Golf for Beginners – 10 lessons every new golfer needs to know

With any new venture in life you might have questions, and, as you might have noticed, golf has a number of curiosities surrounding when and where to play, what to do and how to do it. The world of golf even has its own rules and language. It can be overwhelming, and that’s before trying to hit a tee shot in front of total strangers. So we called on your fellow golfing brothers and sisters, asking them what wisdom they have accrued that they wish they had known in the beginning.

We are delighted that you have picked up this beautiful sport. It is a game of endless joy and unceasing frustration. If that doesn’t sound like a paradox, you are in the right place and you are not alone. The National Golf Foundation reports that 6.2 million new players came to the sport in 2020. That figure is the most in history, and the largest single-season percentage increase in beginners and youth golfers since Tiger Woods’ historic victory at the 1997 Masters, according to the NGF. Better yet, in a game that has long struggled with including others, the participation surge represents a variety of social and economic backgrounds. The game is still not where it needs to be, but it’s getting better.

Here are the lessons every new golfer needs to know.

  1. Get the basics down. Namely, do not walk ahead of golfers who haven’t hit, do not walk in the line of a player’s putt and do not talk while someone is hitting. Do those three things, and you’re in decent shape.
  2. Take a lesson or two. The value of establishing fundamentals in your first few months—rather than spending years trying to figure it out on your own—cannot be overstated.
  3. Lower expectations. Golf is rewarding and fun, but it is not an easy sport to pick up quickly. Enjoy the challenge of getting better. It’s a journey. Like stopping to admire the scenery on a long road trip, allow yourself to fully appreciate the feeling of a well-struck shot.
  4. Play your game. If a golfing partner hits the ball a lot farther than you, don’t try to match him or her. It will only get you in trouble. Play within yourself, and you will do a lot better.
  5. Never give swing advice. It does not matter how funky their movements look; you’re in no position to say a word. Conversely, if experienced golfers have a tip or two, take it in. We know newbies when we see them, and if we’re compelled to say something, it’s advice you should consider.
  6. Always bring a water bottle. With COVID protocols, a number of courses have shut off access to coolers or fountains, and the beverage cart is not always making the rounds. Two hours is a long time without hydration; we don’t need you passing out in a bunker.
  7. One piece of fashion advice: Go easy with the white belt. Our beloved “Mr. Style” Marty Hackel has a Rule of 36: If your age or waistline exceeds that number, white belts are not a great look.
  8. Keep complaining to a minimum. It’s fine to sigh as your drive slices into the wilderness. The occasional swear word can be cathartic. But don’t sulk about a bad round. Don’t get angry at a bad round. Don’t do anything but laugh at a bad round because, again, we all stink. And never, ever complain about your opponent’s good shots.
  9. Believe in yourself. Subbing out a new ball for a scuffed one on a hole with out-of-bounds or water is admitting defeat before a club is in your hands, to say nothing of putting some self-fulfilling prophecy in play. Yes, it stings to lose a new ball. But have courage that you’ll be able to keep it safe.
  10. Don’t be intimidated. Let us disabuse you of one of your biggest fears: No one cares what you shoot. Stop fretting about looking stupid or overmatched on the course. We all started somewhere, and even the pros hit poor shots.