For many, swinging a golf club for the first time is a very daunting experience. It’s an unnatural body movement that takes an immense amount of coordination. Plus, it’s at the center of a sport engulfed in an endless number of very specific rules. It’s overwhelming! Hopefully, this guide will ease some of the anxiety that comes with being a beginner in golf. Use this as a starting point for what goals to set in order to improve your game on your quest to shed your status as a newbie.
Before laying out your plan for becoming the next Tiger Woods, there are a few things you want to make sure to consider in your journey as a new golfer.
Where Do I Even Start?
This is an age-old question we often ask ourselves about starting anything new. When it comes to golf, it's also a loaded question. 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 key to improving your game while managing your frustrations, because there will be some!
Answering a few questions about what you want out of the experience will help set 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 something high up on your priority list, in fact, it may induce more stress than leisure. Finding a local driving range or Top Golf is going to be sufficient to start out. This will give you a place to practice and learn at your own pace in a somewhat social 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 co-workers and do business on the course, it’ll be less about winning and more about enjoying yourself and keeping up with those in your foursome. After putting in the initial work to learn the game, practicing every once in a while a few times a month might be all you need in the end.
On the flip side, if you decide you want to play in tournaments and play competitively, you’ll want to build your goals around detailed practice plans and summer tournament schedules. If you are looking to see improvements in your game quickly, the frequency with which you play and practice is going to be a major factor in achieving those loftier competition goals.
What Kind of Clubs Should You Use?
Once you answer for yourself 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 started in golf. There does come a point when they are no longer as effective as they need to be, at which point you need to seriously consider looking into 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.
The brand of club doesn’t really matter, regardless of what The Golf Channel may try to sell you. The majority of major club manufacturers make quality equipment. If you choose to be fitted for custom clubs, make sure you like the way they look and feel. When you look down at your golf club, if you don’t like what you see, 9 times out of 10, you are going to hit it poorly. The same goes for the feel of the golf club in your hands, from the weight to the sound it makes at impact.
Dedication to Practice
A lot of golfers think practice looks different for each player. They are half right. Yes, the drills you are completing 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 across the board 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. 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 equal success when it comes to golf.
Setting practice goals can be difficult if it is something you have never done before. You want to 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 with 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 games for yourself and giving them goals 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.
Realistic Goals for Beginner Golfers
Using smart goals in golf is important; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
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.
Giving yourself time frame goals during each practice session is a great starting point. For example, allowing yourself 45 minutes on the range, 1 hour on the chipping green, and 45 minutes on the putting green is a good split. The general rule of thumb for your time frame goals during practice should be 75% of your practice time should be spent on your short game. This is where most beginner golfers go wrong. 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 a lot more time on your short game, which is anything you do within 100 yards of the hole, than you do at the driving range.
With the advancements in putting mat technology, it is easy to get your practice indoors. Saying you don’t have access to a practice facility is no longer a valid excuse. Consistent, quality practice structured by specific goals is the quickest way to improve your game.
Golf is a sport full of its own language and lingo, lots of equipment options, and a steep learning curve. Start simple, and stay committed.
Start seeing noticeable improvement in your short game in just a few weeks with PrimePutt putting mats.
How often should I practice in order 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 were practicing 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, you have things to look forward to and accomplish, which aid in your improvement.
Can practicing on an indoor putting mat help me get better?
Absolutely! PrimePutt putting mats made of high-quality tour-grade material are a great way to get your practice in from the comfort of your own home. If the technology of the mat you are using is good, you can absolutely get better practicing on an indoor putting mat.