Golf For Beginners: How to get started

When you watch golf on TV, the pros make it look so easy. Yet if you’ve never played before you may be in for a shock on just how challenging it can be to hit a great shot. Many players get discouraged from ever picking up the game and learning how to play golf because they’re intimidated and don’t want to embarrass themselves on the golf course.

Golf is a game of progress, and constant improvement. Your friends who are “good” at golf have been practicing and playing for years, and have taken a lot of time to get to the skill level they’re at. All you need to do to get there is pick the game up now, take in as much information as you can, and get out on the course to start improving. Everyone wants to get better, even PGA Tour Pros.

Our aim is to help golfers take a smarter approach to golf, and that goes for beginners too! If you’re interested in learning how to play golf, we’ve put together a complete guide on golf for beginners that tells you all you need to know to get yourself onto the golf course with your friends!

How to Get Started: Golf Basics

Golf can be broken down into individual parts or aspects of the game to be digested. Focusing on each of the basics individually will help you approach the entire game more effectively.

We’ve outlined from start to finish exactly how to get started in this beautiful game, check it out below!

Get Your Hands on Some Golf Clubs

To play golf, you’ll need access to golf clubs. We don’t recommend rushing out and buying them straight away, however. First, we think you’ll be better off just borrowing or renting a few clubs to try out on the range. You’ll want to get the hang of swinging them and understanding how to use them before moving forward.

If you have friends who golf, they’ll be happy to go with you to the driving range and let you borrow a few clubs to learn the game! Golf is social, and everyone likes playing or even practicing with someone else.

Clubs to Start out hitting

A golf bag can have up to 14 clubs in it, but as a beginner you’ll really only need access to about 6-7 of them to really get going. You’ll need access to a driver, hybrid, 7 iron, 9 iron, a gap wedge, sand wedge, and a putter. These are going to be the more critical clubs to get used to hitting, as you’ll end up hitting them the most!

When should you buy golf clubs?

Once you’ve gone to the driving range a few times with friends and decide you really enjoy golf, then it’s a good idea to start looking at actually buying some clubs. When you DO decide you want to buy clubs, do not walk into a golf galaxy or local golf shop and say you’re a beginner who wants a set of clubs. They will up sell you to something you just don’t need.

Our recommendation is to go in and buy some cheap clubs if you want to go to a local shop. I’ve also made a very detailed guide on golf clubs for beginners, which lays out the foundation of what to look for and has recommendations on the best golf clubs to start out with- check it out when you’re ready!

Learn how to swing a golf club

golfer swinging a golf club

It’s important to try and establish good habits early on when you’re learning how to play golf. The golf swing isn’t exactly easy, and a bad habit (i.e. coming over the top) that is formed early on can be hard to break.

After you’ve hit the driving range for your first few sessions as a golfer, your best bet is to take golf lessons with your local Pro. Any golf course will have a PGA Registered Pro Golfer on staff, and part of their job is to teach lessons to golfers of all ages and skill levels. A few lessons early on can point you in the right direction.

While we recommend lessons, we do offer some good resources for new golfers in our Game Improvement section on Fairway Approach. Reading about golf concepts and watching videos around them helps solidify ideas, and acts as a supplement to your practice sessions.

I won’t go into great detail on how to swing the golf club on this page, but I’m happy to highlight a few areas of how to approach the golf swing; these concepts are fundamental to the game itself.

Gripping the Golf Club

Believe it or not, the way you hold the club has a huge impact on the direction and power in your golf shot. There are neutral, strong and weak grips, as well as different grip styles to consider.

Make sure you check out our guide on how to grip a golf club, which breaks down everything you need to know about how to hold the club and set yourself up for success!

Alignment

I’ve said this in other articles, but it’s absolutely true: when things go wrong for me, it’s usually grip or alignment. Alignment in golf just means making sure your body and golf club are pointed the right way. Your body will be parallel to your target, with your club being pointed directly at the target. Lining up your body will give you a better chance of hitting the golf ball straight.

I’ve only covered a small part of a deep subject here, but here’s a video that discusses alignment, and I have more tips on alignment in our How to Swing a Golf Club guide.

Swing Mechanics

Professional golfers make it look like there’s literally nothing to it when they swing the golf club; they swing easy and the ball sits right next to the hole most of the time. The reality is that there are several components to a golf swing, and a few separate parts make the swing whole. The golf swing is comprised of the takeaway, backswing, downswing, impact, and follow through.

I have a detailed guide that details exactly how you should be swinging the golf club and align your body, which you should check out here!

Hit The Driving Range

Going to the driving range a few times before you hit the golf course can help you work on your fundamentals and build confidence before you ever play a round of golf. Focus on making good contact and getting the ball into the air. If you can get the ball in the air with relatively high frequency, you’ll have a blast on the golf course. Our biggest tip is to swing easy and let the club do the work.

Use your time on the driving range to practice hitting driver AND irons, so you’ve got plenty of practice with both!

Get all your gear

Golf is a gear intensive game, but most of your equipment is either a one time investment or only needs to be changed every few seasons. Once you’ve gone to the driving range and decided you’d like to pick the game up, the next step is ultimately to buy what you need for the course. Again, a lot of the stuff you need is either a one time investment, or inexpensive upkeep items.

Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need to get your started:

  • Golf Clubs– at this point, you only need a basic set
  • Golf Shoes– these shoes help you grip the turf and stay balanced during your golf swing
  • Golf Balls- there are all types of golf balls, but I’ve highlighted the best golf balls for beginners and high handicappers in another post!
  • Golf Bag– you need somewhere to store your clubs and accessories, so this is pretty straight forward.

Work on Your Short Game

Drives and long iron shots are unarguably some of the most satisfying shots you’ll hit in golf, and are definitely the shots you’ll remember. That said, those shots are only half of the entire game! The other half falls into the “short game” category, which includes chipping, pitching, and putting the ball.

Short game is a general term that covers any shot that’s close to the green, let’s say within 50 yards. It encompasses 3 types of shots: pitching, chipping, and putting.

Pitching

Pitching and chipping are often confused for one another, but they are distinctly different golf shots. A pitch shot is a longer, higher shot that is made between 20 and 50 yards from the green. The objective with one of these shots is to have more hang time with less roll out.

I’ve put a pretty complex and important shot into laments terms here, of course. Chris Ryan offers a really great instructional video on how to hit a perfect pitch shot to the green, check it out below:

Chipping

Chip shots are short shots you’ll hit with either a wedge or a short iron right around the green. Your main goal with a good chip is to get the ball onto the green and rolling to give yourself a great chance of getting close to the hole. To get better at chipping, you can practice a few different drills. Chipping, and short game in general is all about feel. When you practice more you can really hone in, but if you don’t keep it up it can be easy to lose. Check out our complete guide on chipping to get a better sense of how you can improve here.

Putting

Ah, putting. Putting is the most simple stroke you’ll make on the golf course, but the one that counts the most; nothing is more infuriating than getting onto a green in just a couple strokes, then missing 2 or even 3 putts in a row to ruin a great score. As important as putting is, people just don’t spend enough time practicing it.

For beginners, the best thing you can do is practice getting a rhythm together with a putter. You need to be able to hit the ball straight, and have a little distance control too. We’ve got a guide that covers putting tips in a lot more depth, so if you’d like to work on that aspect of the game, head on over!

Pick up Basic knowledge of the Rules of Golf

Golf has a ton of rules and general etiquette that should be followed on the golf course. Whether you’re out there keeping score or just hitting the course to practice, you should know the basic rules. There’s a whole book on the rules of golf provided by the USGA, but I’ll give you a very basic rundown here of a few of the most important rules on the course!

(I have a complete guide to golf etiquette from when you get to the course to post round, check it out here to get more acquainted with the rules and basic etiquette to observe on the golf course!)

Play the ball as it lies

When you’re on the golf course, you are not supposed to touch the golf ball with your hands, feet, or otherwise UNTIL you get to the green, where you can mark your spot and pick up your ball.

That means if you’re buried in the tall grass, guess what, that’s life. You aren’t supposed to move the ball at all, instead you hit it in the conditions the course gives you. If you’re brand new to the game and not really keeping score, nobody will bother you if you do decide to improve your lie, because in the beginning you just want to be able to make contact.

Past that point and any time you keep score, play it as it lies.

Stay Quiet while other players hit

This is a big one. Hitting the ball is already one heck of a task, and nothing is worse than getting distracted during your backswing by someone who is laughing or talking. Stay quiet while other players hit to keep your group happy.

Knowing which ball you’re playing

This sounds obvious, but it isn’t always. People hit near each other more often than you might think, and there are only a handful of golf ball brands- if there are 2 Callaway’s next to each other, you better know which is yours! Hitting someone else’s ball is a penalty stroke, not to mention they’ll be pretty pissed!

Remember your ball number, type (Pro V1, etc.) and mark it with a sharpie to make it simple to keep track of.

out of bounds

There are hazards on the golf course that are considered out of bounds. These are either marked with white stakes or red stakes, and of course any stream or pond is O.B. When you hit the ball out of bounds you need to take a penalty stroke if it’s unplayable, but these stakes signify different ways to play the following shot.

To keep it simple for you, red stakes mean you can drop the ball where it crossed over into the hazard. On the other hand, white stakes mean you should hit your original shot over again.

help other players find their lost ball

Losing a ball sucks for anyone. It’s common courtesy to help the other players in your group find their lost ball, and they’ll do the same for you. Rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t spend more than 3 minutes looking for a lost ball.

keep it moving

Nobody cares if you’re not amazing at golf, it does not matter. The only thing that matters is if you play fast or play slow. Normal pace of play in golf by rule of thumb is 2 hours for 9 and 4 hours for 18 holes, with about 15 minute buffer per 9 holes.

Keep it moving and don’t take 100 practice swings. Keep it moving while you’re on the course and you’ll keep your group happy and improve general course pace.

Play a round of golf on the course

Once you’ve hit the range a few times and have your basic equipment, it’s time to hit the course! You’re now fully prepared to play your first round of golf. Playing your first round of golf can cause some nerves and jitters, but just go to have fun and to gain the experience; you’ll love it.

Before you go, you need to know just a few things.

  1. Pick a golf course. It’s pretty likely that your local area has more than a few options. Try and go for the easiest or simplest course in the area. Google a few courses and look at their Course Rating: you want the White tees to be under 70, and the course length to be somewhere between 5500-6400 yards.
  2. You need to make a tee time. People don’t just show up to the golf course, everything is booked in advanced (this has never been more true since the start of COVID-19). Weekends are always busy, so for your first time maybe try a weekday afternoon so there’s less pressure. Try to play with friends or family your very first round, but if you go solo you may get paired up with someone, which is really common. That usually turns into a good conversation and even an opportunity to learn.
  3. Show up early. You’ll want to give yourself a buffer, maybe 30 minutes or so just to get a little warm up in and get acquainted with the course.
  4. Don’t forget to hydrate. 2-4 hours of golf can wear on you physically and easily cause dehydration. I recommend drinking 1-2 waters, Gatorades, or something similar per round to keep you hydrated. It’s not a bad idea to bring a snack, or buy one at the club house either.

Keep going

Hopefully after your first round you had an awesome time and had some memorable shots that just made you feel good. Most people are almost instantly hooked after they play their first round.

The important thing here is to keep going and keep pushing. Soak in all the information you can about the game, and keep practicing and improving. Getting better makes the game that much more fun, and is honestly so motivating.

You’ll never have a perfect round, and even my absolute best rounds ever have had some glaring mistakes. The game of golf is about improving and learning through years of play and practice.

Keep pushing and keep practicing.

Final thoughts

There are many reasons people are drawn to the game of golf. Whether you want a few hours spent outside or some time with friends, golf is a game you can play for your entire life. Not only can you play for your entire life, but there will always be room for improvement.

You’ll never have a perfect round, it really doesn’t exist. That’s one of the beautiful things about this game; everyone can improve and play against themselves.

Good luck in your journey, and thanks for reading!

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