the ultimate guide to getting started in golf

The Ultimate List of Golf Tips for Beginners

So you want to start and play golf? Why wouldn’t you? After all, golf is a great pursuit for you with benefits both mentally and physically. But searching online for the best golf tips for beginners can be somewhat overwhelming. 

There are so many articles that list helpful tips and advise, but making sense of it all can be daunting. So I thought that I would do my bit to help you.

In an effort to try and answer all the most common questions around the topic of ‘starting to play golf’. I have spent the past few days trawling the darkest corners of the internet, researching and compiling this ultimate list of golf tips for beginners. Just so you don’t have to.

In this article you’ll get to know about where you can learn to play golf. What you need from clubs to clothing. Swing tips and the simple ‘must know’ rules of golf and etiquette you should follow.

I’ll break down the process of golf instruction and how it can help. Plus your first visit to the pro-shop along with that all important virgin round of golf on your local course.

I’ve been playing golf for nearly 30 years. And after all this time, I’m just as passionate about teeing up my ball today, as I was when I started. In fact, the more I learn the more enjoyment I get out of it. 

So let’s get started so I can share with you what I have learnt.

Why golf is healthy for you

Golf is available to 84% of the world’s population. There are 38,864 courses in 209 of the world’s 249 countries, with 75% of these being publicly accessible ‘pay and play’ golf courses[1]. So it’s no surprise that it has been found to have huge benefits for those that play.

Let’s quickly cover 9 benefits to playing golf.

Fresh air and exposure to the outdoors.

I love golf because it is played in some of the most beautiful countryside you could possibly imagine.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to play all over the Uk and abroad. And I never get bored of the places I visit whilst enjoying this special sport.

The average golf course has 18 holes and plays 6800 yards in length. In addition to the holes you play, you also have the footpaths between each hole and the obvious walking around whilst searching in the rough for your ball.

So it’s no wonder that on average, you can expect to walk some 13,000 to 15,000 steps, and spend 4 to 5 hours in glorious sunshine.

This constant exposure to green areas has been proven in studies[2] to relax the body, reduce stress and help alleviate anxiety.

Plus exposure to sunlight allows the body to soak up that important Vitamin D. Thus promoting bone growth in youth and reducing the risk of everything from heart disease, depression and certain cancers.

Burns calories

Of course you don’t have to play 18 holes of golf all the time. But if you did you could be burning more calories than you think.

Ignoring the golf cart and using a trolley will help you gently exercise whilst playing a game you love.

Deciding to carry your clubs will burn even more of those pesky calories too! In fact with all the walking, carrying and club swinging. You could expect to burn as much as 1000 calories on a single round of golf.

Unfortunately if you’re anything like me, there is a huge chance that you eat that at the 19th hole. Along with some beer. And desert….

On a serious note though. At the time of writing this article, I have been on a forced hiatus from my beloved sport. In just 8 weeks I have put about 16lbs on and that is simply due to not playing or practicing. 

It surprised me too!

Gently elevates your heart rate and keeps it up

It makes perfect sense that walking over 200 acres of lovely mown grass and burning over a 1000 calories, will get your heart pumping. 

But playing golf has the ability to gently raise the heart rate and maintain it. It’s one of the reasons that you can enjoy the sport into your twilight years.

Naturally, increasing your blood flow regularly in this way, can lower the risk of heart disease and help combat ‘Bad’ cholesterol.

Meeting new people and building relationships

Golf is essentially you versus the course. You have to plot your way around the course in the fewest strokes possible. Yet whilst you are alone in the scoring, you can play golf with upto 3 other friends at a time.

Unlike many other team sports, golf is a game that can be enjoyed as you play. It’s not frantic like football, rugby or basketball.

Between shots there is plenty of time to chat, tell jokes and especially think of those witty one liners, so you can offer up some friendly ridicule to your playing partners. 

In addition to the time on the course with your family or friends, most golf clubs have an active social scene. With everything from dinners to quiz nights, the clubhouse can always be a lively place to enjoy one another’s company.

Finally most clubs have activities for newcomers and academies for the younger members. All run by friendly staff and the local golf coach.

Good for your mental health

As much as golf is a physical sport, it also gives you a mental workout. With all this increased blood flow to the brain, playing golf can stimulate and improve your neuro cell connections. 

I kid you not that I had a friend that suffered from dementia, and the gentle exercise and fresh air always made him feel better and more himself.

Mental acuity is improved by the alacrity to tot up scores and keep track of your shots throughout a hole. A certain challenge whilst playing match play competitions with players of varying handicaps from other clubs. 

I have had time where I let my concentration drift off, and lost track of shots causing me to almost lose the hole. Whilst at other times, I have been able to keep my head in the game where it mattered to win a match.

Furthermore, the constant challenge with yourself and competing with others, builds confidence and boosts self-esteem. Something I experienced each time I was able to shave my handicap or won a competition.

Low impact sport

OK, so if someone hits you with a golf ball, then sure, that impact will hurt. For the most part though, golf is a low risk sport when it comes to injuries.

Being physically built like an athlete isn’t a requirement. Yet whilst its low impact, the act of swinging the club still provides plenty of opportunity to work both major and minor muscle groups.

Better sleep

It’s no secret that exercise helps you sleep. 

With a 4 hour round in the summer’s evening or first thing at sun up. Playing golf in all that fresh air will help you maintain a balanced sleep pattern.

Reduces stress

Better exercise. Increased blood flow. More confidence and self-esteem. And more sleep. All of the above will certainly lead to lower stress levels without a doubt.

I love the arena within which golf is played. The beautiful countryside, rolling hills and luscious green fairways. All work together to make the round of golf a pleasurable walk in the countryside.

Sure there will be times when you shout and swear at the ball, but hey, that should only last a small time and be broken up by regular visits from the drinks cart.

Improves vision

Finally with all the mention of exercise, I can’t forget the most used muscle in golf appart from the brain. Our eyes.

Golf is a sport where hand/eye coordination is key to success. The constant focusing in on the ball whilst it’s launched down the fairways, helps exercise our ciliary muscles[3]

These muscles are part of the ciliary body, and are responsible for contracting and releasing, thus changing the curvature of our lens.

Concentrating on targets over long distances, or specific areas around the greens, help us to maintain good eye health. Great for seeing those wayward balls before they knock you out…..

What do you need to begin learning golf?

Where to learn golf

One of the best golf tips for absolute beginners, is don’t start on the golf course. The safest place to try out golf the first time, is on the local driving range.

The driving range, or practice ground, is the perfect place to learn. It’s a casual place where everyone is either perfecting their swings, trying out new ideas or, like you, learning the game.

Everyone there was once a beginner like you. And it is not unheard of for fellow golfers to help one another when they see a new commer for the first time.

Whilst further down in this article, I give a compelling reason to not allow your spouse to teach you. An initial visit to a place like ‘TopGolf’ can be a fun way to have a go.

Topgolf is set up for all abilities. It’s simply a restaurant that has targets spread out on a driving range. You pay your money, grab a club and off you go.

The aim is to score points and because it’s aimed at people who don’t play, you can be competitive without actually knowing how to play golf.

Topgolf is a great evening out with friends. It’s good food, cool beer and fantastic fun.

Do I need golf clubs to learn to play?

No you don’t need golf clubs to learn to play golf. The majority of driving ranges will have a selection of golf clubs for you to rent or borrow when you visit.

Driving ranges will allow you to borrow anything from a single golf club, up to a full set in a bag. As for the cost, well this will vary but it should be cheap enough for you to try.

Who can teach me to play golf?

A qualified coach is usually employed at the driving range. However if not, then you will find one at your local golf course. 

Golf can be difficult to learn at first. So a coach is trained to introduce people into the sport the easiest way possible. This can be done in a couple of ways.

The most common way to start, is to sign up for a few taster lessons. These are usually 3 or 4 half hour lessons that cover the basics, and normally offered at a discounted price. 

You get to spend time with the golf coach on a 1 to 1 basis. 

The other way to get started in golf is to participate in group lessons. These are usually offered at your local golf club and are great for the beginner golfer.

Taking group lessons will put you in a small gathering of similar people. It’s a great way to start if you are a little nervous and self conscious. 

Group lessons are also a fantastic way to meet new friends, and many golfing friendships have been formed on the driving range and in lessons.

Who shouldn’t teach me to play?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you shouldn’t let your spouse or ‘significant other’ teach you.

When you’re first learning to swing the club, it can be a frustrating experience and our partners are not always able to understand that.

Being taught by someone you love can cause arguments and push you away from golf, if not each other.

Stick to seeing a coach until you build confidence in your abilities. Then once you’re playing regularly, you can begin to acquire golf swing tips from whomever you like.

However be warned. In my article ‘here’, I go through why watching online videos can harm your golf. It makes good reading for a beginner golfer. So check it out after reading this article.

What do you need to begin playing golf on a course? Golf essentials for beginners

Do I need golf clubs?

No you don’t need golf clubs to start playing on a golf course. In fact, I wouldn’t buy golf clubs until you have decided that you want to take up golf regularly.

Until then you can hire clubs from the driving range and the pro-shop at golf courses. Also you can hire either a golf buggy or trolley to make your rounds easier to play. However, as I said above, carrying your clubs is a better experience and a lot more healthy for you.

What clothing do I need to play golf?

Whilst there are a few golf clubs that have a very relaxed clothing policy, many clubs do enforce a clothing policy.

This usually means no jeans or trainers. No football or sports t-shirts with logs on them and tailored shorts only, no cut offs.

Because you only start playing on the golf course when you’re sure you like it, it is a small investment to buy the right few items of clothing. 

Fashion is as popular on the golf course as it is on the catwalk. With clothing manufacturers such as Hugo Boss and Lacoste having luxury golf ranges.

Many Pro-shops will have discounted items or you can easily search online for deals. I recommend buying the bare minimum until you are sure you’re hooked. 

It can be addictive if you like matching your outfit. Trust me. The few items you should get are;

  1. Golf Shoes – Proper golf shoes are needed to protect the greens and playing surfaces. There are many styles available and the price range is as varied as you will find for normal footwear.
  2. Shirts and Trousers – Golf clothing has come a long way in recent years. Shorts and trousers are available for both sex’s whilst women can have golf skirts and figure hugging tops too. 
  3. Gloves – I would certainly recommend buying a golf glove whilst you’re learning. It will help you grip the club properly and stop abrasions that can occur if you play without one.

Do I need to join a club to play on a golf course?

No not at all. Whilst there are ‘Members Only’ golf clubs. There are courses called ‘Pay and Play’ or ‘Public Access’ courses.

These types of courses can be full size 18 hole courses, 9 hole courses or what we term ‘Par 3’ courses.

Finding a Par 3 course near you would be a great way to learn course etiquette. Par 3 courses are made up of short holes from tee to green. A regular golfer will easily reach the green with 1 stroke.

Par 3 courses can be played in a little over an hour and are fantastic for those inopportune rounds where time is limited.

To play on the ‘Pay and Play’ course, you simply call up or go online, and book a tee time that suits you. What you pay is called a ‘Green Fee’. Not because the grass is green, but because everything outside of the clubhouse is referred to as the green area. 

As a beginner golfer, you may find becoming a club member is right for you. Particularly if you’re taking group lessons at your local course.

Through this route you may get access to huge discounts on membership. So search out those bargains and save some cash.

Do I need to learn the rules before playing golf?

No you don’t need to learn the rules before playing golf on the course. But you do need to be able to hit the ball and get it airbourne consistently.

Come to think of it, I play regularly with some guys who don’t do either…..

Going out on the course for the first time is about the experience. You’re not there to compete. So picking up your ball and giving yourself a better ‘lie’ is perfectly acceptable in my opinion.

Make sure you are playing with someone who does know the rules so you can ask questions and they can start to teach you. 

As you get better you can start to become educated about the rules. A great website for learning the rules of golf is the Royal and Ancient Golf Club website ‘here’. The R&A are the original governing body for golf, and their website is full of useful information about the sport.

Do I need to learn golfing etiquette before playing on the course?

If you’re playing your first round of golf with close friends, or in a group of beginners, then you don’t need to worry too much about golfing etiquette.

As you get better and play more often, you will find it more important that following the right etiquette on the golf course is essential.

Golf is the original gentleman’s game. As such you do need to have manners on the course during play.

These determine several things including who tees off first. The order of play throughout the hole and who putts out first when on the green.

The rules of golf and golfing etiquette may seem daunting at first. And whilst they are essential and support the golfing experience, they are always being reviewed to try and make golf better for all concerned.

Do beginners need golf instruction to start playing?

Whilst you don’t need to have golf instruction from a coach to get started. I recommend you do.

I taught myself to play golf initially. Armed with a few good books, I read about the basic principles and then spent a couple of months by myself at the local driving range.

Nowadays you don’t have to take that long unless you want to.

Whether you take golf instruction from a coach, from a friend or from a book. As long as you feel comfortable you can start however you want.

Starting to play golf by learning from a friend is a cheap option. But it’s also an easy and sure fire way to pick up bad habits that they themselves may not know they have.

Taking lessons with a coach will get you playing quicker and give you the best start possible. 

Golf tips for beginners on how to play

Here’s a list of 10 do’s and don’ts to help get you through the first round of golf.

DON’T attempt to play on a golf course until you can get the ball airbourne consistently, and hit it in the direction you’re aiming. 

It’s not fun taking 30 strokes to get 100 yards and to lose a dozen balls on your first round.

DO play at a reasonable pace. Golf is a long game and you want to be sure that you are able to play at a sensible pace.

DO let faster golfers play through. Stepping aside at the tee, or when faster golfers catch up to you on the fairway, is considered the most important piece of golfing etiquette. 

Also you will experience less pressure when you’re taking your shot, if there is no one waiting behind you.

DON’T take range balls onto the golf course. They are not the same as normal golf balls as they are made to travel shorter distances.

Range balls are for practicing and there is nothing more annoying than visiting your local range, only to find they have run out of balls because you’ve lost them on teh course.

DON’T spend ages looking for your ball in the rough. The new rules of golf state you are allowed 3 minutes to find your ball. Waiting for someone to find their ball when they have already taken several minutes to play their shot, is going to annoy the following group.

This is why you should pay attention to learning to hit your ball where you’re aiming before playing on the course. 

DON’T mark your score on the card whilst standing on the green. The group behind will be waiting to take their approach shots.

Move to the next tee and mark you card as your playing partners are taking their tee shots.

DO ask to join groups that you catch up to on the course. Golf is a social game and you can find you meet some friendly people whilst playing a relaxed round of golf.

DO remember the good shots you make.

DON’T focus on the bad shots and get disheartened. Everybody of all abilities have a tendency to do this. Remember and appreciate that as you get better at golf, you will naturally expect to hit great shots all the time, and it’s simply not possible.

Arnold Palmer once wrote:

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

DO make it fun. There is no point in spending your precious time playing a sport that you simply don’t enjoy. Life’s too short

Golf tips for beginners clubs

It’s important to take advantage of the right golf club for your level of golf. Some types of clubs are easier to hit than others. 

Because beginner golfers find it difficult to hit the ball with the centre of the club face. Golf clubs made for beginners have more weight around the edge of their face. These are called cavity back clubs.

These clubs will have a wider ‘sole’ to their bottom too, which will help the club glide along the ground rather than stick into it, when you hit too far behind the ball. 

Typically beginner cavity back clubs, will have a sole which is approximately the same width as 2 fingers.

For longer clubs I recommend choosing hybrids instead of the traditional 3, 4 or 5 irons. Hybrids are easier to hit a ball with and becoming much more popular on tour too.

When choosing a driver, I recommend picking one that has a high loft or 12 degrees rather than one of 9 degrees. They will be easier to get the ball airborne.

Drivers are typically hard to hit and the cause of more lost balls than any other club. I have played to a single figure handicap without using one, so i would suggest you need one at the beginning.

Golf tips for beginners driving

The best beginner golf tip for the driver I have, is leave it in the bag. As I have just said, it is responsible for most of the lost balls on the round.

Having said that, if you insist on using one, take a specific driving lesson. 

Golf tips for driving straight

One of the best tips I had as a beginner golfer when driving was to swing easy. 

It’s called a golf swing not a golf hit for a reason. Swinging the club as hard as you can will lose you power, control and distance. Not to mention balls.

In a recent study, it was shown that by swinging the club slower, the average golfer with a swing speed of 85 mph, picked up 20 yards. This is because they were able to hit out of the centre of the club.

Golf tips for beginners irons shots

There is a lot of stuff to learn about technique when playing golf. Your irons are the most utilised clubs in your bag and actually cover the least distance between them. They are the arrows in your game. Used for pin point accuracy.

So the best beginner tip I have for your irons, is to keep you set up basic and simple. Play the ball from the centre of your stance. This way it won’t get too far forward or too far back, causing you more issues.

As you get better, you will be able to learn where the ball should go for each of the clubs.

Secondly, always play a club more than you think. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you will always struggle to hit the ball exactly the same distance every time. So be prepared for the duff shots that take a few yards off what you’re expecting.

Playing a onger club is a sound strategy and means you can swing that little bit slower and still get the result you want.

Golf tips for beginners putting

Putting is a game within a game. The putter is also the most used club in the bag. So being good at it is key. Here’s a few pointers when you reach the short stuff.

Hit the ball at the hole. 

Learning to read how the green slopes and falls is difficult. So if you’re not sure which way the ball will ‘break’, putt it at the hole.

You’ll soon get the hang of how to read greens and this advice is something I still do to this day when I’m not sure.

Play more break than you think. 

Many beginners will see a line they think the ball will travel along, yet under estimate the amount the ball will break on a given slope.

Always play for the ball to move more than you think. Then as you get better you will be able to dial in this critical skill.

Roughly 50 % of your strokes will be around and on the green. Time spent on the chipping area and practice green learning to putt is more important than hitting your driver.

The good news is that you can also learn at home. Your carpet may not be as fast or as pretty as a real green. But you can still work on your start line and pace control.

Golf tips for beginner on your short game

When you have a short shot to the green, deciding if you’re going to hit a chip or a pitch is an important decision. What’s the difference between the two? 

I use the rule of thirds.

When playing a chip shot. The ball will fly 1 third and roll 2 thirds. Whereas a pitch shot will fly 2 thirds and roll 1 third.

A chip shot relies on better ball striking skills to ensure the desired outcome. Whereas a pitch shot can be played much like a putting stroke.

Use a chip when you don’t have to carry the ball over an obstacle, like deep rough or a bunker, and you have a lot of green between you and the hole. 

Play a pitch shot when you have to carry over something or need to stop the ball faster. The extra height on a pitch shot causes the ball to land softer and stop faster.

As you get better at playing golf you will become better at course management. Having good course management opens up another part to the joy of playing golf. Knowing where to aim so you can play to your strengths is key to reducing your scores.

You can read my article on the art of course management ‘here’. It will help golfers of all abilities reduce scores and get more fun out of the game.

Simple golf tips to get more enjoyment from your game

Golf is a great sport. It is played in beautiful surroundings with friendly people. Following these simple tips below, will help you get more enjoyment from your golf and keep you passionate about the game.

Play 9 holes rather than 18

In a recent study I read that 60% of golfers would enjoy the sport more if it didn’t take as long to play.

So rather than spending 4 or 5 hours playing 18 holes. Take just 2 hours and play 9 holes.

Many golf courses will allow you to play either the front or back nine holes. Failing that, there will always be a 9 hole course close by to you. A little searching will seek out these gems.

Another alternative is to find a local Par 3 course. These are great to learn on as they tend to be easier to play. And they are great fun for younger golfers too.

Play TopGolf or Mini Golf

Keeping it fun when learning golf will help you enjoy the sport even more.

Making use of places such as Topgolf and local minigolf facilities will help you practice whilst being in a relaxed and social environment.

You can search for your local TopGolf facility, by visiting their website here.

Join or start a practice club

Sharing your journey with like minded people is another way of getting more enjoyment out of golf as well as improving your social interaction.

Why not ask at your local driving ranges and golf courses about practice clubs or groups local to your area.

Join a society or roll up at your local club

If you don’t want to become a member at your local golf club, then seeking out your local golf society is a brilliant way to enjoy golf in a friendly setting.

Many societies are created because they want to enjoy golf in a more relaxed way. Many societies will have a day a month where they all get together and play a different course.

So this is an ideal way to experience many golf courses and test your game against others.

If you do become a member of the local golf club, then be sure to take advantage of the weekly roll-ups. These are friendly gatherings where groups of 4 play the course.

It’s usually where you can get your card marked for your handicap, or learn the rules and etiquette of golf.

As a past club captain, I used to attend all of these and encourage beginners of all ages and abilities to enjoy my course. It was relaxed and some of the best memories I have of being a club captain.

The 19th Hole

I really hope that you found some great advice and tips in this article as a beginner golfer. If you did, please feel free to share it among your friends.

Golf is a beautiful sport that gives you a competitive game if you want it, and a relaxed round alone in the sunshine if you don’t. It teaches you humility and honesty, whilst letting your true self come to the surface.

For me it has given me so much I can’t even begin to list it all down. I have learnt more about me as a person whilst playing this sport, than any life coach or management course ever has.

Golf is the only sport in the world where the only referee is you. Only you can call a penalty on yourself when no one was looking to see your mistake. 

For that Golf is the truest test of one’s character.

Sources

  1. Golf Around the World report 2019.
  2. Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC)
  3. How the Human Eye Works
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