Golf Geeks Blog Series
New to Golf? A Beginners Guide to Getting Started…
Hello fellow golfers, its Matt here at Golf Geeks HQ, I hope all is well.
This blog is going to cover what you are going to need to start playing golf, bare minimum on day one & some strategies to getting you from here to out on the course playing golf.
It is assuming you have had no experience of golf at all, not someone who played as a child and is coming back after 10yrs or so because you will know most of the stuff covered in this blog as its aimed at complete beginners.
Golf is an excellent choice for lots of reasons as it is not age discriminatory. It doesn’t matter if your 10 or 100 if you can swing a club, hit a ball with some consistency you can play. The handicap system that surrounds this game ensures this. The great thing about this is your friends or family can take it up at any time, and you can all play together. People at different levels can play against each other and have fun and a close game. Hardly any other sport can boast this. Tennis, Squash, Badminton, Snooker, Pool, Darts, Cards etc. are all sports where you need to play with people of a similar level to have a good game.
Golf is almost impossible to master, recognise this and accept this on day one. It’s very much a game about the journey and not the destination. It’s about always finding ways to improve. If your someone who has to master something quickly before you move onto something new then golf might not be something you will enjoy.
Golf is also a great social hobby. It’s a club atmosphere at most courses. When you play its often-good comradery, and although you may be playing against each other ultimately it’s you vs golf and, spoiler alert, golf always wins! But you get to know people at the golf course, whether that is in the pro-shop or in the bars and restaurants to other players you meet during the weekend competition etc. so it’s a great place to meet like-minded people who all have golf in common.
Golf is great exercise; the fitness element of golf is a hidden bonus. It is non-impactful so doesn’t injure your knees etc. and an18-hole round is about 5 miles of walking over 3-4 hrs.
Recently I played with two good friends, who I know separately from golf through our children’s school, who are both completely new to golf & it was fascinating, and I don’t mean this to be rude, how little these guys knew about golf in general. What to wear, what tee to use when using a driver, what club to use from 100 yards to the green & general golf etiquette were all unknown. They knew nothing about any of this, and it hit me like a sledgehammer that why would they? We assume people know all these little things because we know them, but if your new to something you’ve never been exposed to it before so why would you know anything about it and so this blog was born.
Of course, there are many opinions and ways to get started, but for what it’s worth these are ours based on the first 10yrs of playing & will hopefully start you down the right path on your golfing journey.
Many golfers go to the course before they are ready. The driving range is the place you need to spend lots of time before you are prepared to play. Go to your local driving range & understand how it works, how much it is, how you get the balls out the machine, what time does it open, is it floodlit and heated etc.?
In the early times, the driving range IS golf and its vital that you can get to a minimum level of ‘competency’ let’s call it before you unleash yourself on a course. You can hurt yourself and others easily by going to play on a course before you’re ready.
Your local range/club should do beginner ‘taster’ sessions where they will provide all the clubs. All you need to do is book on and turn up and give it a go. These can be a great little introduction and will be an excellent opportunity to break the ice with someone at your local facility who can help you further with lessons etc.
At this point, it’s highly recommended you start a relationship with a golf coach. I’m not saying here that you have to commit loads of time and money to have lessons if you don’t want to, but the best piece of advice I can give any beginner golfer is spend a small amount now to have a couple of hours tuition right at the start to be shown some basics.
If you start with proper basic techniques, it will save you lots of time and money later down the line when you have to pay a teacher to try to undo your self-taught bad habits. I made this mistake, and I got to a 24 handicap completely unaided with no golf instruction. 4yrs later, I have now had to spend a decent amount of money re-learning a more consistent way to play to enable me to improve down to my current 17 handicap (at time of writing).
So many amateur golfers shy away from lessons, this is one of the hardest sports in the world so some proper lessons early on should ensure you start down the right path. There is a separate blog written by Golf Geeks on how to choose a golf coach, so I recommend you look at that. Finding the right coach is essential, they are not all the same, and we all learn differently, so finding a coach you can relate to is vital to quick progression.
When it comes to buying clubs, you don’t need to go crazy. You don’t need a full set of irons from day one. A 6-iron upwards will suffice. So, a 6,7,8,9 iron, a pitching wedge and a putter is all you need to start. I would recommend a good second-hand set but from a premium brand.
When I say premium brand it’s a bit like in the car market, with golf there are 5 or 6 premium brands in the golf industry, these being Callaway, Cobra, Mizuno, Ping, TaylorMade & Titleist and the and there is a lot of perfect second-hand sets available. There is another Golf Geeks blog on buying second-hand clubs and what to look out for so that might be worth a read.
If you adopt this approach, you will at least know you are getting a decent set of clubs, and as long as you are relatively average height etc. a standard length, loft and lie will be fine. If you are new to golf, I don’t expect these terms to mean much, but you can ask this question of the retailer or person selling them. A putter I would recommend you go with what you like the look of, I think aesthetics are really important when putting so go with something pleasing to your eye. On top of the brands I mentioned for the irons, Odyssey and Scotty Cameron are well known, quality putters, and again a wide range of second-hand are readily available.
Once they arrive, you will need a bag. I suggest you buy a multi-functional bag. What this means is a bag you can carry, like a backpack and when you put it on the floor, it has two legs that come out so it will stand, but it also can be attached to a trolley because later on, I will talk about trolleys some more. If you buy a bag like this, you are covering all the options for later down the line. Buying a new bag is probably best as second-hand ones can be a bit manky.
From here, you need to commit to going to the range as much as you can. You need to be working on being able to hit the ball 150yards minimum six times out of ten then you are starting to build the consistency you need to go to a course. Even if you don’t hit it 150yards every time pay attention to dispersion, so how wide your shots are from straight. You need to try to be able to keep it in a 40-50-yard-wide area with your bad shots as remember an actual golf hole is a lot narrower than the driving range.
You also need to start understanding how far each club goes, roughly. This was another thing that came out of my round when playing with total beginners was they had no idea how far their different clubs went.
At most driving ranges, they will have markers showing you how far you have hit that ball, and this is important. I would recommend a notebook in your bag that you make a record of how far each club is going. This will be extremely helpful when you get on the course. The lower the number on the club the further it will go so start there and work up the bag. You should hopefully start to see a fairly consistent difference between each club, 5-10 yards ideally.
Once you have an idea of the distance that each club goes and start getting the consistency going, working on the points you were given at the start in your lessons, you are making good progress. If you have some terrible sessions at the driving range, then go back and have a refresher session with the coach. It is entirely reasonable to forget what you were taught, its a new skill and it takes time to ingrain these necessary skills to create that muscle memory that will stand you in good stead for years to come.
When you feel you have a good grasp of the above, you also need to be aware of the other elements involved in the game. The short game is a vital part of golf that you need to do some practice before going to the course. What is short game? Chipping and Putting in a nutshell. Those little shots with your wedges in and around the green that involve you not hitting with a full swing. Trying to get the feeling of how hard you need to hit the same club to get it on the green 20/30/40yards away will help enormously when you get out on the course.
Putting is almost another game all together and needs plenty of time dedicated to it. I recommend a putting mat for at home or work that every time you get a spare 5 mins you use to get the feeling for making putts of different lengths. Any golfer with a good handicap will tell you a good short game is vital to achieving the best you can do in this game. The beginners I played with had not practised putting or chipping at all & lost lots of shots by not being able to do these skills. Being a good putter from inside 6 feet will be a great weapon on the course.
When you are ready, I would recommend that you start by playing nine holes only for the first 3-5 rounds. There are many 9-hole courses dotted around the UK or, if you’re going to join a club, just playing the first nine holes is a very acceptable thing to do. From playing with beginners, they always underestimate how long and hard it is to play 18 holes. They forget they will hit as many shots on the first nine holes as a low handicapper would play 18 holes in so it’s better playing nine holes the best you can than play 18 and be tired with seven holes to go & get demoralised. As you get better, you can start to include more holes into your round but ideally, try to keep your playing time to under 4hrs.
I mentioned trolleys earlier, I’m 36, pretty fit and healthy but I would not want to carry my bag for 18 holes. I also don’t want to use a buggy as I want the exercise so I use an electric trolley. This sounds extravagant but they are not. There are many electric trolleys at all budget levels, but the great thing about them is they are battery-powered, so you don’t waste energy carrying, pulling or pushing your bag or manual trolley.
Having said this some of the lightweight, low resistance trolleys I’ve seen are also suitable and require minimal effort to pull so this might be a good option too.
Being on the course opens up a lot of other issues when it comes to equipment. When you play on the course, you need your own balls, tees, rangefinder (vital for amateur golfers), gloves, clothing (shirt with a collar, proper trousers not jeans), golf shoes, pitch repairer, ball marker, umbrella and waterproof jacket. You can accumulate some of this over time, but you will need some bare minimum stuff to get on the course. Again, you don’t need the most expensive balls or clothing, and there are second hand ‘lake balls’ you can buy, and clothing comes in at all price brackets. For etiquette, you will need a pitch repairer as you can get in trouble if you don’t do it or know how to use it. Lots of videos exist showing you how to repair a pitch mark on the green.
Etiquette is a whole subject in itself, and we will follow this blog up with another dedicated to etiquette so you can fit in and respect the game & others who play it.
If you’re a beginner, I would suggest you play in a pair, not 4 of you all brand new or if you have a friend you know who plays to a good standard its worth having them along for one of your early rounds to point out a few things on the course about etiquette.
Another good tip would be to not record your score for at least the first five rounds you play. It is more about getting comfortable on the course and this new environment that’s very much different from the driving range. A scorecard in hand can easily distract away from what you are trying to achieve. Play the course one shot at a time without the burden of keeping count.
If your having a nightmare hole, don’t worry, regroup & walk to the next tee or pick the ball up if it’s in the trees and play from the middle of the fairway for the next shot. This will help make sure you keep up with play if the course is busy, but also it is hard enough as it is without having to play trick shots out the trees to get back in play.
Once you start getting 6’s, 7’s & 8’s on holes, it is time to get a scorecard out and record your score. You will know when you’re ready for this. When you can get to 110 or below, you are prepared to get your first handicap. To get an official handicap, you will need to join a golf club. If you can’t justify a membership fee, you can upload your scores to numerous websites, and app’s, who can record it and give you a handicap. Many golf clubs allow you to pay your membership monthly so this is a good option & if you’re not sure whether to join then make sure you add up all the green fees you are paying because often if you’re playing once and sometimes twice a week it can be cheaper to join as a full member.
At these 110 shots per round point, I would recommend introducing woods and a driver to your bag. I suggest playing with just irons when you first start as irons are the core skill of golf so concentrating on this early I think works best. Some people’s opinions will differ, and that’s fine, but I think it can be too many clubs to try to get a basic understanding of principles if you buy woods and a driver right at the start.
As with the irons I think second hand is the way to go with your first woods and driver purchase because as you learn with them you are likely to scuff & mark them, its only natural we all do it, and because you have to buy so much other new equipment to go along with the clubs it makes good financial sense also.
We have covered a lot of things in this blog aimed at beginners new to golf & there will be a few spin-off blogs going into some of the points in more detail but the core of how to start is in here, and we really hope its helpful for you if your now about to take this great game up as a hobby.
That’s all we’ve got time for today Golf Geeks, I hope that’s been useful. There’s plenty more on the website – www.golfgeeks.co.uk for you to enjoy but for now, its Matt @ Golf Geeks HQ saying play well and we’ll see you soon.