First starting to play golf can be intimidating. The equipment, the rules, the swing, the putt - and the etiquette! Unlike any other sport, golf is a beautiful balance of athleticism, sportsmanship, and an appreciation for the course.
When I first started, like most I just thought I could step up to the box, swing the club, and get going. I have played sports all my life (I’m a coach for crying out loud). And I’m sure I can just muscle my way through a round. Sure the ball may not go as far as someone playing for years, but that’s it. Right?
So let me spare you some of the maddening frustration. You may be like me and think none of this applies to you. But you’re wrong. Do yourself a favor and at least consider the things below. I wish I had known this when I started to play golf.
Take Lessons. I. Cant. Stress. This. Enough. Take at least 4-5 lessons from a professional and give yourself 6-8 weeks of work (practice or play) to make those lessons stick. The amount I have learned from my instructor is priceless and I have seen a marked improvement in my play. Originally I struggled to hit the ball, not just move it, but to swing a club and make contact at all. I think my first score for the first 9 I played all the way through was somewhere around 85.
Get your clubs fitted. Have your instructor or a reputable dealer fit you for clubs. While it’s easy enough to find clubs online or at garage sales, having clubs that fit your grip, are proportionate to your height and made of the right material for your strength and size will make a difference in how you learn the game and how you learn to hit properly.
Buy in-expensive balls in bulk. You will lose a lot of balls. A lot. Don’t get emotionally attached to golf balls or buy the most expensive balls until you can go several rounds without losing a ball. Of course, you can also find a lot on the course if you take a few
minutes to look. Be sure when you do search you are not holding up your group or anyone behind you. I play with orange matte balls, mostly because by the time I look up from hitting I can usually find my shot. I have a really hard time seeing the white balls after they rise above the tree-line. For me orange is the easiest to spot in the sky, on the ground and of course as I spend a lot of time in the rough – orange tends to stand out there as well. (I change to green for fall golf).
Start with Nine. You don’t have to play 18 holes when you are just starting. Learning the game, and practicing proper hitting techniques as well as walking the 3000-3500 yards you’ll need to cover to play nine is more of a workout than you will realize. In fact, I always wake up sore the first day after playing my first round of golf of the year. I find also that when I play 18, I am almost too tired to really care by the time I get to 16 to enjoy the game. Of course, that changes in a cart a bit, but still, I suggest starting with 9. I can normally walk nine early in the morning in under 2 hours if I really put an effort in and I can play before I head to work. It’s a great way to start the day.
Avoid the Mulligan. Its always very tempting to take a mulligan on the tee shot or a shot you have messed up because you know you can do better, but try to avoid these as much as possible. They don’t give you a good idea of how your game is evolving and honestly, I believe the game is more about recovering from the poor shots and flubs than having 36 great shots in 9 holes. But I’ll let you know that for sure when I shoot my first 36. :-)
Take accuracy over distance. It’s always deceiving to watch the pros hit the drive or fairway shot and watch the ball travel 300 yards or more. It takes years of practice to get to that level. And while I have played with and around a number of people who can hit far, the people who tend to have the best time (most enjoyable) and lowest scores are the ones who can hit accurately to where they what to hit and know where they can hit to rather than trying to drive the green.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Each course will have its own dress code expectations and usually a simple phone call is enough to get those details. Dress within those guidelines for the weather and for your body. Wearing clothing that is too tight is restrictive and after a long day, just becomes one more thing to fight with on the course. Shoes, Shoes, Shoes. If you are going to spend money somewhere, find a great pair of shoes and invest in them. Walking 3-7 miles playing golf necessitates an investment in your feet. If you can’t walk comfortably you can’t hit well and it just makes for a longer round and higher scores.