Golf is the sporting embodiment of easy to learn, difficult to master. On the surface, it’s as simple as swinging a club at a ball, but anyone with even a drop of experience will tell you it is the most infuriatingly complex yet rewarding sport ever created.
It is precisely this reason why golf can be so daunting for beginners; so many rules, pieces of equipment, techniques, jargon, and more. Although these parts are what make golf a joy to play, the complexity can be enough to stop budding golfers before they so much as set foot on a course. This leads to the point of this article – to arm anyone interested in golf with a few tips to get started and take those all-important first steps.
Practice the basics
It can be tempting to rush through the basics when starting a new activity, but with golf, as with most things, the basics are the gateway to improvement. To ensure you make your shots count, you will need to keep three things in mind – stance, posture, and grip.
Stance and posture
Hitting the ball with the right amount of force is largely dependent on hip movement, which in itself is dependent on your stance. This is a common sticking point for complete beginners, who often derive their swing power from their arms only, rather than utilising the full body.
To take a good golfing stance, you will want to stand with your feet shoulder length apart, then slightly flex your knees. Make sure you keep your back straight, twisting your hips as you take your shot. You might need to widen or narrow your stance depending on the club you use, but with experience, you will find what is most comfortable for you.
An often overlooked part of golf is the importance of how you grip your club. Quite like other sports, how you hold your equipment influences how effective they can be, and can save you thousands on top draw tools once you have it mastered. Discussing golf grips is an entire article in itself, so keep in mind it is a skill you will have to develop over time.
For beginners, it is a good idea to start off with a “neutral” grip. To take a neutral grip, hold your club with both hands such that the “V” made by your thumb and forefinger point up toward your face. This grip is best for making straight shots, which makes it a great starting point for beginners. Once you are comfortable, or you fancy changing things up, consider moving on to a strong or weak grip. With all three mastered, you will be prepared for any situation on the course.
The importance of equipment
Though the most important part of golf is the skill of the person behind the club, it is undeniable that the equipment plays a significant role. There is a range of equipment available to golfers, from bags and clothing to clubs and balls, with the latter being the most important for beginners.
For anyone at any experience level, playing with clubs that match your ability and play style is key to making things easier. Each category of club has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it will be important for you to make your own preferences once you develop your technique and play style. It’s important to choose the right irons which suit your ability and playing style.
Golf balls are another often missed part of golf. The right ball can make quite the difference out on the course, and can make life easier for beginners. If you want to practice technique and style, consider picking up some softer balls that are easier to spin. Otherwise, go for the harder balls that are best for long-distance shots. Don’t forget to bring some spares with you for when a ball inevitably pulls a disappearing act. Some equipment will also let you experience the actual gameplay at home. A perfect example of this is the Flightscope Mevo+, a simulator that measures ball-flight and swing power. You may invest in it if you want to continue practicing despite the unexpected weather.
Keep a cool head
You have practiced the basics and bought suitable equipment, so what else is so important? Well, it might sound a bit cliche, but golf is a sport where cooler heads prevail.
For beginners, keeping calm on the course is a surefire recipe to improve quicker, as opposed to beating yourself up over every imperfect shot, of which there will be many. Though it is easier said than done, try to relax when you make a mistake. Bonus points if you can poke a bit of fun at yourself. If you still find it difficult to brush off slip-ups, think about the course, then the workplace. Where would you rather be?
Practice for different situations
There are so many factors that can influence how a golf game plays out, from the terrain to the weather. As such, you will regularly find yourself in a variety of scenarios, so it is a good idea to practice how you might deal with them.
One such situation you will find yourself – if you haven’t already – is in the bunker. It is never a good time when you see your shot land in one, but if you know how to handle them, you can take them in your stride. In short, you will want to practice cutting into the sand with the blade of your club, then almost scoop the ball up and out. With enough effort, you will find it second nature to recover from a bunker, and be able to get from the sand onto the green in no time.
Avoid developing bad habits
Though it might be frustrating at first, being new to golf has its own advantage – you haven’t had any time to develop bad habits. For plenty of self-taught golfers, going without any professional advice or training has not done them any favours for their swing technique or stance.
This is not to say you need to go to the golf equivalent of boot camp, paying for a few lessons at the start of your golfing career will be more than enough. If you can develop good habits for the fundamentals, you will have a solid foundation to build on, and a faster route to success.