10 Essential Tips for New Golfers

As adults, we tend to shy away from learning new things because it’s difficult, and sometimes embarrassing. But I promise, learning the wonderful game of golf will be worth it. It’s just going to take some work.

As a resource for beginning golfers, I put together a list of my top-10 tips to getting started in golf. Follow these tips, and you’ll soon learn why golf is the greatest game ever played.

10. Sign up for weekly or monthly lessons for at least one year

For every Bubba Watson who figured out how to swing on his own, there are millions of golfers who struggle deeply. If you pick up golf by just hitting balls by yourself, you’ll most likely ingrain improper movements. Then when you decide you want to take lessons, it will be a long, tedious process to undo your bad habits.

That’s why I suggest golfers start taking lessons from a certified instructor (not just their buddy on the range) from day one. This way, they’ll develop the proper fundamentals that golf requires — long game, short game, putting, etc. — instantly giving their athletic ability a chance to prosper in the game.

9. Buy yourself a decent and fitted set of clubs from a golf professional

With ill-fit golf clubs, beginning golfers are going to struggle to enjoy the game as much as they could. So once you have made the decision to really give golf a go, buy clubs that are fit to some degree in length, lie, flex, and forgiveness.

Without decent clubs, golfers often develop bad habits that can take years to overcome. This does not mean they have to spend $5,000 to get started, but they should least give themselves a fighting chance with brand-name equipment that was fit to them in some way, shape or form.

8. Play golf balls that suit your ability level and golf course

Yes, I know golf balls are expensive, but if you’re going to play seriously, pick a ball type that matches what you want the ball to do and stick with it.

Playing a Tour-level golf ball on holes Nos. 1-13, and then a bargain ball for holes Nos. 14-18 gives you different feels and different reactions off each club. How can you be consistent with different types of equipment?

Don’t play the ball you found that has bounced off the path or has a gash in it, even on the water holes. You are only lowering your chance of success.

7. Block off your work schedule (in the a.m.) to practice at least once per week

Saying you are going to hit balls or practice golf after work is the same as saying you’ll go to the gym after work… there is always a reason why you just can’t make it. The best way I have found to combat this is to target one weekday to hit balls or practice before work. This is your time, and will help your golf life as well as your work life. Trying to practice while answering the phone or thinking about work is counterproductive. Go to the range before work and you will face a lower-stress environment that fosters improvement.

6. Your practice should include the ENTIRE game

At the beginning stage of practice, golfers should be learning the ENTIRE game, not just the long game. Beginning golfers often say, “Once I have the swing figured out, I’ll work on my short game.” The problem is, this method doesn’t teach them how to play the game of golf.

Beginning golfers often ignore wedges and lag putting in their practice sessions, but each can save them a ton of strokes. I’ve noticed that beginners struggle to hit the green from 30-80 yards, and consistently three-putt from beyond 20-25 feet. For that reason, I recommend golfers break up their practice time into four different areas:

  • 25 percent long game
  • 25 percent wedges (from 30-100 yards)
  • 25 percent short game (chipping, pitching, bunkers, short putting)
  • 25 percent lag putting.

Getting down in no more than three shots from inside 80 yards is a must in the early stages in order to manage scores and eliminate big numbers on the scorecard.

5. Commit yourself to playing the game at least 50 percent of the time

Hitting balls on a range only helps you work on your “golf swing.” But the world is full of beautiful swings that can’t score when it matters. If you don’t play, you’ll never learn how to manage rough, hilly lies, adversity, or even success. Remember you are supposed to PLAY golf, not just hit balls.

If you just enjoy hitting balls, then save yourself some money and only buy an 8 iron, 6 iron and a driver, because that’s all you’ll need to have fun at the range. Facilities like Top Golf have proven that the range can be fun, but remember that playing golf is a sport in itself.

4. Decide if you’re playing golf for fun or for score that day

If you are going out to the course, decide before you start the round whether you are going to play for “fun” or for “score,” as they require two completely different mindsets. Golfers who play for fun can’t get mad or concerned with what they shoot, since they are working on something specific or attempting shots that have more risk than reward. Consequently, if you’re playing for score, you will find golf to be nothing more than a chess game with a ball and a stick.

3. Manage your expectations based on your current abilities

Over time, you will be able to hit shots you were not able to hit the season before, or maybe even the month before. Remember to enjoy the ride, and don’t try to outplay your current ability level. If you don’t know how to curve the ball with any reliability, then just punch out. Why make a 10 when you could make a 6?

Golf is a compromise between three things: What your ego wants you to do, what your experience wants you to do, and what your talent will let you do.

2. Leave your bad attitude in the car

A golf ball does not care how much money you have, how many employees you command or what kind of car you drive, so remember to leave your Type-A personality in the car. And if you think you can override the learning curve just because you were a good athlete in high school, you’re in for a big surprise.

Maybe even more harmful to improving at golf is a bad attitude. Whining and complaining not only makes you miserable, but makes you a total drag to play with in general. It’s NOT all about you.

1. If it proves not to be fun, it’s OK to quit

After all, golf is just a game. So if you aren’t having any fun consistently, it’s ok to stop playing. Golf isn’t going anywhere, and no one wants you around you on the golf course if you are miserable, throwing clubs and complaining, including your best friends. And please, don’t take a bad day on the course home with you to your family.

In golf, you don’t have to break a course record or even break 100 to be an enjoyable playing partner. If you’re having fun, being polite and playing fast, there will always be a welcoming foursome for you!

By Guest Instructor Tom Stickney II