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Tips for a first-time golfer
July 6, 2004 1:28 PM   Subscribe

What are some tips for first-time golfers? I only care about two things: not causing injury and not wasting everyone's time by fruitlessly hacking the ball around. Not looking like an idiot is important, but merely secondary.
posted by PrinceValium to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
 
You will fruitlessly hack the ball away. It is frustrating. Practice at the driving range again and again.

Golf is one of the sports where innate athletic ability is presupposed, in most cases, by experience. That's not to say there are not those who pick up golf quickly, or those who never get it, but on average practicing will bring you from a score of 130 to the 90s in a year, and in 10 years you'll be in the low 80s and high 70s, if not better.

Perhaps to answer your question a little better, get golf lessons too. They'll teach you etiquette and such from the very beginning. It's really hard to hurt someone if you know the simple "rules" that govern the course, which is more or less common sense (if someone is in the vicinity of where you think you'll hit the ball, don't hit).


Golfers are understanding of first time golfers and will help you along, as long as you don't hold them back. I would suggest going with people you know, versus just joining a random group for the first dozen times out. A group of golfers that have been playing together for years often play fast -- very fast if you don't know what you're doing. When you're on the course playing (if you're not playing with them) let them play through and don't jack around. It's really easy to get to talking or small talk, but generally this is frowned upon. Only talk during the lulls in which the whole group is forced to wait.

That's all there is to it really. Get lessons first, beginner's lessons. Then keep practicing on the driving range and at the practice green. When playing with other people, shut up and pay attention to what they're doing. If in doubt, shut up and only speak when spoken to. That's about it, you'll catch on to the subtle social rules that will separate you from the animals really quickly and probably also see what annoys golfers and how not to be like that. It really helps if you know someone, anyone who can play with you and is understanding.
posted by geoff. at 1:45 PM on July 6, 2004


Hitting straight is much better than hitting far. There are many metaphors for thinking about your swing, but the one I always think about is one my first coach gave me, "Imagine yourself gently sweeping the floor."

Whatever you do, don't try to cream the ball, you'll only make it worse.
posted by perplexed at 1:45 PM on July 6, 2004


I don't know if this is good form or not (I've been out golfing maybe 10 times in my life) but it helps me:

Pretend you're hitting the ball with your hips. If you swing your hips you'll get the momentum of your body working for you.

Oh, and you will be fruitlessly hacking the ball around. Guaranteed.
posted by falconred at 1:48 PM on July 6, 2004


Yeah, this is with co-workers, so I won't be alone out there. Is there a n00b rule, like in mini-golf, where if you are up to 10 shots on the same hole you call it quits and move on to the next one?
posted by PrinceValium at 1:59 PM on July 6, 2004


Stop at a triple bogy (+3 par), though when I first started playing I kept going at it until I got to the hole. I can't imagine them stopping you as long as you keep up with them. Try not to keep score if you can, it just makes things depressing. I used to take it one shot at a time.
posted by geoff. at 2:02 PM on July 6, 2004


*Help others look for thier lost balls.

*Rake your foot prints out of bunkers

*Replace your divots.

*Be quiet

*Realize you suck. You will suck for along time, hell you will suck forever. Approach the game with good humour, don't become visably annoyed with yourself because of bad shots. You will hit lots of bad shots.

*Don't compliment others good shots until the ball has stopped moving. Nothing is worse than someone telling you "good shot" as the ball flies into a lake.

This is the entry level etiquette, if followed it will cement your repuation of being a good partner. Most beginners don't realize that experienced golfers prefer playing with good partners, rather than good players. Keep up, and you'll be fine.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2004


Until you start to feel more comfortable on the course, don't take more than one practice swing for each shot. It will help you to focus and will increase your speed.
posted by ajr at 3:29 PM on July 6, 2004


Get some lessons before you start. It is much easier to learn how to swing from the beginning that to have to un-learn bad behaviour first. Don't let your friends teach you, unless they are not only an excellent golfer, but are also experienced at coaching or training.

Practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more. Get a lesson every now and again to keep you on track with your technique.

When playing, play one shot at a time. If you hit a bad shot, don't focus on what you did wrong, just shrug and move on. One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to change something in their swing after they hit a bad shot, when their swing technique is probably fine, they just didn't carry it out properly on that particular shot. Use your practice time to try and improve your technique, rather than when you are playing - when you are playing, relax and enjoy yourself rather than focusing on trying to change things.

Don't think too much when you are hitting the ball. Develop a pre-shot routine that you are comfortable with and stick to it every single time - it will become almost second nature after a while and you will not even need to think about how to get yourself in the right position. If you are focussed too much on technique when you are hitting, you will never get anywhere.

It is far better to hit the ball 100 metres in the right direction than 200 metres in the wrong direction. Right from the start, aim for accuracy and consistency and forget about distance. With practice, distance will come naturally. Buy second-hand balls rather than spending a fortune on expensive ones - the difference in distance is small and the angst from losing an expensive ball (you will lose a lot to start with) is not worth it.

Learn the basics of the rules and etiquette of the game. There are any number of web sites where you can do this. I would suggest starting with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which has some nice resources, or the US Golf Association and move on from there. The Australian Golf Union also has some easy-to-understand information on rules etc.

If you are limited in the time you can spend practicing, concentrate on your short game and putting. If you can develop reasonable accuracy and distance control in these areas, you will enjoy your game and be able to score much better than someone who can drive 300 metres but can't putt.

Get a set of clubs that suit you. Don't spend a fortune on expensive clubs such as Callaway or Titleist, because you can't take advantage of them. Buy a reasonable set that fit you well and, if you decide to get more serious about the game, think about buying better clubs later. Don't blame the clubs because you can't hit the ball properly and keep buying new equipment that the guy in the golf shop promises will fix your slice/hook/whatever - he is lying to you.

Most important of all, relax and enjoy yourself. It is just a game and can be an enjoyable way to spend some time outdoors with friends, or a torture. The choice is up to you.
posted by dg at 4:32 PM on July 6, 2004


Oh and make sure you warm up and stretch before you even pick up a club. Before every practice session or game, not just when you remember. Almost all injuries that amateur golfers get from the game (apart from getting hit by balls) are caused by improper preparation.

Drink plenty of water while playing - contrary to popular opinion, drinking alcohol does not improve your swing, although it may make you care less where the ball goes :-)
posted by dg at 4:36 PM on July 6, 2004


Don't mimic the golf swing of who you're playing with; the shorter your swing, the less moving parts that can fly off the handle. A short, smooth swing will get you hitting the ball as consistant as possible for the beginning.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:33 AM on July 7, 2004


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