Golf is a great sport for just about anyone. It is unique in that it can be played by people at any age, and, unlike many sports, golf is often taken up by men and women as they get older and have more leisure time and financial resources. It’s relatively easy to learn the basics and though the rules can be sometimes complicated, there is an abundance of information to help the beginning golfer.
If you are thinking about taking up the sport there are at least 6 critical questions for you to answer:
- Can you afford the game? Golf is not a cheap sport. You may have free clubs you inherited from your Aunt Elizabeth or Uncle Rupert, but you still need to pay for green fees each time you play a round of golf. What’s a “green fee”? This is the cost the owner of a golf course charges for you to play nine or eighteen holes of the game, also known as a “round.” Depending on the course, these fees can vary widely, from just a few dollars to hundreds. In addition you need equipment. See point 3 below.
- Where will you play? Do you have access to a golf course near by? A driving range or practice green? If you can’t get to a driving range to practice you can always hit balls into a field nearby. The disadvantage is that you have to go pick up your own balls after hitting them. And if anyone else is in the field hitting balls, you or she/he might just get bopped off the head at some point. If there is a practice range near by that would be the preferred place to begin. You hit their balls, they are responsible to pick them up. Cost is usually just a few dollars depending on the size of the bucket.
- What about equipment? You need at least three or four golf clubs – (a 3 wood, a 5 iron, a sand wedge and a putter), a golf bag, decent shoes (sturdy sneakers or golf shoes,) a package of tees and a few balls. If you are determined to just bat the balls about just for fun, then borrow a club or two from a friend, or rent them from a golf store or club. Buy a bag of used balls from your local sports store and pick up a small bag of inexpensive wooden tees at the same time. But if you are seriously considering taking up the game, check used sports equipment stores, Craig’s List, eBay, or flea markets. You take your chances, because most likely the clubs will not fit you exactly (too long, too short, too heavy, too stiff) but it’s a beginning. When you finally fall in love with the game you can get fitted for clubs and begin to build your own personal set.
- Should you take a lesson? Lessons cost money and if you are totally unsure if you want to learn the sport, follow a friend to the driving range and ask them for a bit of free advice. Hit a bucket of balls, and ask them to give you some feedback about your stance, your swing. And don’t be discouraged. Golf is not an easy game to succeed at. Most people need a lot of practice just to get into the swing of it. However, if you have already decided you want to learn the game, taking a lesson or two from the pro at your local club is a great idea. If it’s a public course, anyone should be able to book a lesson.
- What’s the difference between a public and/or private golf club? Should you join? The biggest difference will most likely be the cost to play and the quality of the golf course. Public courses are just that: public. Some have membership fees that give the members preferred tee times. But anyone can play the course. The greens fees are usually quite reasonable at public courses though the tee times (the assigned time for you to play) are first come, first served. Many public courses are very well maintained by the local town in which they are situated, but there is no guarantee. With economic times being what they are, it is sometimes hard to maintain a public course. Each golfer can always help the game and the course by proper play and decorum. (More on this in a later post.)
- What are the few basic guidelines you need to know before playing a round of golf?
- For the very beginner, never play alone, at least in the beginning. Choose a very patient friend who will take you under his or her wing and guide you along the way. Or join a golf clinic and go out with an instructor.
- Do not let your ego get in the way. It’s likely that your ball will end up in the woods or a sand bunker, or behind a tree, at least once in a while. Remember you are just learning the game. Don’t hesitate to move your ball back onto the fairway and continue play. And pick up your ball if you aren’t in the hole by double the par. (Each hole has a “par” rating, i.e. the number of strokes that a very good golfer should take to reach the green and “hole” the ball.) For example if you are still not in the hole after 10 strokes on a par 5, pick up the ball and move on.
- Keep up with the group playing in front of you. You should be no further back than half the fairway from the group in front of you. One of the most frustrating things to deal with on the golf course is slow play. If you keep up with the group playing just ahead of you, you’re doing fine. Don’t worry about the group behind you. You can only play as fast as the group in front of you can play.
- Don’t forget to have fun! Golf is a game you can never win. You can only play it, and every time you do, the game will be different. It all depends on the weather, the course, your disposition, the grass, the trees, the sand, your clubs— there are so many variables that no golf course ever plays the same twice. So just relax and enjoy!
If you can add additional essential questions a new golfer should answer… please add them in the comments section below.