How To Golf For Beginners [Complete Guide]

Beginners’ Guide To Playing Golf
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Golf is known around the world as a game of precision and prestige, two things a beginner doesn’t have. There’s a lot that beginners need to learn, from the specialized equipment that golfers use to the scoring system that dictates the winner of every game. Fortunately for you, this guide has everything that beginners need to know. You’ll find sections on the following aspects of golf below:

  • Choosing The Correct Golfing Attire
  • Selecting Golf Clubs And Balls
  • Understand The Rules Of Golf
  • Ready To Play Golf?

Across these four parts, you’ll learn what you should wear, the equipment you should carry, how you use that equipment, and how golf games are scored and won. From there, you’ll be in the perfect position to start playing golf, where you can build up your skills through experience. Mastering golf takes much more from this guide, so we’ve included references to other materials that can also be read by those who want to know more.

With that covered, what should you wear when playing golf?

Choosing The Correct Golfing Attire & Golf Accessories 

Man and woman in golf attire

Even for a relaxed sport like golf where you could wear anything, there is still a correct golfing attire that conforms with etiquette and allows the golfer to properly move when they swing the golf club.

Let’s take a look at the clothing and golf accessories that are commonly worn when playing golf.

Collared Shirt

First, let’s start with the shirt that you should wear. A comfortable polo shirt that has a collar is the favorite among golfers. Whichever shirt you choose, it should be suitable for the climate in which you are golfing. For example, you should go for a short-sleeved polo shirt if you’re in a hotter climate and a long-sleeved shirt if you’re in a colder one.

Cotton is a great material for cold climate golfing shirts, though you can shop around and find other materials that are comfortable and suitable for the current weather. Don’t forget that different colors interact with sunlight differently, so hot weather gear should be lighter to deflect sunlight and it should be thin and loose to keep you cool and comfortable.

You ultimately have a lot of choices when it comes to your shirt, many golfers would just ask that you make sure it’s a collared polo shirt because of the sophistication and comfort it adds to this leisure sport.

Shorts/Slacks

As for your legs, you should choose between wearing slacks or a pair of shorts that don’t have a drawstring on them. Whichever one you pick; they should have belt loops and you should ideally wear a fitting belt that’s colored to match other accessories you may wear. That said, you don’t need to worry about the finer points of fashion when you just want to play some golf unless there’s an enforced dress code. Most golfing resorts won’t allow you to wear denim jeans, for example. You don’t want to wear jeans either, because golf attire should be light, airy, and allow for a wide range of body movement.

Naturally, we’d recommend shorts in the summer and slacks in the winter if you’re sensitive to the temperature. Being too hot or cold is a surefire way to throw you off your game. You can’t go wrong with tan, khaki, or grey pants. Those neutral colors are inoffensive, blend in well with other golfing attire, and cover the spectrum of both summer and winter wear colors.

There’s also a confidence aspect here – as a beginner you probably don’t want all eyes on you, watching your every mistake. If you prefer a louder style, you can gradually wear brighter colors as your skill develops, so you don’t disappoint whenever you catch somebody’s attention.

Shoes

Since the average golf game involves walking, shoes should be comfortable and able to withstand light walking action. You don’t need lugged hiking boots to walk across a freshly maintained green. Some golf shoes are spiked but they’re only to be worn at professional venues and if you’re here, you’re no professional yet.

Other shoes have soft spikes, where rubber studs have been replaced instead so they don’t cause damage to the field while still allowing you to have some grip when moving. Then some shoes have no spikes whatsoever, so all you need to worry about is maintaining your footing so you don’t slip on slopes or wet ground.

Just by looking for golf shoes online, you’ll find many that are made with different course types in mind. Find your favorites and make sure they match the golfing grounds. Sneakers or sandals will only cause you trouble on the course, so you should avoid those.

Gloves

Golf gloves are optional but every golf player will find themselves shopping for them at some point. Golfers typically wear one glove on their non-dominant hand to improve grip where it’s needed, since the tacky materials that golf gloves are made from offer more friction than our natural skin. When winding and executing big swings, you’ll want that extra grip to make sure you don’t send the golf club flying. You’ll know whether a golf glove fits or not, it’s like any other glove, it should be comfortable and not too loose or too tight.

Hats 

There isn’t much shelter on a golf course so you should consider headwear. If it’s a hot and sunny day, you’ll want to wear a hat to protect yourself from overheating and the sunstroke that comes with that. If it’s a cold and windy day, you’ll likely catch a chill if your head isn’t protected. That said, windy days aren’t ideal for golfing, so most golfers only find themselves wearing hats with wide brims or visors that keep the sun off your head.

If you want a casual option, baseball caps will suffice on most courses. It’s also good manners/etiquette to take any hats off when inside the clubhouse and you shouldn’t wear it backward. There’s also no point wearing it that way if it means your face isn’t shielded from sunlight.

Sunglasses 

If you’re wearing a brimmed hat to keep the sunlight off of your face and out of your eyes, you may want to wear sunglasses too.

You won’t find pros wearing sunglasses because they believe it disrupts their golf game. That notion isn’t wrong, especially with cheap sunglasses that distort the environment when viewed through their lenses. When depth perception is important, golfers prefer to ditch sunglasses in favor of precise vision.

They can also be too dark to see properly anyway, so some players just don’t like them. That said, manufacturers have made advancements in sunglasses technology, so younger golfing generations are starting to wear them. Even if they present a risk to a golfer’s accuracy, they can always be taken off when tip-top accuracy is required.

If you do get sunglasses, you should know what you’re buying. We’d advise a polarized model with a high nanometer rating. They should also be comfortable and light enough that you can wear them for hours on end. If you can get glasses that have removable lenses of several different colors, that’s ideal because different shades work better under different weather conditions.

Dress Codes

Finally, even with all of the above in mind, many clubs out there have dress codes that dictate what you wear on their course. As a beginner, you may not be registering at some of the more prestigious clubs out there with strict codes but you should always keep in mind what the establishment wants you to wear.

If you’d prefer to wear what you want, you should also be able to find a smaller golf club nearby that doesn’t have a dress code, or at least has a very lax dress code that just covers what any common-sense golfer would wear when out at the course.

Here are some common dress code rules associated with golf attire:

  1. No T-Shirts: Polo shorts are preferred and are more convenient.
  1. No Jeans: Khakis and golf slacks are required, preferably with a belt. Avoid white pants.
  1. Appropriate Shorts Length: Shorts shouldn’t be too short or tight.
  1. Appropriate Shoes: Shoes should have soft spikes, not metal ones, and socks must match any pants you wear. Change into golf shoes in the club locker room.
  1. Tone Colors Down: Some clubs prefer a muted color palette to avoid distracting other golfers on the course.

Selecting Beginner Golf Clubs

A bag of golf clubs and two golf balls next to it

The most important equipment that a starter golfer needs are the best beginner golf clubs. There are several distinct clubs you will need, here’s a brief rundown:

Driver & Woods

Named for the fact they were historically made from wood, these are hollow, lightweight clubs made from steel or titanium that are easily swung and great for driving the ball off the tee. Choosing the best driver for beginners is a great way to get started with your long game.

Irons

Split across short iron, middle irons, and long irons, these are clubs numbered 3 to 9 that are used to make different long shots. They’re a lot thinner and smaller than the heads of woods or wedges.

Hybrids

Given that they share some use, there are also hybrid clubs that mix the features of a woods club and an iron. This means you get the best of both worlds and have a lot of long game potential. They’re a must for the club set of a golfing beginner.

Wedges

Wedges are a subset of irons but there are several of them, so we’ve detailed them separately instead. These clubs are great for shorter but more accurate shots and span four types, pitching wedges, gap wedges, sand wedges, and lob wedges. Choosing the best wedge for beginners can be a great way to ensure that your short game is in good standing.

Pitching wedges are the most commonly used. They’re great on the approach but can also be used to make chip shots by skilled players. They’ll span approximately 60 to 120 yards and bounce less than the other wedge types.

Sand wedges are designed to catapult the ball into the air, freeing it from a sand trap. You can still use them for other shots but this is their main and explicit use.

Gap Wedges hit to about 100 yards, the perfect middle point between sand wedges that hit 90 yards or pitching wedges that tackle 120 yards. Being torn between two other clubs is why it’s called the gap wedge, it bridges them.

Lastly, lob wedges will give the ball the most loft. If you’re stuck in deep ground, you can get the ball in the air quickly and effectively with this club.

Putters

At the end of a golf game, you need putter clubs to tap the ball into the hole. Given its job as the precise, surgical instrument in your golf club bag, the putter is often the most specialized club you’ll own. They come in many shapes and sizes but they all do the same thing, send the ball rolling into the hole to end the game.

So, what should a beginner’s putter look like? Many beginners take a look at the sleek design of putters and think that longer, sleeker putters do a better job. This means beginners often get putters that are too long for them. The putter should be as tall as the distance between the floor and the top of your hands when they’re by your side.

Head To A Store To Try The Clubs First Before Purchasing

Before you try purchasing any clubs, you should try some out first. If you have a friend or a willing acquaintance, you may be able to borrow theirs to see if you like them, but you may not know anybody who plays golf if you’re a true beginner.

Inevitably, you’ll need to go to the store to purchase the clubs. Fortunately, many allow you to try them first, even if it is practiced swings and putts in a small and controlled environment. That’s better than nothing and allows you to figure out if the club feels right for you in terms of length and weight.

Swing The Clubs A Few Times, To Know If The Club Is Right For You

When trying out your clubs, you should swing them a few times to know if the club is right for you. There are several golf swing fundamentals for a standard golf swing. You won’t win any championships following just these several steps but it’s enough to discern if the club fits your height and stature.

Your Stance:

You should have a wide stance, slightly wider than your shoulder width,  with your feet slightly ahead of the ball. The middle of the club’s face should be able to touch the ball when your arms are straight but not pulled twice.

Your Grip:

Like your stance, your grip should be relaxed for a smooth movement that achieves better accuracy and striking distance. If you’re familiar with baseball, you can hold it similarly by curling your fingers across the handle with a left-handed underneath the grip. Tighten as your right-hand takes a hold – your left and right thumbs should be right and left of the center of the handle, respectively. Your fingers will overlap, so interlock them for an even stronger grip.

Your Swing:

You can’t unleash a full swing inside a cramped golf club store but you can perform backswings and downswings that’ll tell you anything you need to know.

To do a backswing, you should have your arms naturally straight and move your hands back. When the clubhead is moved backward, the club shaft should be nearly parallel to the ground. Make a wrist break and form a 90-degree angle between your left arm and the club. From there, rotate your torso to manipulate the clubhead. You’ll know you’ve reached the height of your backswing when your front arm bends slightly.

Then for the downswing, which is where your front arm should lock to make it straight. Then you shift your weight away from the ball of your back foot to your front foot, letting your knees move forwards. Bend the front knee as you strike the golf ball.

Find A Staff Member To Help Out

Learning proper form from reading alone isn’t a great idea. If you don’t have somebody that can show you how to hold and swing a golf club, a staff member at the store should be able to help you out.

If you’d prefer a more official approach, you could also find a mentor who will teach you the basics of swinging a golf club, and, in doing so, they should be able to take one look at you and figure out the ideal club lengths for you. A mentor will also be able to teach you to play the game, though their services cost money.

Select The Right Golf Club That’s Suitable

Now that you know some of the best practices for choosing a golf club, how do you know when a golf club is perfect for you? Here are some easy pointers that everybody should keep in mind when trying out a golf club:

  1. Make sure you try out at least a 3-wood, several irons, and a putter.
  2. Consider buying a beginner set of clubs to train with. Steel shafts are less expensive and more durable, so tend to be better for beginners.
  3. Graduate to a full golf club set with a driver and wedges. If you are a high handicap golfer, offset heads and cavity-backed irons are preferable.
  4. As your game improves, your golf club set should improve too.
  5. Keep the grips on your clubs well maintained so you can hold them properly and minimize the risk of throwing one, which could cause damage or disfiguration.

Selecting The Correct Golf Balls

The golf balls you use when playing golf are just as important as the clubs you’re using to hit them. Since many golfers utilize their own golf balls, they’ll create small but important performance differences when they are flying through the air.

First, you need to understand the pieces that make up a golf ball. It’s not a solid ball made from one material, some different layers and substances dictate the ball’s flight.

  • The Core: This is the epicenter of your golf ball. It is through the core that the impact of your club spreads and lingers, driving the speed and velocity with which the ball flies. They work through energy retention and manufacturers try to improve on their cores to hold the most energy when it’s needed for long shots. Polybutadiene rubber is typically used but is treated with different processes and ranked in grades that detail speed and spin ability.
  • The Mantle: This is the surface that’s between the core and the cover and it’s important for spinning. It serves a practical purpose too, sealing the ball so that moisture doesn’t reach the core and interfere with flying performance. The thickness of the mantle dictates the spinning factor. Right now, ionomer materials are preferred for mantles.
  • The Cover: The cover is what interacts with the outside world, so it’s all about aerodynamics and how they affect the ball’s flying patterns. Built into the cover are dimple patterns that change how air flows around the ball, giving it more spin and allowing it to stay in the air for longer. The firmness of the cover determines how far it’ll go and which clubs the balls work with. Urethane is a great solid material though surlyn is also used for distance balls.

As a new golfer once you know what golf balls are made of and how the construction can affect performance you will be able to select the best golf balls for beginners.

Understand The Rules Of Golf

An instructor teaching golf to people

So, we’ve covered what you should wear and the main pieces of equipment you’ll need, now it’s high time you learned the rules of the game! If you’re here, you may have some ideas already from watching others play golf but hopefully, this will cover any gaps in your knowledge.

Read The Basics Of Golf

First, let’s go through how golf is scored. Keeping score in golf is simple, you just need to count every time you swing at a golf ball. That’s a stroke. Once you’ve managed to get the golf ball into the hole, you need to tally up all the strokes you used on the hole. That’s your score.

Naturally, the higher your score, the worse you’re playing golf. As a beginner, you will mess up and need to add penalty strokes, which then punish the golfer by increasing their score. 

The reason that higher scores are a punishment is that they are measured against par. This is the ideal game, the number of strokes that an accomplished golfer has used to beat the hole efficiently. If a hole has a par of four then golfers who know what they are doing should complete that hole in four strokes, maximum. There are even terms like birdie and bogey, which mean you were one under or one over par, respectively.

Here are some simple rules that apply to many games of golf. Every beginner should familiarize themselves with these:

  1. You are allowed fourteen clubs in your bag when playing golf competitively.
  2. You must tee up within the marked-out parameters, which are typically visible on the ground.
  3. Mark your golf balls so they are identified as belonging to you. This stops mix-ups where golfers play incorrect balls.
  4. At the green, you may clean the ball but must mark its location and place it in the same spot once you’re done.
  5. Unless otherwise specified, you should not interfere with the ball and play it as it lies. If natural forces move it, you must play from the new spot.
  6. Sometimes the ball rests at an unplayable surface, where you can move it to a better spot. In stricter clubs, this will add one penalty stroke to your game.
  7. As a beginner, you’ll go out of bounds. When that happens, you must re-play from the original striking point and add a penalty stroke to your game.
  8. You must mark your scorecard correctly. In competitive games, you can be penalized if you don’t.

Golf Training Drills/Using Training Aids

There are drills and training aids that you can use to efficiently hone certain golfing skills without having to play multiple games where you’ll make embarrassing mistakes. That’s all part of the process, of course, but keep these three drills in mind:

  1. Start And Stop: To practice golf swing balance, you should go to a driving range and practice lining up your swing. You wind up your backswing, approach the ball, and then stop before hitting it.
  1. Three-Footer Streak: This is where you stand three feet away from a hole and practice your putt game. Try and hit ten putts into the hole without missing.
  1. Headcover Drills: This popular drill should be used by beginners to avoid slicing the ball. All you need to do is place your driver’s headcover next to the target line, so it’s positioned nearby but out of the path of a successful swing. If your swing isn’t coming in a good approach, you’ll hit the headcover. Correct your technique until you’re striking past the headcover instead of hitting it.

Play With An Experienced Golfer (And Shadow Them)

In most sports and physical disciplines, a mentor is the best way to learn. They combine the knowledge and the experience that you want to one day achieve, so why not play with a more experienced golfer and shadow them around?

Ask Questions

In a similar vein, you should ask questions of those who know more about golf than you. Whether that’s a pro, a clubhouse staff member, or even another amateur who’s further ahead in the training process, you should be enthusiastic about learning and ask about the sport online or in places where you’re allowed to speak to fellow golfers.

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Part of being a beginner is making a mistake over and over again until you change your form and gradually improve by doing so. Even by reading this guide, you should be prepared to learn from experience, which is to say learn from mistakes until you never make them anymore.

Or Hire A Professional That Can Offer Feedback

If you don’t know anybody who can help you out with some of the above points, you may want to hire a golfing professional who can monitor your golfing process and offer feedback. Make sure you verify that they know what they’re doing, that they’re worth your time and money, and that they will be honest with you when mentoring your golf game.

Ready To Play Golf?

A Man playing mini golf

Are you ready to play golf? If you’ve read and understood the guide up to this point, we think the answer is yes. If you’re still unsure, you should remember the ten points below when you first start playing and learning golf.

  • Warm-up your muscles by arriving no later than 30 minutes before tee time to stretch.
  • To improve, head to a driving range and practice playing golf.
  • Try a short 9-hole course or a pitch and putt course.
  • Learn the basics of putting.
  • Graduate to a full 18-hole course.
  • Learn the basics of swinging.
  • Figure out your golf handicap and work towards lowering it.
  • If you’re unsure of anything, ask questions to learn from those who know.
  • Remember to hydrate when playing golf. You can drink when walking between holes.
  • Most of all, remember to have fun!

Summary: How To Golf For Beginners

Man hitting the golf ball

Now that we’ve covered how to golf for beginners all that’s left for you to do is start playing. By playing golf, everything we’ve covered today should fall into line and make more sense when your hands get busy. If you stick with golfing, you’ll likely have a favorite establishment whose rules you’ll learn over time, so you don’t have to worry too much about dress code or how games are scored.

Similarly, if you start playing at a competitive level then you’ll also get the rundown when you participate in the event. Competitive events are more strict with their rules but, if you have the eye and the precision, you can earn some cash and make a name for yourself as a local golfer.

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