New to golf? You’re not the only one. In 2020, an estimated 3 million people played golf for the first time, and for good reason! Anyone can play, it’s a great way to get outside and move your body, and it’s a safe way to spend time with friends and family. Getting started can feel overwhelming, but fear not! We’re here to help you find your footing. For those interested in the game, we’ve created a quick guide to getting started–from the clubs you need to tips from our seasoned pros.

Equipment

There are so many options for clubs, balls, training aids, and the list goes on… But what do you really need? Well when it comes to clubs, you only need a few to start. Pick up a driver, a fairway wood, a couple of irons, a wedge, and a putter. Used clubs are perfectly fine! You don’t have to get the hottest new models, you’ll have plenty of time to find a set that suits your game in the future. Chances are you can find some clubs in your dad’s garage, a yard sale, or online. When you’re looking for irons, a good place to start is with an 8 iron and a 6 iron. Opt for cavity back irons rather than blades. Cavity back irons compared to blades are easier to hit because they have a larger sweet spot, making it more likely to hit a solid shot.

Now that you’ve got your clubs, you need to stock up on golf balls. Unless you’re a natural with an extremely powerful swing, a softer golf ball will be easier for you to hit. How do you know if a ball is soft? It says it right on the box–soft feel, long and soft, etc. We also recommend starting out with cheaper brands and purchase by the dozen for extra savings because you will use and lose tons of balls. You can also find used balls at golf equipment stores that are marked down by a considerable amount.

The last thing you need is some clothes to wear out on the course. Most golf clubs have a specific dress code to follow. In general, find some comfortable pants (no denim), a collared shirt, and comfortable shoes. Golf shoes with cleats are a must during the winter months, but you can get away with wearing regular tennis shoes when the course is dry. Lastly, it might be a good idea to grab a hat and a glove. Gloves are worn by most golfers to help prevent the club from turning in their hands when they swing. Right-handed golfers wear a glove on their left hand and left-handed golfers on their right. 

Mindset

Golf is hard. A huge part of improving your game and having fun on the course has to do with your mindset. It’s important to be patient, stay positive, and stay motivated.

The best golfers out there focus on the shot in front of them. Try not to dwell on the shot you just shanked into the trees or the tee shot you’re going to hit on the next hole, focus on the shot you’re taking now. If your attention is on your current shot, you have the ability to plan out what you want that shot to look like and strike well. 

Focus on your game’s strengths when you’re on the course and your weaknesses when you’re at the range. When you focus on your strengths as you’re playing, you’ll have more confidence, resulting in a better round. 

We can’t say this enough, golf is hard! Be patient with yourself and stay focused. Your game will get better with persistence and a positive attitude. 

Fundamentals

So you have your clubs, found some (tons?) of balls, and you have your golf gear. Before you go for a full 18 holes, do a little prep work. Start at the Practice Facility and focus on these fundamentals: good grip, understanding how to aim, getting into the correct posture.

Proper Golf GripYour grip is your only connection to your golf club and dictates your clubhead speed, the direction of your club, and the position of your clubface. This means your grip can completely change the shot you’re about to hit. To properly grip your club, start with your non-dominant hand and place it towards the end of the club. The ‘V’ that your index finger and thumb create should point to your non-dominant hand’s shoulder. Next, place your dominant hand around the club so that your thumb is on top of your non-dominant hand’s thumb. The ‘V’ that your dominant had creates should point to that shoulder. 

Alignment is something every beginner should learn early. There are three parts of your body that should be aligned perpendicular to your target at set up: your feet, knees, and shoulders. You can check your alignment by placing a club at those points. If the butt of the club is pointed at your target, you are aligned correctly. You want to avoid an open or closed stance because this will cause you to slice or hook your shot, respectively. 

Good posture is an important piece of hitting an accurate shot. To achieve this follow these steps:

  • Stand upright and bend slightly at the hips. Make sure your back is flat and not rounded.
  • Bend your knees a bit so you’re comfortable in your stance.
  • Shift your weight to the balls of your feet.  

Golf ball position on addressLet’s move on to ball placement. A good rule of thumb is the shorter the club, the further back in your stance you want the ball. You should hit your wedges near the middle to back of your stance and driver off the inside of your front foot. There are a few exceptions to this rule that you will pick up as your game improves. The same type of rule applies to your distance from your ball. The shorter the club, the closer you should stand to the ball; the longer the club, the farther you should stand from your ball.   

Small swings to start out would look like hip-high to hip-high or even learning a chipping motion to start. Once you have success hitting consistently solid strikes, you would then work up to L-to-L type swings that resemble a full swing. For a right-handed player, this backswing would look like an L being made halfway back, with your left arm being the bottom of a capital letter L, and the club shaft is the top of the capital letter L. Remember, golf is a bat-and-ball sport. Your swing motion and rotation are similar to hitting a forehand in tennis, swinging a bat in baseball, or a slapshot in hockey. Utilize your experience playing other sports and apply it to your golf swing. After you can consistently get the ball in the air with an iron, you’re ready to hit the course!

At this point, if you’re feeling overwhelmed (or even if you aren’t), contact a golf professional for a lesson. A professional can give you basic instructions to feel confident with your swing and help you get ready to hit the course. 

Etiquette & Rules

When the game first started, there were only 13 rules. Today, you can download 162 pages of rules from the USGA’s website. Do you need to know all of them? Absolutely not. There are few basic rules that are important to know initially, like what to do if you hit a ball in the hazard. Read up on basic golf rules but give yourself a break on the course. If you’re a stickler and count every penalty stroke, you’ll get discouraged very quickly every time you miss the ball. Instead, focus on etiquette over rules.

Good etiquette includes things like not stepping on your playing partner’s line on the green, repairing ball marks and divots, and being quiet when others are hitting. You should also play ready golf. Pros and more serious golfers will have the player farthest from the hole hit first. When you’re starting out, if you’re ready to hit your ball before others in your group, hit your ball. This will speed up your group’s playtime. If you notice that you’re holding the group behind you up, let them play through. You’re going to take longer to play than most experienced golfers so be courteous and allow them to pass your group. 

Getting on the Course

You made it! Now you’re ready to get on the course. Start off by playing 9 holes from the forward tees. There’s no shame in hitting from the red or yellow tees when you’re just starting out. When you feel more confident in your game, you can move up to playing a full 18 from longer tees. Another way to make the round a little easier is to use tees on the fairways or give yourself a good lie. Many golfers find it easier to hit off of tees so don’t be shy using one in the fairway or rough. If you’re comfortable hitting off the grass but find your ball in a divot, move it. It’s hard enough to hit a ball on a perfect lie, give yourself a break!