Ten Tips for the Beginning Golfer

 Copyright 2011 by Marilyn Baker

So, you've decided to take up golf. Good decision. Golf is a great game, and no matter what your age, now is an excellent time to begin. Here are some tips to help you get started. These suggestions won't tell you how to play the game, but they will give you confidence and focus as you are learning.

Tip 1. Take lessons.  Take swing lessons from a golf professional or attend group lessons at a driving range. Everyone from the raw beginner to pros on the PGA tour benefits from lessons. Lessons are important because a person's golf swing is formed after as few as five games of golf; getting proper instruction at the start can help you to develop a good swing.

Tip 2. Practice.Make the driving range a stop on your way home from work. Buy a large bucket of balls (about 80 balls) and establish a routine for getting through it that uses all of your clubs. Your goal is to practice your golf swing till you have blisters on your hands and a smooth swing. When you run out of balls, buy another bucket.

Tip 3. Read and watch.My favourite golf book is the classic Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan. It will reinforce all those things your instructor said about grip, posture, stance and swing. Don't be misled by the term "modern." The book was written in 1957, but hey, this game is over 300 years old!  Watching golf on TV lets you see how a professional swings a golf club. This will help you visualize what you are supposed to look like.

Tip 4.  Warm up before you play.Be at the course at least 30 minutes before your tee-time, so that you can do a few stretching exercises. You can practice your putting and hit a few warm-up balls. These few minutes are important for your mental fitness too, and you will find yourself less rushed when your group is called to the tee.

Tip 5. Learn golf etiquette.No one likes to play with someone who throws their clubs in anger, drags their cart across the green or dithers for five minutes before choosing a club. Whether you will be someone other players love to play with, or someone they will do anything to avoid, has little to do with skill level and a lot to do with etiquette. Learn where to stand when others are hitting and when to keep quiet. 

Tip 6. Avoid slow play.Slow play drives everyone out of their minds. Be at your ball and ready to hit when it is your turn. Keep pace with the group ahead of you, even if it means occasionally picking up your ball and not finishing a hole. A game of golf should take about four hours.

Tip 7. Be safe.If you hear someone yell "FORE!" hit the deck, cover your head and as many other precious body parts as you can, and wait for a few seconds. If you hit an errant shot, make sure to yell "FORE" too.  Don't stand behind someone armed with a golf club.

Tip 8. Learn some rules.If you feel intimidated by the Rules of Golf, you are in good company. The rules can be daunting, even for seasoned pros on the PGA tour. Fortunately, most of the time, players can proceed quite nicely knowing only the two fundamental rules that govern play:

1. Play the ball as it lies (no, you can’t move it out from behind that tree)

2. Play the course as you find it (no, you can’t break off that branch)

And, oh yes, don't forget to count all your strokes.

Tip 9. Dress for golf.  Until you know the club's dress code, avoid blue denim, tank tops and short shorts. Wear comfortable shoes and good socks. Remember, you are setting out on a five mile walk! 

Tip 10. Consider joining a club.Joining a golf course twenty years ago was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. While it’s a given that belonging to a club makes it far easier to get tee-times, the bonus is that golf is the ultimate social game. You will meet lots of neat new friends of both sexes who will open doors in your life that you didn't even know existed.

Last but not least, get out there, play and have fun. Since golf is the only game other than bridge and curling that can be played by nine-year-olds and ninety-year-olds in the same foursome, your horizons will broaden as you realize that you have found the game of your life. 

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