A Simple Beginner’s Guide to Golf

As one of the oldest and most nuanced games in western civilization, golf can be intimidating. Are you just getting started, or are maybe teaching someone to play? Here are the essentials every beginner should know.

Practice

  • It will be helpful to have a consistent driving range routine in order to track your progress. Try increasing the length and speed of your swing, and eventually work your way up to a driver, which is generally used for long distances.
  • Start out with playing three holes.
  • Learn some basic short shots so you can hit a driver off the tee with no problem.
  • Chipping vs. Pitching – use a chip when the ball doesn’t need to travel over any obstacles, such as a bunker or body of water. Pitch when you’re trying to make the ball stop faster.
  • Know when you’re ready to get on the green with the rest of the players!

Equipment

One of the most important aspects of your game will be which kind of club you play with. Carrying 14 clubs in your bag is not necessary. All you need to get started is a driver, a putter, and a sand wedge. Look for clubs with at least 10 degrees of loft, which will reduce your sidespin. 

Basic Etiquette

  • Arrive early enough to warm up so you don’t slow other golfers down behind you. Avoid playing too slow for the same reason.
  • If a caddie is available to you, this is a great way to learn more about the game. They are walking golf encyclopedias.
  • Replace your divots!
  • Make sure not to step on your fellow players’ putting line, and try not to stand anywhere that may distract them during a shot.
  • Once everyone has putted out, walk to the next tee right away.
  • Last but not least, remember to be a good sport. Shake hands with your fellow golfers, congratulate the winners, and don’t gloat if you’re one of the lucky ones!

Vocabulary

Just a few terms to know below:

  • Birdie – a score of one under par
  • Bogey – a score of one over par
  • Divot – the turf that becomes displaced when a club strikes a ball
  • Eagle – a score of two-under-par
  • Grip – the part of a club where you place your hands
  • Lag – a shot meant to finish short of your target
  • Loft – the degree of angle on your clubface
  • Mulligan – hitting a second ball without being penalized
  • Shank – when a ball is struck on the hosel (part of club connecting the shaft to the clubhead) of a club, generally sending it off to the right
  • Vector – a measure related to force that has magnitude and direction
  • Whiff – also known as an ‘air ball,’ a whiff is a complete miss
  • Yips – what makes a player lose control of his or her hands and club. It’s known as the ‘twitches’ in the UK.

There are many more where that came from. For a more comprehensive list, check out PGA’s golf glossary.

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