Golf is booming right now, in part because it was the safest sport to play during the pandemic and it’s played outside, in fresh air and it was easy to stay socially distant from playing partners.
According to research from the National Golf Foundation (NGF), golf participation (on and off-course) in the USA surpassed 40 million golfers for the first time in 2022 and has now reached 41.1 million with off-course golf entertainment surpassing the traditional form of the game for the first time in history.
If you are one of many people newly taking up golf, you should know it takes time to learn and plenty of practice before you’re ready to play regularly on a course, join a club and play in competitions.
Worldwide, we are seeing the biggest golf boom since the 1990’s when Tiger Woods exploded onto the scene and new upmarket resort golf courses were built in emerging new golf markets like Dubai, China and Turkey. India, the world’s second most populous country now has 200,000 registered golfers as a direct result of the sport becoming more open and accessible during the pandemic years.
If you’re thinking of giving golf a try, here are 10 top tips for beginner golfers.
Invest in golf lessons with a PGA Professional
The best way to start playing golf is to take golf lessons from a PGA Professional and start by learning all the fundamentals of the golf swing, such as the grip, stance, posture, takeaway and impact; from someone who is trained to teach them.
It’s tempting to rock up to your local driving range with a friend and start shelling balls but if you want to give yourself the best chance of improving quickly, make the early investment in lessons to give you the best chance of understanding how the golf swing and golf clubs actually work.
You’ll progress quicker with the help of a talented coach than you will watching YouTube videos or taking advice from friends whose handicaps or playing ability may not actually be that good.
Start slowly with hire and second-hand equipment
Golf equipment is a big investment and the game is hard.
Don’t dive in early and buy a full set of brand new clubs, bag, shoes and a trolley if you’re not sure you’ll stay the course.
Start sensibly, most driving ranges or golf clubs can provide starter clubs for beginners taking their first lessons and if you start to get the golf bug, then look at adding some second hand irons or ex-demo (demonstration or tester) clubs, while you learn the game.
Ebay is a great market for second-hand equipment and there are many reputable PGA Professionals selling clubs on this website. Golfbidder is another excellent website and is the largest retailer of used golf gear in Europe.
When you’re absolutely sure you’re hooked on golf, then you’ll want to splash out on your first full set, putter, driver, range finder, shoes and awesome new golf wear.
Practice as much as your lifestyle allows
In the early days when you’re learning to play golf, you need to practice as much as your lifestyle will allow. Getting good at the basics such as the grip, posture and takeaway and alignment is so key to building a good golf game.
If you drop in and out in the early days and think you can pick it up easily after weeks away, you’ll find it harder to improve quickly.
If you’ve ever heard of the 10,000 hours to skill mastery theory, you’ll know why it’s important to rack up as much time as you can hitting balls, chipping and putting, so you can build a solid ability to hit the golf ball and be able to score well.
Learn the rules of Golf
Golf is a game with a lot of rules, more than most other sports.
There’s a pocket book and a mobile app containing all of the rules, which are set by the R&A (the governing body of the game outside the USA), ranging from teeing off between the tee markers to not touching the sand with your club in a bunker before your shot.
Before you start playing on a course, you need to understand the basic rules of golf so that you can play with others and compete fairly with other golfers.
Golf is a traditional sport and some golfers, especially in the club environment, can be quick to point out to beginners when and why they may have broken the rules.
It’s hard to be told “actually, you can’t do that, that’s a two-stroke penalty,” but don’t take it personally, stick with it and learn from this experience, it’ll stand you in good stead if you want to join a club and play tournaments.
The best way to get started is to play with someone who has been playing golf for a long time and who knows the rules, so they can guide you as you play together.
Respect the etiquette and stick to the dress code
As well as studying the rules, take your time to learn the expected and sometimes unspoken etiquette within golf, such as how to carry yourself on the golf course and in the clubhouse afterwards.
The code of conduct in golf is more formal than in many other sports.
It is modernising and changing to fall more in line with general society but you’ll probably find customs that surprise you, such as not being able to wear your cap or trainers in the clubhouse and being expected not to use your mobile phone on the course.
Before playing at a new course, check what the club’s dress code is and stick to it. If you turn up in clothing that doesn’t meet their code, such as jeans or a tracksuit top, they may not let you play the course or use the practice facilities.
Standards differ a lot between clubs. Some are relaxed and progressive, allowing golfers to wear jeans or non-collared shirts, others are highly traditional; insisting on jacket and tie in the main bar or banning sports socks in favour of knee high socks in Summer.
When starting to play golf, choose somewhere with a relaxed outlook on dress code, so you don’t feel unnecessary pressure alongside trying to learn how to play and knowing enough rules and etiquette to be able to go on the course.
Use second-hand balls
When you start playing golf, you’ll probably end up losing a lot of balls, in hazards like ponds and in trees and bushes.
Buying the most expensive balls will soon add up, so be smart and buy second-hand balls or cheaper brands when you are starting out. Srixon make high quality affordable balls that are great value for money, try the AD333 or Soft Feel ranges.
You can get great deals buying ‘lake or pond’ balls, these are reclaimed from lakes and ponds by professional divers, cleaned and resold by the dozen.
Keep up with pace of play
One of the quickest ways to get noticed on the golf course is to play slowly and hold everyone up.
It’s polite to let players play through if your game is going slowly and they are continually waiting while you to play your shots.
Learn how to keep score
As well as learning all of the rules and etiquette of golf, you’ll need to learn how to keep score if you are going to play competitive games.
Once you have a handicap, you will need to learn how to fill in your scorecard and mark other players’ cards if you play in a competition. There are more technicalities to learn, such as the stroke index of holes (which rank them in order of difficulty from 1-18) and what terms like par, birdie, bogey, eagle and albatross mean.
There are lots of helpful score tracking apps which you can use and even gadgets that you can add to the grips of your clubs that track the number of shots you have played and how far each one went.
Be Patient and Keep Showing Up
Golf is frustrating.
One day you feel like you’ve cracked it and the next you could play like a total beginner again.
Don’t be put off if you have bad shots, most golfers hit more bad shots than good shots. Even Jack Nicklaus, with his 18 major championship wins, said he probably only hit three shots a round that he was completely happy with.
Golf is not a game of perfect, it’s a game of damage limitation and making your bad shots as good as they can possibly be.
It’s rare that people start playing golf and become good straight away, it usually takes years to reach an average playing ability and several more to acquire a single figure handicap.
It does help to start playing when you’re young, as your body is more flexible and limber and able to adjust to the physical demands of swinging a club at high speeds. No matter when you start playing, the secret is to enjoy it and keep showing up.
Golf allows you to exercise, spend time outdoors, socialise and make friends, so even if you are not winning competitions there are lots of other benefits to gain from playing.
Get Golf Insurance
We cannot recommend highly enough the importance of being insured. For just £24.99 a year, or even less with some providers, you’ll be covered against the possibility that you might hit or injure another golfer and be sued for compensatory damages. Your equipment will also be insured from theft or loss and if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets a hole in one, you might also get up to £200 to spend in the bar celebrating.
Also, certain insurers throw in free gifts such as a dozen balls or 3 free rounds of golf, so think about it – you’re getting more back in value than you’re paying out.
We hope you liked these Top 10 tips for beginner golfers and found them useful. Good luck starting your golf journey, it’s the greatest game ever played and will open doors to lifelong friendships, the opportunity to travel, explore and experience some of the world’s most beautiful locations and golf destinations.
If you liked these tips and want more, check out Global Golfer’s ‘how-to-guide’ to playing links golf.