As a former collegiate and professional golfer and coach, I know how daunting it can be to swing a golf club for the first time. It’s an unnatural body movement that takes an immense amount of coordination. Plus, it’s at the center of a sport with an endless number of precise rules. It’s overwhelming!
Hopefully, this guide will ease some of the anxiety that comes with being a beginner in golf. I encourage you to use this as a starting point for setting achievable goals to improve your game and shed your “newbie” status.
Before setting your plan in motion to become the next Tiger Woods, there are a few key things to consider in your journey as a new golfer.
1. Getting Started as a Beginner Golfer
Navigating the waters of being new to the game of golf can be a bumpy ride. Having a firm understanding of the sport and setting realistic goals as a beginner is vital to improving your game while managing your frustrations because there will undoubtedly be some!
Asking yourself what you want to get out of the experience will help set manageable expectations.
What Do You Want to Accomplish With the Sport?
Are you picking up the game of golf as a leisure activity, or are you looking to become a competitive player who wants to compete in tournaments? The answer to that question will significantly impact the goals you’ll want to set.
If golf is going to primarily be a leisure activity for you, full membership to a country club is not necessarily going to be high on your priority list. Finding a local driving range or sports complex is going to be sufficient to start out. This will give you a place to practice and learn at your own pace in a relaxed setting. A comfortable, stress-free environment will lead to much quicker improvements in your game.
How Often Are You Going to Play?
Whether you decide to be a weekend warrior, play once a month, or play every day after work, knowing how frequently you want to play will be critical in setting goals for yourself and improving over time. If you are only looking to play in charity events throughout the year or keep up with colleagues and clients on the course, it’ll be less about winning and more about enjoying yourself and being somewhat competitive with those in your foursome. After putting in the initial work to learn the game, practicing every once in a while might be all you need.
On the other hand, if you decide you want to play competitively, you’ll want to build your goals around detailed practice plans and summer tournament schedules. If you want to see rapid improvements in your game, the frequency with which you play, and practice will be major factors in achieving those loftier competition goals.
2. Get to Know the Clubs in Your Golf Bag
Once you decide where you want golf to take you, it’s time to talk about monetary investment. Golf is not a cheap sport. There are, of course, the clubs, but a dozen balls alone can run you upwards of $50. Then there are the clothes, shoes, gloves, tees, towels, etc. Not to mention course fees, cart rentals, and range balls.
As a beginner, starter sets of clubs can be an excellent way to get used to the game. There will come a time when they are no longer as effective as they need to be, at which point you’ll want to consider being fit for clubs specifically built for your height, strength level, and ability.
Understanding the difference between how clubs are made and used is a big part of being able to determine what clubs you should use. For instance, putters come in a variety of lengths, shaft bends, weights, and clubhead shapes. Understanding the difference between the categories of putters is paramount to making sure you are using the correct one for your game. What about the best putters for high handicappers? Using the wrong clubs can significantly hinder improvement in your golf game.
Most club manufacturers make quality equipment, so don’t get bogged down on brands. If you choose to be fitted for custom clubs, make sure you like the way they look and feel. If you look down at your club and don’t like what you see, chances are that you’re going to hit the ball poorly. The same goes for the feel of the golf club in your hands, from the weight to the sound it makes at impact.
3. Find the Practice Methods That Work for You
A lot of golfers think practice looks different for each player. They are somewhat correct. Yes, the drills you complete may look different from one golfer to the next, but the intention behind the drills and what you are looking to accomplish should be the same for all golfers.
You’ve probably heard the “quality over quantity” expression when it comes to practice. When improving your golf game, it’s true. The quality far outweighs quantity when it comes to your practice regime. Beating 100 golf balls with improper form will absolutely do more harm than good.
With golf, it isn’t necessarily about the amount of time you spend practicing but rather what you get out of it. Time does not always equal success.
Setting practice goals can be difficult if you’ve never done this before. Make sure you have a plan before going out to practice. Keep a notebook in your golf bag to plan out the drills or exercises you want to do and what your focus will be. Put enough drills on your practice plan to keep you busy for the entire time frame you have committed to. Then, understand that if you don’t get through everything, it’s okay! What you didn't finish in your practice session today can be carried over to the next one.
As a beginner golfer, setting goals for each of your practice sessions is key. That could mean making a certain number of putts from a specific length or giving yourself a designated time frame to work on a specific skill or swing mechanic.
Creating objective-oriented games for yourself is often more fun and productive than just standing on the range and hitting balls for no reason. Spending six hours on the range is not a badge of honor, especially if there is no structure or purpose behind it. If your goal is to improve your game, setting realistic and specific goals is the key to improving as a beginner golfer.
4. Be Smart About Your Golf Game with SMART Goals
In golf, as in all aspects of life, the best goals to set are SMART goals which are:
As a beginner, setting SMART goals is a great way to kickstart your golfing career. Creating goals that are too lofty, too unrealistic, or not specific enough could quickly derail your ability to get better. Consistent, quality practice structured by particular goals is the quickest way to improve your game.
Giving yourself time frame goals during each practice session is a great starting point. For example, allow yourself 45 minutes on the range, one hour on the chipping green, and 45 minutes on the putting green. A general rule of thumb for your time frame goals during practice should be to spend 75% of your practice time on your short game. This is where many beginner golfers need to improve. They spend too much time on the range because hitting balls seems more fun than short-game practice. But if you want to be a good golfer, you should spend more time working on your short game (anything within 100 yards of the hole) than at the driving range.
Thanks to recent advancements in putting mat technology, it’s easy to get your practice indoors, no matter where you are. You’re likely to start seeing noticeable improvement in your short game in just a few weeks with PrimePutt putting mats. Saying you don’t have access to a practice facility is no longer a valid excuse.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve included some of the most commonly asked questions we hear from beginner golfers below.
How often should I practice to improve my game?
This depends on how much time you have available. One day a week can help you improve your game, but it will happen much slower than if you practiced 2-3 days a week. The key to improving your game with practice is structure and consistency.
Is setting goals important as a beginner golfer?
Yes! Setting goals as a beginner is paramount to improving your game. Whether it’s to practice consistently or play “x” number of times a month, having objectives to look forward to and accomplish will aid in your improvement.