A Beginner’s Guide to Playing Golf
Golf is more than a sport — it’s one of the most popular pastimes in the United States. With 25.6 million people playing in 2022 and new golfers joining every year, now is an excellent time to start. Whether you want to enjoy a good golf game and network with your colleagues or get competitive, taking up golf is a perfect chance to learn a new skill.
Learning how to play golf opens up a new world of charity tournaments, golf days, and addictive outdoor activity. You have to start somewhere, and a guide on how to golf for beginners is as good a place as any. Knowing some golf basics will give you an advantage when you have your first lesson or take to the course for the first time.
The Basics of Playing Golf
Before you step out onto a driving range or golf course, having a picture in your mind of what you want to achieve is helpful. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel when learning. The basics of golf for beginners include the following:
Your Swing and Grip
Setting up to hit a golf ball is as important as the shot. There are three simple things to remember for a good setup, known as GAP — grip, aim and posture:
- Grip: Your grip connects you to your club, and a weak grip can result in poor control of your shots. Run your club from the middle joint of your index finger to the flesh at the heel of your hand, then wrap your fingers around the club and hold that grip. Wrap your right hand over your left so that your left thumb is beneath the palm of your right hand. Move your right index finger down a little, and you have the beginnings of an excellent golf grip.
- Aim: Many new golfers need help hitting the ball in the right direction. If you imagine standing on a railway track, your golf ball and your club’s head are on the right-hand track, aligned with your target, with your feet and shoulders on the left.
- Posture: Maintaining good posture is essential to master the elements above. Hold your club in front of your belly button with straight arms and legs, and stand tall. Tilt forward from your hips, keeping your lower back flat. Lower your club to the ground behind the ball and bend your knees slightly.
Basic Shots to Know
Golf is a nuanced sport, which is part of its appeal. You’ll always be learning, but certain fundamental shots are essential to any game. You should be able to hit a driver off the tee, an iron off the ground, get out of a bunker and putt. Some basic shots to try and master include the following:
- Chip: A short shot to the green that stays low and runs along the ground.
- Pitch: Another short shot to the green that flies higher and rolls less, carrying the ball over an obstacle.
- Drive: A shot off the tee, aiming the ball high and covering a considerable distance.
- Greenside bunker: A shot swinging the club head into the sand behind the ball so the sand pushes it out of a bunker.
- Putt: An accurate shot played on the green precisely to move the ball into the cup.
In the beginning, practice short chip shots, as a chip is like a full swing, just smaller. A chip is a slow shot, giving you time to focus and get into a rhythm. If you run into challenges while learning, keep returning to chipping.
When you’ve mastered the basics and get to the point where you’re meeting friends or colleagues for a game, knowing all the unwritten rules of the course can be daunting. The more you play, the more you’ll learn, but some of the fundamentals of golf etiquette include the following:
- Keep up with the other players: Nobody expects you to rush your game, but try not to take too much time. Be ready to take one or two practice swings and then take your shot.
- Wait your turn: Knowing when it’s your turn to play is essential. Generally, the person with the lowest score from the previous hole goes first. From there, the person furthest away from the hole hits the next.
- Warn other players of stray balls: As a beginner, the chances are you’ll have a few stray balls. Shout “fore” if you hit a wayward shot so other players know to watch out.
- Know where to be: Don’t walk through another player’s line — the line from their ball to the hole and stand behind and slightly to the side of any player taking a shot.
- Respect your fellow players: Playing golf can be frustrating at times. Keep your cool, and don’t talk during another player’s backswing.
Golf Tips for Beginners
Mastering golf is a learning curve, and you’ll gather plenty of helpful information on your way. Keep the following tips in mind when you play to boost your success:
- Try and hit the sweet spot: Try and hit each shot out of the center of your golf club. How far your ball travels when you hit that sweet spot will surprise you. Get into a smooth rhythm and focus on finding the center of the club every time.
- Work on a balanced finish: Try and hold your finish until your golf ball lands, so you stay balanced through impact and hit the ball with the center of your club.
- Start small: Start on a par three course and build up from there, giving yourself time to get accustomed to the game before taking on a challenging course.
- Get in shape: The more you tune your body for the sport, the better it will perform. Think strong hips, hamstrings and core. Walk whenever you can instead of relying on a golf cart, stretch and stay hydrated.
- Spend time at the driving range: The driving range is the perfect place to practice your grip, aim and posture and master your tempo.
- Take lessons as soon as possible: The best way to learn is with the help of a professional who can familiarize you with the rules of the game and provide feedback on how to better the basics.
- Enjoy every game: Remember to enjoy yourself on the course or the driving range. Golf is supposed to be fun!
What Do You Need to Start Playing Golf?
You’ll want the right equipment when you start your golf journey, but there’s no need to go out and buy all the clubs and equipment you can handle. Start with the basics — a driver, mid-irons, a pitching wedge and a putter. Inquire which clubs are best suited to beginners at the sports shop and ensure they are the right size for you. You also want to have plenty of balls available.
Since you’ll be on your feet often, you also need comfortable shoes. Trainers are ideal initially, but if you plan on playing often, invest in a good pair of golf shoes. Other beginner equipment you may need includes the following:
- A golf bag
- A divot tool for repairing divots on the green as you play
- A golfing towel
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