Wednesday, January 6

Getting Started: Tips for Beginning Golfers

By Pam Swensen, CEO, Executive Women’s Golf Association

LEARNING TO PLAY GOLF can be an intimidating undertaking for anyone who has not grown up playing the game. It has been said that golf is one of the most challenging sports for a person to learn because there are so many elements to the sport. Here are some tips for getting started. 

Learn the Lingo – Every sport has its own language; terms that are universally used to explain the game. Understanding terms like “par”, “birdie”, “bogey,” “bunker” and “slice” can be learned by watching golf on TV. 

Picking a Program – Getting professional instruction is the best way to get started. You can seek one-on-one lessons from a golf pro or group clinics designed especially for new golfers. The PGA of America’s “First Swing” and “Link Up 2 Golf” programs cover basic golf skills, golf terminology, etiquette and how to get around a golf club and course. See to find an introductory program near you. And for women, the Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) offers new golfer clinics led by both PGA and LPGA teaching professionals. 

Avoid Amateur Advice – For less stress as you learn this new sport, avoid having your spouse or a friend be your instructor. And this advice carries onto the golf course. One couple shared their secret to enjoying playing together as she learned the game. Their rule: He could not tell her anything about her golf swing that he wouldn’t say to another guy. The best policy is not to give advice unless the beginning player asks for it—and then limit your advice to the question asked rather than taking the opportunity to expand and further “coach.” 

From Instruction to Play – Once you’ve learned the basic skills, including the different types of clubs you have in your golf bag, there’s more to know as you get “on course” and begin to play. Like the transition from school to your first job, putting what you’ve learned into action takes practice and won’t be mastered in just one day. Seek out a mentor and welcoming places to play. Executive and nine-hole courses are good choices as you build your skills and confidence in your play. 

Know the Etiquette – Courtesies on the golf course enhance the experience for everyone. Know where it is appropriate to drive a golf cart (never on a tee box or green), how to fix a divot and repair a ball mark, and how to conduct yourself on the green. Experienced golfers expect everyone in their foursome to stop talking when one member is playing a shot. Demonstrating good golf etiquette; knowing where to stand when the other players in your group are hitting the ball or putting on the green shows your respect and understanding of the game. 

Pace of Play – The speed at which you go around a golf course is an important part of playing golf. The golden rule of pace of play is to keep up with the group in front of you. Be prepared and move quickly between shots. Use the following “new golfer rules” to help speed your pace of play. 

“New Golfer Rules” – First, understand that these “rules” can not be used during a golf event or a tournament—or to obtain a handicap—because they are not in accordance with the official rules of golf:

• Use a tee until you are comfortable hitting off of grass. If you are having trouble getting the ball off the ground, tee it up in the fairway for a while, as well as on the tee box. (But never do this on the green!)

• Don’t keep score (unless you want to). You can measure your progress in other ways—counting how many times you make good contact with the ball—rather than total number of shots.

• Improve your lie. If you like where your ball landed, play it from there. Otherwise, pick it up and hit it from another spot. When you are starting out, hitting from thick grass, bunkers, or even just hitting a lot of shots can be frustrating.

• Pick up your ball in the fairway. If you’re having trouble on a hole, consider picking your ball up and taking it to the front of the green. Then go ahead and putt out. This will give you practice putting and help put you in a better state of mind before hitting your tee shot on the next hole.

Consider using these “new golfer rules” when getting started in casual play or any environment where score does not matter. With practice, you will soon transition into regular play.

Remember, it’s a game. Have fun. 

Headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the Executive Women’s Golf Association was founded in 1991 and has 18,000 members. Learn more at

(Image: spunkinator/Flickr)


courtgolf said...

Good stuff.

Here's a "scoring system" that my ex-sis-in-law came up with before she was comfortable keeping score.

If she was happy with the way she played a hole, she wrote in a smiley face. If she didn't like how she played the hole, it got a frowny face. A so-so hole got the straight line mouth face.

At the end of the round, if there were more smiley faces than frowny faces, she had a beer to celebrate. If she had more frowny faces, she made my brother buy her a beer. Either way - she found a way to have fun.

Patricia Hannigan said...

This is great. I think most agree that getting women into golf ... and keeping them happily there... is pretty vital to the games growth. :o)

Anonymous said...

Great info for the beginner! I love how you suggest picking up and moving on if they are struggling on a hole - There's no shame in that, it's just good golf etiquette!

The Armchair Golfer said...

Court: I love your ex sis-in-law's scoring system. I should use that. :)

Patricia: I'm all for more women to join the game. The sport needs women's involvement and also family support to really grow and thrive.

Greg: I agree!

diane said...

EWGA isn't just a place to learn the game. I got involved because it provided opportunities to play more frequently with women who are as golf-obsessed as I am.

Lyndon Irvine said...

I love your blog. This post is amazing and offers great advice for the beginner golfer. Whether it be man or woman. I wrote down all these tips for a friend of mine who's a female and wants to begin playing golf.