From Bogeys to Baseball-Grips, We Cover What Any New Golfer Should Know
So, you want to start golfing?
For a seemingly simple sport, golf can be a bit intimidating.
First, there are the terms. Bogey. Birdie. Slice. Par. Eagle. It’s like you have to learn a whole second language.
Then, there’s the fact that golf is almost all technique based. Even seasoned golfers can struggle with their swing. How will I ever be able to play ball with the big guys?
The fact is, golf may seem intimidating, but it’s actually easy to go from amateur to intermediate in a short amount of time.
The good news is, you’re in the majority. There are new golfers picking up clubs every day.
And once you get in the swing of things (pun intended), it’ll be as though you’ve been playing it for years rather than months.
Are you excited? We sure are!
Let’s Go Clubbin’
For newbies, the clubs can be among the more intimidating parts of the game.
Sure, you know what a driver and a putter are. But what exactly is a 4 iron and when do I use it?
We get it. It can seem like a lot.
Plus, you don’t want to look totally bogey using the wrong club on the course.
If your wife gifted you a set as a nudge to start playing with her newly retired father, this is what’s probably inside:
Setting up that first tee shot doesn’t have to be intimidating. Image CC BY 2.0 from Golf Tips via Flickr
- 1 wood AKA the driver
- 3 wood
- 5 wood
In short, your woods clubs are the ones you use for your long game. The rule of thumb is that if you’re more than 175 yards from the tee, you use one of these bad boys.
The driver is the club that allows you to hit the longest and hardest and is typically the first club you use on a hole.
To get technical, golf clubs are categorized by loft, aka the degrees of the angle on the club head. In the past, most professional golfers preferred drivers with a lower loft, as it was believed to provide more accuracy.
Today, amateur and expert golfers are opting for a higher loft between 8.5 and 10 degrees. If you were handed down your clubs by your great uncle Steve, you’d probably want to invest in a new driver.
These guys are designed for a large margin of error. Basically, they’re a golf beginner’s best friend.
If you have a full set of clubs, chances are your bag also contains a 3 and a 5 wood. These guys are also referred to as fairway woods as they’re most often the second club you play on the, you guessed it, fairway.
Rule of thumb in golf: the higher the club number, the higher the loft, and less distance the ball will travel.
So, use the driver for the first shot. Fairway wood for the second. Not so hard, right?
Titleist 704 CB Irons. Image CC BY 2.0 from fotoablage_chris via Flickr
- 4 iron
- 5 iron
- 6 iron
- 7 iron
- 8 iron
- 9 iron
- Pitching wedge
OK. So this is where things can get tricky.
Following the rule of thumb about clubs and lofts and distance, the higher the iron, the shorter the shot.
Generally speaking, you use an iron when you’re less than 200 years from the green. Therefore, you’d start with a 4 iron, and as the distance decreases, the number iron you use increases.
These irons are used for pretty straightforward shots. Nothing that would usually require any sort of rough terrain or hefty jumps.
Not so hard, right?
Next, there’s the pitching wedge. Per its name, you’d probably guess that this club is good for pitching balls into the air.
You’d be right.
This is an important club so you should get familiar with it. It’s the highest lofted iron (shortest distance) and lowest lofted wedge (longest distance).
If you’re stuck in a bunker (it happens) or need to get over a body of water, the pitching wedge is your club.
- Approach wedge
- Sand wedge
- Lob wedge
- High-lob wedge
OK. So, this is where things might get even more confusing. We apologize in advance.
A wedge is technically an iron.
We know, we know. But don’t call mulligan just yet.
A wedge is a specialty iron. What is their specialty? It depends!
As you can tell by their names, their different lofts and shaft lengths means they have specific uses. For the most part, their unique design means they are good at creating height.
Most golfers have at least a couple wedges in their bag. Once you become more familiar with your game, you’ll be able to pick which ones you like and need more.
Why isn’t a pitching wedge a wedge and instead an iron? Well, it kind of is a wedge. But it’s mostly an iron because it can be used a lot more generally.
Probably the club you’re most familiar. Thanks, miniature golf!
The putter is for the green only. If you’re in a sand trap, don’t use a putter.
Its specific purpose is for getting the ball into the hole.
There are different types of putters. But for clarity, you should be good with your standard version for now.
You can always expand your collection with a short, belly, mallet, long, center-hosel, bent, or heel-toe later on.
Hybrids are a recent development but have been increasing in popularity the last couple of years.
As you can tell by the name, they’re hybrids of a fairway wood head design and an iron length shaft.
What does all this mean? It means they provide a higher margin of error than a low iron with the distance of a fairway wood.
Many golfers are trading in their 3 and 4 irons for hybrids. If you find yourself struggling with these clubs, that’s something you should consider too!
The Basic Golf Skills Everyone Needs to Know
Now that we’ve covered the clubs, it’s time to talk fundamentals.
Before you even start thinking about your swing, you need to establish two very important parts of your golf game: grip and stance.
Both of these play key roles in how you swing a club. These are important steps. Don’t skip them.
If you aren’t gripping the club right, your swing will be off. If you aren’t standing correctly, your swing will be off.
Got it? Good.
Let’s get started.
Get a Grip
The first fundamental skill of golf is your grip. Yeah, we know, seems simple enough.
But this small attention to detail makes a big impact on your swing. Namely, it allows you to have the best control over the club.
Better control = better swing = more power = more distance.
And remember, your thumbs should always align. We repeat. Your thumbs should always align.
Here are the three ways you can grip a golf club:
Vardon Grip Image from YouTube
Overlapping Grip (AKA the Vardon Grip or Vardon Overlap)
Thanks to turn-of-the-century golfer, Harry Vardon, this is known as the staple golf club grip. It’s also the one more frequently taught by golf instructors.
To start, place your hands on the club. If you are right-handed, your left hand should be closest to the top of the shaft. Your right hand should be right under it, closer to the head. Your hands should be touching.
With the Vardon overlap, take the pinky finger of your trailing hand and place it in between the index and middle finger of your leading hand.Your thumbs should be aligned and your grip firm (but not too firm).
Interlocking Grip Image from YouTube
Next up, the Interlocking Grip. This grip was made famous by top golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
It’s also the preferred grip for beginner golfers and great for people with small hands, weak forearms or weak wrists.
The interlocking grip is very similar to the Vardon grip with one big difference. Instead of placing the pinky finger of the trailing hand on top of the index finger and middle finger of the lead hand, you intertwine them.
The pinky should sit in between while the index finger wraps over the pinky. If you try it, it has kind of a cozy feel to it, right?
Baseball and ten-fingered grips Image from YouTube
Ten-Finger Grip (AKA the Baseball Grip)
This is the least popular grip for golfers, but it is also the most recommended one for beginners.
Why? It’s the easiest to master because of its simplicity. No interlocking or overlapping required.
Plus, many professionals have managed just fine using it. A few notable mentions include Beth Daniel, Bob Estes and Masters champion, Art Wall Jr.
To do the ten-finger, it all starts with a perfect lead hand grip. Then, take your trailing hand and place it right under. The pinky finger of your trailing hand and index finger of your lead hand should be “hugging.” How cute.
Last, cover the thumb of your lead hand with your trailing hand. There you go. You know how to do the ten-finger grip.
If you still have questions, follow this tutorial video with Jay Golden to see how each of the different grips looks.
Setup for Success
Right along with your grip, your swing is 100% dependable on your stance. If you have one and not the other, your swing, and therefore your golf game, will suffer.
A solid setup will greatly improve your chances of being good at golf.
Here’s what it looks like:
Align Your Body Parallel to the Target Line
The target line is where you want to hit the golf ball. Your body should be square to the invisible line of the ball’s endpoint. If it isn’t, your ball will probably go in another direction.
How wide apart your feet are varies for how far you need to hit the ball. As a general rule of thumb, your feet should be:
- 2 inches wider than shoulder length apart for long shots Normally, this is your stance when you use your driver
- Shoulder-width for middle iron shots
- 2 inches narrower than shoulder-length for short shots
Next, your target foot should be slightly angled toward your target. If you’re right-handed, your target foot is your left. If you’re left-handed, it’s your right.
This helps make sure your foot rotates on your downswing.
And that back foot? It should be square, so angled 90 degrees to the target line.
We know. Why couldn’t it just be simple? Stay with us.
Where the ball is positioned compared to your feet is different for the club you’re using.
Here’s the general breakdown:
- 3 inches from the center of your stance for a driverThis is because you want to hit the ball on the upswing
- 2 inches from the center for 4-iron, 3-iron and fairway woodThis is because you want to hit the ball at the bottom of the swing
- 1 inch from the center for middle ironsThis is because the head angle is slightly flatter
- Center for short irons (9-iron and 8-iron) plus wedgesThis is because they should be swung at the steepest angle
We will emphasize this is a general rule. Depending on your swing and flexibility, you may find something that works better.
Ben Hogan’s ball position diagram. Image Pubic Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Ready? Your weight should always be on the balls of your feet. Not your heels. Not your toes. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.
There should be some slight variations depending on the shot you’re taking.
If you’re taking a long shot, you should carry a bit more weight on your back foot. This will help make sure you are at the correct angle on the backswing.
When you’re using a middle-iron, your weight distribution should be 50/50 between your right and left foot.
We saved the best for last. When it comes to posture, this is what your body should look like:
- Your knees should be slightly bent and directly over the balls of your feetIt should be a straight line
- Your spine should be straight, never curved or hunched over
- Your body should bend at the hip
- The trailing knee should be slightly toward the target
- Your shoulders should be square to the target line
- Your upper body should be tension-free.
Still not sure? This video should help.
The Sultan of Swing
Now for the fun part. You’ve done all this preparation, and you’re ready to start swinging.
You can break down a golf swing into six steps.
- The “L”
- The Top
Each step is as important as the next. If your positioning is off even the slightest, it will throw off your swing, and the ball’s target will not go where you want it to.
With proper practice, you’ll be ready for a round in no time.
Golf Etiquette 101
For the most part, the do’s and don’ts of golf are pretty self-explanatory.
DO dress appropriately. DON’T pop wheelies with the golf carts. DO take off your hat in the clubhouse. DON’T have a Happy Gilmore-style meltdown on the putting green.
It makes sense.
If you’re thinking about joining a country club or getting serious about the game of golf, here’s some basics to take into account.
Men’s golfing attire, circa 1901. Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
For a long time, golfers had to have a specific look to be allowed into clubs and courses. Country Clubs were exclusive, courses expensive and therefore golf became known as a “high class” sport.
Today, there’s a lot more flexibility in who plays golf and what they wear. You can even wear jeans most of the time.
But the overall “respect for the game” remains intact. If you show up to a course in basketball shorts, a tank top, and gym shoes, you will most likely not be allowed to golf.
Here’s what a typical golf outfit looks like.
As with any sport, the clothes you wear are as much for fashion as they are for functionality.
Take the golf shirt, for instance. It’s typically a standard polo, which offers a more polished look than a traditional t-shirt.
In recent years, most golf shirts switched to the Dri-Fit material. Golfers rejoice. If you’re spending hours on a course in the hot sun, you want to be in something light, UV-protected and sweat-resistant.
Now for the pants. The days of plaid flares are long over. Praise be.
When you’re on the course, you will typically wear Bermuda shorts or trousers. No swimming trunks, athletic shorts, short shorts or denim shorts.
You will see jeans on a golf course, but they should not be marked or frayed in any way. And you should check with the course beforehand to make sure.When it comes to golf, you can never go wrong with a classic khaki pant.
Unless you’re at a driving range, you should expect to wear golf shoes.
Although they do look pretty spiffy, it’s more about functionality. Namely, the cleats on the bottom that help prevent your feet from slipping while you swing.
These days, golf shoes look a lot like regular tennis shoes with a couple of small additions.
Plus, they’re lighter, more breathable and therefore more comfortable.
You’ll see some golfers wearing the old school style. You know what we’re talking about.
But you can pick up a new pair of name brand golf shoes for as little as $40. Your feet and your swing will thank you!
They happen to everyone so don’t be embarrassed if you take a bit too much out of the green with your 4-iron.
What you should do is try to repair the divot the best you can. In most cases, it’s as simple as replacing the grass you just so happened to misplace… with the divot.
Also, check to see if your golf cart has divot repair materials. They sometimes will!
Many people golf to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a mental game as much as it is physical.
So, please be mindful of your voice level and be respectful of the other golfers on the course. This isn’t a time to jam out to the latest tune you heard on your portable speaker.
Next to divots, golf carts are one of the things that inflict the most wear and tear on the green.
Most courses will have set paths for the carts to follow. Some of them allow carts on the greens.
If you are at a course that allows carts on the green, make sure you drive directly to your tee off at a “90-degree angle.” Then, take the same route to return straight back to the path.
And remember to slow down. You aren’t Speed Racer.
You’re a beginner golfer, so it goes without saying you may require more time on a hole than the experienced ones.
And that’s OK! Take your time. You won’t get better at your game if you rush through everything.
However, be mindful of the golfers around you. If you find you’re backing up other golfer’s game, let them go ahead of you.
It will be better for you because you won’t feel pressured to finish quickly, and it will build a good relationship with other golfers on the course.
More Golf Basics to Know
- Don’t distract other golfers when it’s their turn. Be still and be quiet.
- Be kind to rented equipment
- Let the player with the best score on the previous hole be the first to tee off on the next
- Note other player’s putting lines
- Choose the right tee for your skill level
- Rake the sand in the bunker once you’re done playing your shot
Intro to Golf Vocabulary
Image via Pixabay (text added)
Image via Pixabay (text added)
Image via Unsplash (text added)
Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons (text added)
Image via Pixabay (text added)
Image via Public Domain Pictures (text added)
Image CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (text added)
There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a round of golf as the sun sets on the horizon. Image via Pixabay
Meet You on the Course
Do you feel like an expert now?
Just remember, golf is a game of technique. If you want to get better at technique, you have to practice.
There’s also a time to recognize when you made need a little extra help. You can sign up for group or private lessons to help turn those bogeys into eagles.
They’re also great ways to find people on your skill level to go golfing with. Hey, you might even make a new friend.
If you’re serious about taking up the sport or getting better at it, don’t be afraid to hit those courses.
If you’re a total newbie, the driving range is your best friend. Plus, it’s completely a no judgment zone. Feel free to slice and bogey all you want until you get better.
Practice makes perfect. It’s the best way for anyone to get better at anything.
Plus, is there anything better than spending a couple hours at the driving range? Sun, fresh air, a couple of buckets, and the beautiful song of swoosh and pop.
We wish we were there right now.