Learning to Play
Sometimes getting started can be the hardest part about learning anything new. Before you book your first lesson it is a good idea to establish the following so that you can choose the right environment and the most appropriate venue in which to learn:
- Do you want to play golf for social or business reasons, perhaps both?
- Are you looking for basic instruction or would you rather go straight onto the course with your friends and work the rest out later?
- Do you want to learn as part of a group of beginners and meet new people?
- Do you want to get good fast?
Getting lessons from your local PGA professional can often be a great way to learn the basics. The more lessons you get and the more time you put into your practice can often have an impact on how quickly you develop as a player.
Learning in groups is a great way to meet other people who may be starting off like you. To see if there are any group lessons happening in your area visit our activity map. To find a list of PGA professionals in your area click here
Who do I speak to in the club?
As a new golfer, making the transition from the driving range to the golf course can be difficult but generally clubs offer support by providing mentors or ‘buddies’ to help you get settled.
A player’s initial experiences on the golf course can be daunting but with support and guidance from a current member you can enjoy the challenge, practice your new skills and learn about the course.
Joining a golf club can be unnerving, especially if you have no prior links with the facility. Go along to sessions that the club has arranged for ‘new members’, these are usually fun, social occasions to make new members feel at ease and can link you with a ‘point of contact’ in the club. This person can help you with any queries/issues relating to the fundamentals of golf club membership, such as club rules, etiquette, competition formats and general procedures, and can be a great resource during your first year of membership.
What to wear
When you go along to a taster session or introductory lessons, you simply need to wear comfortable clothing. Thin layers are ideal, they’re easy to move in and you can add to the layers or remove extra, depending on the weather.
Golf is played in all weathers so, once you become a regular, it’s advisable to buy a good waterproof suit. Waterproofs are also very useful to wear in the wind and cold, so they can be used for other activities and not just golf, so a worthy investment!
As you get more involved with golf you’ll find there’s a vast choice of purpose-designed golf wear which offers comfort and style.
Sensible shoes are important and, if you decide to take up golf, you’ll need to buy a pair of golf shoes. Good shoes will breathe, repel water and give you comfort on the long walks, while the spikes will provide traction when you’re making your swing.
If you join a club, you’ll need to ask about their dress code. Some clubs have strict codes while others are more relaxed, but the general rules exclude denim jeans and football shirts, especially while on the course.
When can I play?
When you are starting off, it is recommended that you go to the course during a quite time, prehaps a weekday evening or morning depending on the club you are playing at. This gives you more time on the course to practice your new skills without rushing through the game.
It is a good idea to check with the clubhouse or pro shop in advance of playing. Remember, when you are learning to play, its alot like learning to drive a car. Be ware of other players around you, if someone is right behind you pull in and wave them through!
Frequently asked Questions
Being new to the game, there are some things you need to know to help you become more familiar with the activity and its associated terms. We have put together some answers to frequently asked questions:
How far do you need to let the group in front of you go before teeing off?
When the group in front of you is no longer in range to be hit by a shot from everyone in your group, you may tee off.
How do we know when to take out the flag on the green and when to hold it?
If you’re the closest to the hole, you’re in charge of either removing the flagstick if everyone says they can see the hole or tending to the flagstick (which means pulling it from the hole as a putt comes closer to the hole) if they can’t clearly see the hole.
Remember to put the flagstick back in the hole when your group leaves the green.
How do we know when it’s our turn to hit the ball?
When teeing off it would typically be the person with the lowest score on the previous hole that would go first. If it is the first hole the person with the lowest handicap goes first.
For all other shots it is usually the person furthest away from the hole that hits first.
What do we do if we think the ball is going to hit someone?
You shout “Fore”.
Shouting “Fore” is a way of saying “watch out!”. It is used when golfers hit shots astray that might possibly come close to another person on the golf course. A couple of things to know about this term: first, don’t wait – the moment you realise a ball has a remote chance of hitting another person, shout it out. That brings up the second point, which is, SHOUT IT OUT – it needs to be heard in the distance, among the noise of other players, the wind, etc.
What do the different clubs do?
You are allowed to carry as many as 14 clubs in your bag, but starting off you wont need nearly that many. Clubs will vary in numbers and type. A set of clubs is made up of woods, hybrids, irons, wedges and a putter. Below outlines what the different types do and where they are used.
Woods – A wood can be made of wood or metal, has a large head and is used for shots requiring greater distance, usually from the teeing ground. A set of woods usually starts with the driver and proceeds to the 3 and 5 wood.
Irons – An iron is a club that can be used to hit from the tee or from the fairway. They are thin with grooved faces of varying lofts.
Wedge – A wedge is a type of iron. This club has more loft than a 5 iron, therefore will travel a shorter distance but at a greater height. A lofted club is used to play shots around the green.
Putter – A putter is used on the putting green with a special purpose – to roll the ball along the ground towards the hole; the only club that doesn’t get the ball airborne!
The Rules of Golf are universal but unlike many other sports, are applied by the players themselves. Therefore, every golfer should carry a Rules of Golf book, which is free and available from most golf clubs or state associations. The Rules outlined here are very simple but will assist initially.
If you think your ball may be lost or out of bounds, you can save time by hitting a second ball from the same spot. This ball is called a “provisional ball” and you must tell your partners of your intention to play a “provisional” before doing so. You are allowed a maximum of five minutes to look for a lost ball. If you find your ball and it is in bounds, you must pick up the provisional and continue to play with the original ball. If your first ball is lost or out of bounds you must continue to play with the provisional ball counting all your strokes, plus one penalty stroke.
Sometimes a ball may land in a position where it is very difficult or impossible to hit. If you decide you cannot hit your ball you may declare the ball unplayable, except in a hazard. You may then pick it up and drop it at one of the positions below adding one penalty stroke to your score.
- at the spot from which the original ball was last played; or
- at a point any distance back from the spot where the ball lay in line with the hole; or
- within two club-lengths of where the ball lay but not nearer the hole.
If you declare the ball unplayable in a bunker and you decide to drop under options 2 or 3, you must drop the ball in the bunker.
If you hit your ball into a water hazard, you may play the ball as it lies without grounding your club or:
- play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was last played, taking a one stroke penalty; or
- drop a ball behind the water hazard keeping the point where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard in line with the hole and the spot where you drop the ball. There is again a one stroke penalty; or
- If the hazard is marked with red stakes, you may also drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than where it last crossed the margin of the hazard, or at a point on the opposite side of the margin.
There are some instances under the Rules of Golf where you can pick up the ball and relocate it – sometimes with a penalty and sometimes without a penalty. To drop the ball, you must stand upright, hold the ball at shoulder height and arms length and drop it. If you drop it and it accidentally touches yourself, your partner or equipment before it strikes the ground, or it rolls closer to the hole, you must drop the ball again, without penalty.
You can repair ball marks and old ball plugs on the green if these affect your putting line. However you may not repair spike marks. You may remove leaves and other loose impediments on the line of your putt and you may also mark the position of your ball to pick it up and clean it.
Most golf courses have Local Rules which are specific to their club. You will find these either on the back of the score card or prominently displayed at the clubhouse.
The Rules generally do not permit you to improve the position of the ball. You may not bend or break anything growing or fixed except in taking a fair swing. You are not allowed to press anything down but you can remove loose natural impediments such as stones, twigs or fallen leaves without penalty, except in a hazard. In a bunker or a water hazard, you are not permitted to ground your club before you hit the ball.