Congratulations. You want to play golf!
You’ve watched your friends or family members head off for the golf course, or you’ve watched your boss and his/her buddies take the afternoon off and head for the links. Enough of watching other people have fun. You’ve decided you want to get in the game.
What do you need? What are the essential pieces of equipment you need to get, even before you head to the practice range? Some items are obvious, others a bit more obscure. In this and the next few posts I will walk you through what I did to get started and pass on some good suggestions I’ve received from other golfers who have been playing for years.
The first and most obvious piece of equipment you need is a golf club. And not just one. You need at least three or four — each different and each club having a specific purpose. This information may seem very basic, but I’m going to assume you are absolutely new at this game, and it’s best to start with a good foundation—at the very beginning.
Here is my list of the absolute minimum clubs you need in your bag:
- Putter – this is the club you use on the greens to putt your ball into the hole. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simple blade putters like the one pictured to the right. Others have a wider design with special markings that help in aligning the ball to the target. I use the Odyssey 2-Ball pictured to the right. I bought it after I discovered Annika Sorenstam used it on the LPGA tour, and she was a great putter. (Click here to check out her putting style in a previous post.) These putters have a relatively short shaft and are held at waist level when putting.
If you watch the Golf Channel on TV you may have seen some of the players using putters that are held against the abdomen— called “belly putters.” They provide a three point level of stability between your two hands and that spot on your “belly” but they are trickier to use.
Another option is the long putter which has a shaft even longer than the belly putter. If you have a tendency to flick your wrists when you putt, this might be a solution for you. It works with your arms as a pendulum. But managing distance and feel while putting is not easy.
Whichever putter style you choose, be sure you test it out on a practice green before buying. Most beginning golfers choose the simple blade putter and then move on from there.
- Wedge – There are many different wedges to choose from. These are clubs that have a lot of loft, i.e. the face of the club is set at a steep angle in relation to the shaft. The steeper the angle, the more loft you have in the club, which means the higher the ball will “pop up” when you hit it. Most golf sets you buy off the shelf come with at least two wedges: Sand and Pitching. The sand wedge usually has the steepest angle of the two and is used to get out of sand bunkers, fairway bunkers and other horrible places. The pitching wedge is used when you are a short distance off the green and need to get over a bunker or some obstruction. When hit correctly the ball goes high in the air and then drops and lands on the green without too much roll.
More experienced golfers will use additional wedges in their game, i.e. a lob wedge for distances of 25-40 yards, and a gap wedge for a distance somewhere in between the lob and the sand. But don’t worry about those club choices at this stage of your game.
If you only want to buy one wedge, buy the pitching wedge and use it for both the pitch shot and to get out of the sand.
- The next club you should have in your bag is a short -iron. This would be either an 8 or a 9. Short irons are most often used when you are close to the green but don’t require that high lofted shot that you get with the wedges.I use either an 8 or 9 for chipping the ball onto the green when I am just a few yards off and want the ball to hit and run to the hole. Short irons also have shorter shafts and are easier to control than the other irons.
- A mid-iron club is next. This would have the number 5, 6 or 7 on its head. As you would suspect the mid-irons are used from anywhere on the fairway when you are too far away to pitch or chip onto the green using a short iron, but too close to use a fairway wood or a long iron. Each of the mid-irons has a different loft, and therefore is used for different distances. You need to practice with each to know how far you typically hit each iron, but the difference between the three clubs is usually 10 – 15 yards. The 5 iron will hit 10-15 yards further than your 6 iron which will hit 10-15 yards longer than your 7. The other thing to notice is that as the loft of the club decreases, the shot has a lower trajectory. A 7 iron will generally send the ball off at a steeper trajectory than that of a 6 and so on. The mid-irons have longer shafts than the 8 or 9 long-irons
- There are two additional irons that you probably don’t want to deal with when you are a beginner. These are the long-irons: the 1,2,3 and 4 irons. With longer shafts and less trajectory, these clubs are harder to hit well and as a beginner, it’s hard enough to master the other clubs. If they come with a set you purchase, leave them at home until you are in control of your short and mid-irons. Or you can replace them if you wish with the next type of club:
- Driver and Fairway Woods. These clubs used to be made of wood (ergo the name) but they are now most often made of metal and come in a variety of lofts. These clubs are known by their numbers with the Driver being a 1 Wood. The most popular woods for a beginning golfer to carry in her bag are the 3 Wood and 5 Wood. The Driver has the longest shaft and less loft than the others. It is the most difficult club to hit well and the hardest club to master. The 3 Wood and 5 Wood have smaller heads and greater lofts and are often used either off the tee or on the fairway. Practice will dictate which you use depending on distance.
There are specialty clubs, hybrid clubs and all sorts of in-betweens which you can add to your bag. But remember, no matter which clubs you choose to carry, you are only allowed 14 clubs at the max. Practice with each to know which works best for you. Then, choose carefully.
Which clubs do you have in your bag? Do you play with hybrids? If so, which ones and why?