With so many young golfers bursting on the scene, golf has experienced a growth in popularity similar to when Tiger Woods first arrived. OK, nothing was like that, but the sport has certainly gotten a bump.
Guys like Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth have often graced the leaderboards, with Spieth in the midst of one of the greatest single-season runs in recent golf history. Not only have these golfers been dominant in their play, but with an array equipment, outfits and accessories, they look cool doing it. This combination has caused many to consider taking up the game.
Are you thinking of playing but have yet to hit the links? If so, here’s all you need to know to make your first golf experience pleasurable enough that you leave the course with a smile… rather than a half dozen broken-in-frustration clubs.
“If you do happen to start hating the world, find the cart girl immediately. Purchase a beer or two to loosen your nerves, but do NOT get hammered on the golf course, which will definitely make your play worse.”
Before you even think about buying anything, you need to determine whether or not you even like golf at all. With that in mind, try going to the driving range a few times and hitting balls. Most driving ranges have clubs for rent. Also, if you have a friend or family member who is into golf, chances are they have some older clubs they’ll let you borrow. Once you have decided to give it a real go, hand-me-down clubs are your best and least expensive option. These will give you the chance to really get a feel for the game before you start spending a ton of money on golf equipment. (And believe me, if you get serious, you will spend a ton.)
Buying your own clubs can be a daunting task that takes time, but doing it right will make all the difference in the long run. Make sure the first ones you buy fit your current ability level, not the level that you plan on playing at in the future. If you buy the wrong type of clubs, your experience on the golf course will be a miserable one. As a beginner, you want clubs that improve distance and hitting consistency while providing maximum forgiveness. These types of clubs will be cavity backs, which move the weight on the clubs to the outside edges. This increases the size of the sweet spot on the face of the club, which decreases mishits when you do not strike the ball in the center of the club face.
Most golf stores nowadays have bays or simulators that will allow you to demo an array of clubs. Trying out the clubs will help you find ones that feel comfortable in your hands. I recommend trying Cobra Golf’s Fly Z XL irons, which are perfect for high handicappers. They allow the player to hit higher, straighter shots while offering a good amount of forgiveness on mishits. While they are great for a high handicapper, they can actually last beyond your beginner years and serve as capable clubs as you improve.
When it comes to your driver, look for an oversized head to increase the size of the clubface and therefore the hitting area. Additionally, you should get a driver with a higher loft of about 10.5 to 12 degrees in order to increase the height of your shots. Cobra’s Fly Z XL driver is an excellent choice for a beginning golfer, offering all of the above while not sacrificing the distance you will want and need on the course.
Now, the most important club in your bag is the putter, so you should choose one with the utmost care. Putting is hard for all golfers, but particularly for beginners who often have a difficult time judging speed and distances on the green. It is best to stay away from traditional bladed putters, which offer the best touch and feel but are very hard to control. Stick to a mallet putter with an offset shaft. The offset will help you get your eyes over the ball and combine with the lines on the club to help you line your putts up better.
To really get a feel for all this stuff, go to a local golf shop or larger golf stores like Golf Galaxy or Golfsmith. Their pros can steer you in the right direction and also fit you properly with regard to club length, which enables you to swing comfortably and accurately. Local golf shops will often offer all cash discounts, and pretty much every store will have used clubs available at discounted prices. If you can find clubs you like at a cheaper price, by all means go for it.
Oh, and if all else fails, just get a 7 iron.
When it comes to choosing a golf bag, there are really only two types of bags you should focus on, a stand bag or a cart bag. Stand bags are designed for players who are planning to walk and carry their clubs (or have a caddy tote them). They have legs that pop out when you put the bag down and retract when you pick it back up. Stand bags are significantly larger, with more pockets for accessories, and are designed for players who are going to ride in a cart or use a pull cart as they walk. All other things being equal, stand bags are lighter and more versatile than cart bags and are probably your best choice.
Beyond the golf bag, you will also want to pick up golf balls, preferably ones with two-piece construction. They are great for beginners because they spin less and provide greater distance. They are also less expensive, which works out well for newbies who will need a lot of them since they tend to lose a lot of balls by spraying them everywhere but the fairway. Grab a towel, tees, a ball marker, and a divot repair tool and you’re good go. And hopefully not totally broke.
If you really want to look the part—and just got a huge bonus at work—pick up a golf outfit too. Collared shirts and shorts are best for warmer conditions, while comfortable pants and a quarter-zip or jacket work for cooler conditions. Good golf wear lets you swing a club without restrictions and wicks moisture to keep you cool and dry. Whatever you do, avoid being that guy who shows up in the orange pants and orange shirt with the matching hat. Golf style is cool but like anything else, there is a line that does not need to be crossed. Unless, of course, you are Rickie Fowler.
Finally, golf shoes. These come in two varieties, spiked or spikeless. Spiked shoes grip the ground better than spikeless shoes, but you can’t exactly where them anywhere. Spikeless shoes basically look like regular shoes, perform quite well on the course and can be worn from the course to the clubhouse. So especially for your first pair, spikeless is a good bet. For more gear info, check out 10 Golf Items That Look as Good as They Perform.
Now, before hitting the course, head over to the driving range or a practice facility. Practice hitting all of your clubs but focus on chipping and putting, since those shots are the most difficult to hit and can cost you valuable strokes in the long run. You should also have a general idea of the basic rules of the game, how to keep score, golf etiquette and keeping up the pace of play. It is one thing to be bad at golf but it is quite another to be slow and rude about it. This will anger everyone on the course including the marshal. Get to your ball quickly, make your club selection, hit, and repeat.
Lessons prior to your first round can’t hurt either. At the least it will give you an idea of how to play. For a deal, look for a package of group lessons. Then you need to practice what you learn from the lesson on the range. Do not try to make changes on the course during a round. This is your time to play and making adjustments will have you thinking too much, which is a recipe for disaster.
Now here’s what’s really important: Be sure to set aside at least six hours to play your round and grab some food and drinks after and… let your wife or girlfriend know that it will actually take this long. They will appreciate you being upfront with them and they won’t be surprised when you are gone basically all day playing golf. Also, be sure to make a tee time, which will guarantee that you get out on the course at the time you want. Check the weather before you go and dress appropriately. If it is in the middle of summer, be sure to apply sunscreen so you don’t come back fried with weird golf tan lines. Get to the course early and check in, then go putt some balls to get a feel for how slow or fast the greens are rolling. Warming up will put you in the right frame of mind and make for a much more positive start.
There is no way to avoid the first tee jitters, especially for a beginner. You step into the tee box and everyone is watching. If you can, try to step up and follow the guy who hits the worst ball. Unlike following someone who hits it long and straight down the fairway, following someone who hits a dribbler sideways will relieve some stress, loosen up your swing, and have you saying to yourself, “There’s no way I can be worse than this guy.”
Once you get off the first tee, try to enjoy the round. Face it, you are going to suck. Know this going into the round. Do not have delusions of grandeur and expect to play well. You will only get angry when you don’t and this will make for a disastrous round spent in a constant state of rage. If you do happen to start hating the world, find the cart girl immediately. Purchase a beer or two to loosen your nerves, but do NOT get hammered on the golf course, which will definitely make your play worse. Try to relax and observe which of your friends can actually play. They can help you around the course while providing the camaraderie you need to enjoy your first time on the course.
Listen, golf takes time… time to practice and time to play. Depending on your goals you can practice or play as little as once a month or as often as every day. If you are a social golfer, play at your leisure and accept the fact that you will almost always be a high handicapper. If you are a little more ambitious, then get after it. Take lessons, practice daily, and play often. Either way, golf is a game that you can play for a lifetime. Be it on vacation, for business or with some friends and family on a weekend, it is an enjoyable way to spend a morning or afternoon. Hell, make a day of it. Have lunch, drink some cocktails after the round and most importantly, enjoy the company, because when it comes down to it, golf is only as fun as the people you play it with.