Is learning golf hopeless for me?
October 1, 2012 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Can a non-athletic person become a non-terrible golfer?

I would really like to be able to play golf. And by "be able to play," I mean that I'd like to be able to actually hit the ball with my club (the right part of it) every time, have it go forward (rather than sideways or backwards) the vast majority of the time, and have it go more than a few yards most of the time. In other words, good enough to be able to go play with business partners without embarrassing myself. I'm not talking about trying to join the PGA Tour, or even be competitive in local tournaments, here.

The challenge is that I'm not especially athletic or coordinated. I never played any sports outside of PE growing up, and PE was always my least favorite class. I've always been horrible at things like baseball. I think my hand/eye coordination isn't great, and I seem to be below average at mimicking motions I'm taught, etc. I'm wondering if this is possibly a waste of my time, or if with enough lessons and practice, it's possible for anyone, even me, to learn.

I have been trying this on and off for roughly ten years, but I've never really given it my full dedication. I've taken a small handful of lessons, and intermittently spent a lot of time at the driving range (for a few months I was going almost every day, but I stopped when I felt like I wasn't improving). Most of the teachers I've worked with have been very nice, but they seem to not be geared toward non-athletic people like me. When they talk about shifting weight from foot to foot, using analogies about baseball swings, etc., it kind of loses me.

To be clear, I WANT to learn. This isn't just something I feel like I need to do for business. But I don't want to waste my time if it's a lost cause. I think my next obvious course of action is to find a teacher I like, and spend a ton of time with him or her. But it's likely to be a big time commitment (and expense), so I'd like to have some kind of assurance it won't be for naught. I'd love to hear from someone who is like me, who has learned golf or a similar sport.
posted by primethyme to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

To be clear, I WANT to learn

This is the key. Of course you can learn this if you really want to. Some people are more athletic than others, sure, but I really don't believe this is a scenario in which you're wasting your time at all.

You should tell the teacher you're working with that you don't get the baseball analogies (although shifting weight is pretty straightforward, so I'm not sure why that's a challenge) and that you're not the most comfortable athlete and they should be able to help you out. Don't give up!!
posted by sweetkid at 1:38 PM on October 1, 2012

Golf is one of those games, you'll find out soon enough if you have an aptitude for it.

Borrow some clubs and take a class or schedule time with a pro. I play left handed becasue my grandpa, who taught me how to swing, is left handed, also, I'm nearly blind in my left eye, so it works out best that way. I bought someone's old lefty clubs for $100. I think my total investment with spikes and togs was about $200. I played for a while and then decided it wasn't for me.

My grandfather took up the game in his fifties and was so good that someone suggested he go on the senior tour.

Another thing to do is after you learn how to swing (this will take an hour or a lifetime) go hit a bucket of balls somewhere.

If you liked hitting the balls, then you might like developing the skills. If you didn't, then you're out $200 and can move onto bowling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2012

You'll be fine. I was never particularly good at baseball/tennis/etc., but have managed to put together a not (usually) embarrassing golf game. Certainly good enough to play for business.

My suggestion: keep up with the range, and spend at least as much time on the practice putting green. Much of golf is muscle memory. My biggest suggestion is to find a coach who can adapt to your style. They are out there. It's very difficult to be self-taught at golf, especially when your starting out. And don't try and kill the ball...

Golf is one of those games, you'll find out soon enough if you have an aptitude for it.


I don't have a particular aptitude for golf, breaking 100 (counting strokes for real) is a very rare treat, and I dearly love the game. It's like PJ O'Roarke's long walks and hitting things with a can you not like that. Golf is something you can do for practically the rest of your life; my grandfather played until blindness stopped him in his late 70s, and my ex-FiL is still playing in his mid-80s, with a pack of other 80yo guys.

The biggest thing to learn about golf is that you're not playing "against" anyone but yourself. If you enjoy the game, and play it well enough that you can keep up with the pace of play, then don't let a lack of aptitude keep you from it.
posted by kjs3 at 2:27 PM on October 1, 2012

You do not need to be athletic to play golf. IMHO you don't even need great hand eye coordination because unlike other sports, nothing is coming towards you. Win!

I would take lessons from a pro who is experienced with beginners. You can learn about group play by joining groups - a lot of courses will throw you onto a threesome, and this is an accepted thing in golf. Your first goal is to not suck so badly that everyone else you're playing with heaps tons of useless advice on you. Once you achieve that, you should feel confident playing with business partners.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:26 PM on October 1, 2012

Best answer: I am the least athletic person in the world. I fall a lot. In group exercise classes, I always seem to find myself facing the opposite direction of every other person in the room. When I tried to play soccer as a kid, I turned and ran the other direction from the ball. Yet, I used to be a fairly decent golfer. Not pro tour or anything, but usually shooting around par or a bit over depending on the difficulty of the course. So yes, you too can probably golf! I am not a decent golfer anymore because I hardly ever play and never practice. So, give it a try. Be patient. You are not going to be awesome, or even very good at first. But then you'll connect with the ball and it will go flying and you'll think "Oh, so THIS is why people enjoy doing this." And then eventually you'll have more of those shots than the ones where you take up half a ton of dirt and the ball rolls three feet directly to the right-- et voila! You are a golfer.

As others have said, take some lessons. Put in some time on the range. Then put in some more time on the range and putting and chipping greens. Golf takes practice and time to be decent (not your whole life, but don't expect to take two lessons, swing the club around once every couple of months or so and be good), but it doesn't require Olympian levels of athleticism to go out and play nine or 18 with friends or business associates.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 3:37 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of The Dan Plan, the blog of a guy who decided to become a professional-level golfer having never played an entire game of golf.
posted by zsazsa at 4:07 PM on October 1, 2012

In highschool I was terrible at P.E. and hated it. I was an out-of-breath Caspar Milquetoast through my twenties. Then someone talked me into trying out a sport, the kind that's not so competitive and which you can do independently, without constantly being measured against other people. Now I'm really good at it and people say to me, "oh Caspar Manlyman, I could never do what you do because you are so obviously innately gifted and naturally talented", to which my inner reaction is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 4:10 PM on October 1, 2012

I'm embarrassed to admit this but I learned to drive using a Medicus golf training club. My short game is crap, but in a best ball tournament I rock because I get to crush it from the ladies tees and nail my target. Then my partner can take care of the short game while I drink a cold beer in the golf cart. Before the Medicus my driving was described as "long and wrong" now the ball goes where I intend.

The Medicus worked for me because it game me immediate physical feedback. Trying to have a pro tell me what I was doing wrong Did Not Work. Some people learn golf swings by watching themselves on video.

You can certainly learn by you may need to try a few methods of feedback. It really depends on your learning style.
posted by 26.2 at 7:02 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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