9 Essential Tips For New Golfers

It's a four letter word that starts with a "G" and involves hitting a 1.68 inch (42.7 mm) diameter ball into a hole that's only 10.8 cm wide. Whether you aspire to play amongst the greats on the PGA TOUR like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, or just want to be able to shoot "bogey golf" with a par or birdie every so often, it's never too late to learn the basics of one of the most diabolical games ever invented: Golf.

Familiarizing yourself with the lingo, etiquette, type of gear to buy, plus the rules, all while trying to maintain focus to hit a tiny white ball in an unnatural swinging movement can be quite daunting for beginners.

We'll share with you a few tips to help improve your golf game, your lie, and maybe even help you stop cursing at yourself (as often), although no guarantees on that.

1. Start With Lessons

While there's no denying that YouTube has revolutionized the golf teaching category, and you might think that you can learn the game completely online, nothing beats a real life lesson with a golf pro.

Since golf is such a personalized sport, every golfer will develop their own unique swing. Therefore, when choosing someone to teach you, it's important to find one that will help you establish a swing that feels comfortable and natural. The more you force a bad swing habit, the greater the chance of injuring yourself. Back pain and golf are almost synonymous, and it's really hard to fix a damaged spine.

To find an instructor near you, we suggest using the PGA's "Find a Coach" feature on their website, or by simply picking a local municipal course that has good reviews and asking if they have a pro that gives lessons.

In some areas, there are now commercial businesses like GolfTEC, which use fancy machines and computers to help analyze your current swing while suggesting any improvements to apply.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $40-60 for a 45 minute lesson, so we suggest budgeting around $500-600 for 10 lessons, which should be a solid amount of time to learn the fundamentals.

If you find yourself unsatisfied with the golf teacher you chose, don't be afraid to break up with them. Even the pros do it, so make sure your personalities and goals match before committing more time and money.

2. Choose Your Golf Gear

Unlike sports such as basketball, football, or soccer, golf requires a lot more gear before you can start playing.

Golf Clubs

At the start of your golf journey, your very first set of clubs won't matter too much. Chances are you're not going to be extracting much value out of an expensive set of clubs since you won't be hitting them consistently. You'll also find yourself abusing them quite heavily very quickly.

So resist the temptation to break the bank on expensive clubs, and opt for a second-hand (used) set. You can even borrow them from your friend, or rent them from the golf course. Online marketplaces like OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist can also be a good way to find a nice set of clubs that is a few years old at a reasonable price.

If you do find that golf is the sport for you, then you can go get a proper club fitting and start putting together a set. A fitting is simply an hour or so assessment where you will hit different clubs of various shaft lengths to see which ones work well for you. Your golf swing is going to evolve the more you play, so it's recommended to delay the club fitting until you've established your swing. Otherwise, you might get fitted for some expensive clubs that you end up disliking.

You don't need to have a full set of clubs to play a round. Start with the following clubs:

  1. Driver or 3 wood
  2. 5 wood or 5 iron
  3. 7, 8 and 9 irons
  4. Pitching wedge (PW)
  5. Sand wedge (SW)
  6. Putter

and the more you play, the more you can piece together a full set -- fancy hybrid woods, lob, gap, and utility wedges, and maybe even a 1 or 2 iron.

Balls

Again, the theme here is to not overspend while you're starting out. Chances are you will lose all of your balls (unless you get a hole in one -- you better frame that), so go ahead and buy the cheapest balls you can find. Lost Golf Balls has a nice selection of used golf balls, but Craigslist or even estate sales are underrated for finding balls for pennies on the dollar.

Tees

Tees come in either wood or plastic. You can probably even find some used ones on the tee boxes. We recommend you just buy inexpensive ones.

Divot Repair Tool

When you make a divot on a green, you'll need to repair the mark your ball leaves behind. You can get by with using a tee for this, but it's probably better to just buy a cheap one from Amazon.

Ball Marker

When you're in the middle of someone's putting line, you should mark your ball with something. Some divot tools have magnetic ball markers built in, but you can also just use a coin. A penny works best.

Clothes

Golf attire has arguably gotten more casual throughout the years, but it's always best to err on the side of caution and have a standard polo or any shirt with a collar on it. Collars also come in handy when the sun is beating down on your neck.

In the summertime shorts are nice, but wearing lightweight khakis or other similar long pants is helpful for preventing sand from getting in your shoes and socks after a bunker shot.

Shoes

Golf shoes are optional but can help when the grass is wet (especially if you play in the mornings). If you do decide to buy them, avoid ones with metal spikes as many courses no longer allow them.

Glove

Gloves are another optional item. If you sweat a lot, or want to prevent calluses, then maybe a glove is right for you. This is the one accessory that you shouldn't cheap out on, as cheaper gloves wear out quickly. Footjoy is a solid choice for high quality gloves.

3. Wear Sunscreen

Playing 3-4 hour rounds in the sun will damage your skin and put you at risk for melanoma if you don't wear sunscreen. There are LOTS of different sunscreens to choose from, but the best protection will come from a zinc-oxide based sunscreen. Apply it to your face, nose, ears, neck, arms, and legs if you wear shorts.

4. Develop a Pre-Shot Routine

If you've ever watched professional golfers playing either on TV or at an event, you will notice that they all have their own routine before they hit the ball. A pre-shot routine is a sequence of actions you rehearse before each shot. It can be something like wiping your club clean with a towel, taking a practice swing, or visualizing the target in your head.

The purpose of the pre-shot routine is to develop consistency and tune out distractions. As golf is a very mental game, it requires much focus and attention, so concentrating on the pre-shot routine is better than the joke that your playing partner just told you.

5. Practice on the Range Like You're on the Course

When you go to the driving range, instead of spraying balls with random clubs, bring a scorecard from the pro shop and hit the shots like you would when you're on the course.

For example, if the first hole is a dogleg left par 5, then you should start off by hitting your driver and setting yourself up for your second shot with a 5-iron or similar. Next, pick a target on the range (if none exist, visualize one), and pretend it's the green. From there, a pitching wedge or similar should be the right club to see how close you can get to "the hole" that you've visualized.

6. Keep Track of Your Score

This might be obvious, but you'd be surprised with how many new (and seasoned) golfers don't keep track of their score out of fear of embarrassment or just not remembering to do so.

Tracking your score not only helps you find out what your handicap (HCP) is, it will allow you to determine how much progress you've made.

Write down all the good and bad shots, how many fairways and greens in regulation (GIR) you hit, and how many putts you made.

7. Pace of Play

Pace of play is how long it takes a group to complete each hole. For 18 holes, the suggested pace of play is under 4 and a half hours or 15 minutes per hole. The USGA suggests taking 20 seconds (including your pre-shot routine) to hit your shot. The longer you spend on the course, the more you'll lose interest and focus. Here are some tips to help speed up your golf play:

  • Tee off from the proper tees that match your skill level. For example, don't play from the tips when you're just starting out as it will take you longer to complete the hole than someone who is more qualified to do so.
  • Keep up with the group in front of you.
  • Play "ready golf". When it's your turn to hit, have your clubs (wedges, irons, etc) in your hand and ready to swing.
  • Start reading the greens for your putt before it's your turn.
  • If your group falls out of position you will have 2 holes to catch up.

Following these practices will make the game more enjoyable for everyone on the course.

8. Learn Basic Golf Etiquette

Always fix your divots!
Always fix your divots!

Golf veterans will know that a player's golf etiquette can make or break the round for all involved. Additionally, you will get paired with random people if you play often, so it's nice to be aware of all the pleasantries so you hopefully get invited to play with them in the future.

  • Replace your divots on the greens.
  • If you're tending to the flag, make sure it doesn't flutter in the wind.
  • Prevent your shadow from being in your playing partner's putting line (the line that connects their ball to the hole).
  • Don't step on your playing partner's putting lines (the imaginary line that connects the ball to the hole).
  • Be silent when your playing partner is preparing to putt or swing.
  • Don't stand in a player's field of vision where they could be distracted.
  • If your ball is on a player's putting line, ask if they'd like you to make your ball.
  • Enter the bunker from the low side at a point nearest to the ball and bring the rake with you. Once you've hit your shot, exit the way you entered while covering up your trail.
  • And finally, learn the Rules of Golf.

9. Don't Try to Kill the Ball

The saying "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" has its origins from the military, but can also be applied to golf. In essence, it means that the slower you move, the more precision you have, and less likely to end up with disastrous results. This concept is paramount in golf, as your entire swing depends on your tempo. Slow, smooth, and controlled shots will outperform the forced shots that you're trying to hit with 100% of your strength.

Additionally, "clubbing up" (e.g.: choosing a club with a lower loft than the current one you are considering using) and hitting it softly can also help you control your swing a bit more. For example, if you're 175 yards out from the pin and you know that might be able to get it next to the hole if you "pure" your 7 iron, opt to club up to a 6 iron, and hit it about 75% of your normal swing.

Golf can be competitive, but ultimately, it should be a leisurely activity where you can de-stress and enjoy the outdoors. Just remember to slow down, relax, and have fun. The best part is you don't have to go "all-in", right off the bat. It's a sport that you can gradually get more involved in the older you get.

More Sport Tips

When looking for your golf ball, try scanning from right to left instead of left to right.

When looking for your golf ball, try scanning from right to left instead of left to right.

Buy an Apple AirTag and hide it in your golf bag.

Buy an Apple AirTag and hide it in your golf bag.
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