to the same ideas. For example, in mythology, many cultures told very similar stories without ever having crossed paths. Golf is like this, too. While the modern game as it is played today can trace its origins to Scotland, similar games date back even further. The Romans played a game with a bent stick and a ball. The Ming Dynasty played a game where a similar club was used to sink a ball into a hole. Similar games appear in Dutch, Persian, and many other cultures.
Still, it was the Scottish version of the game that grew in popularity during the late 18th and 19th centuries. It came to America by 1739 (at the latest) when a man named William Wallace received a shipment of golf equipment in South Carolina. By the late 1880s many golf clubs that still exist today were founded. Outside of Scotland, golf became a game of privilege. Clubs discriminated against women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people in lower economic brackets. However, in the last two decades of the 20th century, the game opened to everyone.
Why Play Golf?
Despite it being played throughout millennia, some people today still debate whether or not golf is really a “sport.” The players don’t run or jump or tackle each other (though, what a golf game that would be!). However, golf is a game of strength, endurance, and skill. There’s no question about the athleticism required to play the game. Players have to do a lot of standing and walking, even if they have carts. Swinging the club requires arm and core strength. Those who are truly good at the game have also practiced it repeatedly to learn the sort of finesse they need.
Of course, it’s not like running a triathlon or playing full-contact football. It’s a low-impact sport that is as relaxing as it is invigorating. You can play at a slower pace, enjoy the company of those you’re playing with, and still feel the thrill of competition. Golf courses are often beautiful, quiet places that are a great way to unplug from the world for a few hours. Perhaps the most important of the golf tips for beginners we’re going to discuss is this one: it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re doing it wrong.
How Do You Play Golf?
Just in case you’ve never even heard of golf before, let’s go over the basics of the game. There are 34 rules in modern golf, detailed in a lengthy book. However, for the most part, people aren’t sticklers. There are some that are hard-and-fast rules. The first, of course, is that you have to use your golf club to direct the golf ball into the hole. The person who does this in the least amount of strokes wins the hole.
Each hole is given a maximum number of strokes, usually three through five, depending on the distance from the teeing ground to the hole. The goal is get the ball to land on the smooth grass of the fairway and from there to the putting green. There are obstacles, such as lakes or stream or sand traps, and if your ball ends up in one you have to add a “penalty stroke” to your total for the hole. Of course, the hole-in-one is always a possibility, but usually only on short, par-three holes. Watch this video below for a detailed explanation of game play and the rules.
The Best Golf Tips for Beginners
Below you will find our best golf tips for beginners, a collection of suggestions that will help you on your way to becoming a golfer. While reading up on the subject is crucial, when it comes to activities there is no substitute for doing. The only way you will ever get good at the game is to get out there and start clubbing balls into the air. But before you do that, here’s what you need to know.
1. Read up.
There is no substitute for getting out there and actually giving the sport an honest go, but you need to do your homework first. There are dozens of books out there written by golfers that talk about the game and their lives. Browse through the best titles and choose the titles you think best match your interests. And we’re not just talking about guides, tutorials, and how-to’s, but also histories of the game and biographies of its best players. You can learn a lot about the sport by learning about the lives of the greats who played it. At the very least, reading up on the sport will give you familiarity enough with the terms and the rules so that you can keep up when you finally hit the links.
2. Try Out the Gear
After you’ve read up on the sport, its terms, and what’s involved with it, it’s time to get your hands dirty. No, you won’t be out there on the fairways and putting greens just yet, but rather in pro shops or sports complexes learning which sort of gear works for you. Now, if you are like some folks who want to be all-in on a new hobby from the beginning, you might think you should purchase your own clubs and other accessories for the game. This is a big step, and probably something you shouldn’t do until you have experience with it. Grab what you need so you can practice your swing and stance at home. Before you can play with this gear, you have to learn how to use it. For that, you will need an expert.
3. Take a Lesson
Having done a little research on your own first, the next step is to talk to someone with experience. The best place to land a lesson is with the professional golfer at your local country club. Most clubs employ at least one for just this purpose. Of course, there are also instructors you can go to outside of the clubs, a quick internet search away. If you’re not really in the mood to learn from a stranger, or are only learning the sport to play with your pals, then maybe let them teach you. Of course, this is risky because you could pick up their bad habits without knowing. Either way, this allows you to get some experience behind the clubs without committing to a full day of golfing.
4. Hit the Driving Range
There are many skills you need to make it on the golf course, but driving is perhaps the most essential. A bad drive can set your game back, and even make the experience so unpleasant that you toss your clubs in the nearest water hazard and swear off the game for good. The driving range will help with that. However, unlike in movies and on TV, you don’t just go to the range and start plowing balls off into the wild blue yonder. Have a routine in place (usually developed with the help of the expert you consulted in the previous step). This way you will be working on improving your game in ways that will show tangible results.
5. Perfect Your Stance
The key to a great swing is a great stance, with good posture and a solid grip on the club. This will allow you to control your swing better, providing power or finesse as you need it. While the specifics of these things vary from golfer to golfer, there are some constants. First, you need to strike a wide stance with the ball positioned right at the middle. Use your hips to tilt your body, rather than bending at the waist. Then position your hands in the proper way (as shown in the video below). In fact, experts recommend simply practicing the grip in the beginning. Hold the club properly for 30 seconds at a stretch, and soon the proper grip and stance will be second nature.
6. Perfect Your Swing
Once your grip, posture, and stance is where it needs to be, it is now time to focus on your swing. Like throwing a baseball or flinging a discus, you want your swing to be a full-body motion. Starting from your feet, twisting with your hips, and funneling that energy and momentum into your swing is essential. Once you get the motion down, you might even find that you’re surprised by the power you are able to put behind your swing. You might even consider doing some cross-training, focusing on your core muscles, to improve your swing. Even though it’s not as active as other sports, fitness is crucial to good golfing.
7. Learn Your Clubs
In theory, you only really need four clubs to play a game of golf: a driver, an iron, a wedge, and a putter. However, a good golf bag comes packed with more than that, and they all serve different purposes that you need to be aware of. For example, when looking for a wedge for beginners, choose one with a lot of loft. This slanting of the club face gives the ball more lift, allowing the club to do most of the work of getting you out of the sand or the rough. Your irons are your surgical instruments, balancing both power and precision. Knowing the right clubs for the right situations will come with time and practice, but it’s never too early to start learning.
8. Start Small
Just like you wouldn’t run a marathon if you’ve never even gone for a jog, you don’t want to jump right into playing a PGA 18-hole course if you’re a beginner. Along with the driving range, find some par-three courses (sometimes called “executive courses”), which are short-distance holes that make for great first-time golf outings. Think of the par-three as the “medium” mode on a video game: it’s not so easy you can’t fail, but it’s not so difficult that you have to be an expert. If there are none of these courses nearby, then go late in the day to a regular course, playing just a few holes. Essentially, play until you feel more frustrated than determined, and then hit the club for some drinks and food. As you get more practice, soon you’ll be playing nine-hole rounds and eventually a full 18 holes.
9. Learn the Green
Where your ball starts out has as much to do with how successful your turn will be as what you do to it. Knowing when to focus on chipping versus pitching, knowing techniques to get out of a sand trap, or simply how best to approach a putt, all comes from “reading the green.” Your instructors, your caddies, and your friends will all have suggestions about how to do this, but it all comes down to experience. All the preparation you did before this to get here will help inform your decisions, and soon you feel like a sage on the links. If you are playing on an unfamiliar course, read accounts from other golfers who’ve played there. Finally, when in doubt, go with your gut. Sport is as much about heart as it is about technique and skill. All that matter is that you have fun with whichever approach you choose.
10. Be a “Team” Player
The last of our golf tips for beginners is less a tip about the game and more a tip about how to be a good sport. Unless you are making the most of your luxury lifestyle and have installed a private golf course on the grounds of your private villa, you are going to be playing with others. Be polite to other players, mostly by not being disruptive and rushing them. Similarly, don’t take too long on your holes, as others will likely be waiting behind you to continue their game. Know the safe places to stand, and remember to yell “Fore!” if you even think your ball might be headed towards others. Finally, remember to care for the course. Rake the stand traps, replace your divots, and put the flagpins back in the holes after your done. No one will really care if you’re terrible at the game, but if you’re a terrible person to golf with, you won’t get to do it very much.
Bonus Best Golf Tips for Beginners: Get the Gear You Need
Until you are really serious about golfing, chances are you don’t need your own equipment. You can rent, buy used, or borrow what you need in the beginning. However, if you’re into it, the best thing you can do for your golf game is get the right gear. Here are some suggestions.
1. Nike Dry Victory Stripe Polo
If you’re going to hit the links, you will want to look the part and be comfortable at the same time. You will want a shirt that has soft, lightweight fabric. This particular offering from Nike comes with their Dri-Fit design which is meant to wick sweat away and keep you cool and comfortable. The ribbed collar won’t curl on you, and the three-button placket allows to adjust the fit as you like. This shirt comes in a multitude of colors, most of them bright in order to help reflect the sun’s rays on those hot days.
2. Royal & Awesome Birdie Breeks Shorts
When golfing, khaki pants will often be suitable for your round. However, we know our readers have an eye for fashion, and the golf course is as good a place as any to show it off. And while lots of folks have flashy golf shirts, flashy golf pants aren’t as common. Find comfortable clothes with great prints, big colors, and nice designs. For example, these twice-pink shorts from Royal & Awesome adorned with darling little flamingos. There are more than two dozen different prints for this style of shorts alone. The shorts even come with a pitch mark repairer that also does double duty as a bottle opener.
3. Wilson’s Ultra Complete Package Set
Some golfers like to assemble their golf bag piece by piece, only settling for the most perfect clubs. However, if you don’t already own your own clubs jump in with both feet. You can find full sets of great starter clubs for a few hundred dollars. In this Wilson set, the irons feature a large sweet spot and the driver’s low center of gravity helps glean extra distance out of your drives. The bag is lightweight, and it comes complete with a self-activating stand. You can still assemble a bag of specialty clubs, but this set is great foundation to build from.
4. SKLZ Impact Golf Balls
When you’re out on the course, you’ll want to use the best balls you can get. However, you don’t want to use regulation balls when you’re just starting out. Instead, get a good set of training balls, like these from SKLZ. These balls are regulation size but made of a dent-resistant plastic. They are designed to have a “limited flight” so you can train in small spaces, like your backyard. The best part is that these balls are really cheap, so you can have as many as you need to perfect your game before hitting the course for real.
5. Stixx Biodegradable Golf Tees
Everyone needs tees, but the little buggers get lost or go flying off into the grass almost constantly. So, it’s important that the tees you get be made from products that won’t hurt the environment should they get lost or left. Wooden or bamboo tees are best, like these made by the Stixx brand. This particular package comes with regular-sized tees and longer tees for use with oversized drivers. Luckily, these are not expensive at all. You can get this package of 100 of them for about ten bucks. These are always good to have in your golf bag, so keep them in supply.
6. Whetstone All-in-One Golfer Multi-Tool
This stainless steel tool likes like a pocket knife, and it works in much the same way. Although instead of blades, files, and that weird plastic toothpick, this comes equipped with things modern golfers need. This thing has it all. It has a club cleaner, a ball cleaning brush, and a divot repairer. It also comes with a tool that can tighten your cleats, if you choose to wear those. For beginners, however, regular sneakers will serve you just fine. It also chas a removable pen for recording strokes and a magnetic ball marker for the putting green. It also features a tiny blade, so we guess it is, technically, a pocket knife.
7. Ajillis 3-in-1 Golf Practice Set
Unless a key attraction about golf is getting away from the house, you might find yourself struggling to find the time to put in the practice you need to. For less than a hundred bucks, you can outfit your backyard with a practice net. Resembling a soccer goal, you can practice driving and chipping from the comfort of your own home. Even though the materials on this Ajillis set are weather-resistant, you can also set these up inside if you have the space. Though, you’ll still have to be careful of the windows and knick-knacks. It’s relatively easy to set up and break down, should you need the space in your backyard to entertain or just to keep the kids from climbing on the thing.
8. Nikon CoolShot Rangefinder
While not a necessity, a rangefinder can be a wonderful tool for the beginning golfer. Essentially, these devices help golfers accurately measure distances to both plan and grade their shots. Nikon may be best known for their cameras, but their rangefinder offers two modes. The first is the actual distance from where you are to the point of interest. The second is for judging slopes, which figures distance plus height. Though the slope function is not allowed in tournament play per USGA rules. Still, as tool to help you learn, a rangefinder can take guesswork out of it. As you develop your skills, you may find yourself referring to this less and less. But when starting out, use every advantage you can.
9. GiftTree Leather-Bound Golf Log
As a beginner, you will want to track your progress as you improve your games. Why not do that in style, with this leather-bound journal that allows you track 48 games. The soft leather cover can even be monogrammed with 15 characters. Along with the game scorecards, you can track weather and there’s a yardage journal. Once the pages are filled in, you can even store your score cards in the cover, sealing it with the leather straps. This leather-bound journal is so cool, you won’t even feel bad if you record some bad games in it. It will be a great-looking record of your journey towards becoming a golfer.
10. Golf Glove
From sinister movie character to baseball players to Michael Jackson, there has always been something very cool about wearing a single glove. When it comes to golfers, however, its about more than just style. A golfing glove will help keep you from developing callouses. These gloves are not very expensive, but you want to make sure you get the best one for your hand. The Callaway Opticolor Leather Glove pictured above is a good first glove, though some folks complain that the blue and red colors bleed onto your skin when you sweat. Still, this is an essential part of a golfer’s wardrobe for both style and function.
Golf is a great game for casual and committed players, and something everyone should try at least once.
The best thing about the game of golf is that even though it was once very restrictive, today it’s a game anyone can enjoy. The only real barrier to entry for this sport is simply learning how to do it and getting access to the gear you need. Hopefully, our list of the best golf tips for beginners has given you a roadmap to follow. Whether you want to become a master golfer or just get good enough to play with friends and colleagues, you can do it by following this easy advice.
Still it’s important to remember that the main reason to play golf or any game is to have fun with it. Golf can be an enjoyable, relaxing game if you let it, especially once you’ve gotten the hang of it.
What do you think? Did we miss anything? Share your thoughts, feelings, and reactions in the comments below. Remember to share the article online so your friends can get in on the conversation.
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