The situation: you’ve heard Uncle Fred rambling on about his favorite pastime, golf, and how much fun it is, that you want to try it out, too. Or perhaps you would like to learn at least the basics so you can be included in games with coworkers or business contacts. Whatever your age or station in life, it’s never to late—or too early—to take up this fascinating game that requires both mental and physical skill to master.
Start Young, If You Can
If becoming a professional is your goal, one of your best advantages is to start young. Children and teens are usually exposed to the game through parents or other golfing relatives who are willing to be patient with the developing motor skills and short attention spans of youth. In recent years, there has been a boom in the manufacture of junior-sized golfing equipment as well as a rise in the number of instructors willing to teach children as young as three years old the basics of the game. Teens may also have access to school golfing teams or clubs.
The key to loving the game from a young age is to approach the sport as fun and enjoyable while learning etiquette, rules, and technique; approaching the game of golf as fun and enjoyable is also the way amateur adults should see it.
Gather Basic Equipment
While you can certainly spend plenty of money in pursuit of the hottest new gadgets and equipment, beginners shouldn’t take out a second mortgage in order to begin exploring the game of golf. Used or discounted clubs and other equipment are readily available at golf shops, listed in online classifieds like Craigslist or Ebay, or sold in estate sales, garage sales, and second-hand stores.
Your first collection of clubs should not empty your wallet by more than about $300. Golf Digest has published a handy slideshow on which types of clubs you should start out with. View it here.
Find an Instructor
Before heading out to the greens, you should be able to play well enough that you are not a menace to other golfers. Driving ranges often offer group lessons, which is a more budget-friendly option to hiring a private instructor. A private instructor, however, will be able to help you learn proper stance and swing technique in a consistent way right from the beginning. The advantage to being a newb is that you have not yet developed bad habits, so if you are determined to play golf and play it well, a private instructor is a must.
Don’t forget resources like online videos that walk you through the complex movements of a “natural” swing or teach you how to putt accurately and well.
Learn the Rules of Golf and the Etiquette of the Game
You can’t play a game correctly if you don’t know its rules. Golf is a refined game developed over centuries, so respect those rules of play and etiquette. You can find a free PDF version of the Rules of Golf online at http://www.usga.com, or buy a paper copy from any major book retailer. Read the summary digest at the beginning of the book word-for-word several times, as this summary allows you to understand the basic rules any player should know before delving into the more strict rules later in the book. While you don’t have to have all the rules memorized, understanding the basics shows respect to yourself and others on the course.
In addition to the basic rules of the game, each club or course will also have a few rules of its own. These local rules are designed to make play more enjoyable and safe for all players. Also remember to check course dress codes before leaving your home.
Play with Patient and Good-Natured Friends
While the temptation is to start playing solo until you become better and more comfortable with your abilities, part of the enjoyment of the game is time spent with friends. Find a couple people to play with who are close to your skill level or who are ready and willing to give you pointers and be patient with your developing skills. Golf enthusiasts are usually eager to share their love of the game with others, so identifying a friend, coworker, or family member with a good sense of humor and the willingness to share their experience is a huge boon.
As you become more confident in your playing skills, you can help newer players overcome the fear of failure by being patient with them and giving them tips that have helped you in your journey to golf nirvana.