Golf for Beginners

December 21, 2014 -

golf clubs and ballsThere is something beautiful about golf that appeals to persons of every age, background and physical condition. A low impact, mentally stimulating, and physically precise game, golf truly is the epitome of a “life-time” sport. As evidence of this, take for instance three very popular professional golfers in their own right. The first is Rory McIlroy. At only age 25, he has already been the world number one golfer for a total of 59 weeks; yet he stands only five feet, nine inches tall and weighs only 161 pounds. The second is Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Also age 25, he has already won over $2.4 million playing golf; his stature is even more surprising: five feet, eight inches tall and weighing 228 pounds. Finally, there’s Miguel Jimenez. At age 50, he smokes cigars on the golf course, employs an unconventional warm-up routine, and has won twenty-one times on the European tour; he is a very average five feet ten inches and 183 pounds. Unlike many other sports, which depend on size and strength, golf does not discriminate. Come youthful or aged, strong or weak of body, novice or professional; the game of golf has a place for you.

What All Beginners Should Keep in Mind

As indicated in the foregoing paragraph, very average people physically can be very good golfers. The game is also flexible, so beginners can be challenged without being overwhelmed, and more experienced golfers can play a round on the exact same course and find their skills and wits matched on every hole. (This dynamic is attributable in part to there being different tee boxes based on one’s level of play and the holes on the greens being moved regularly.) Therefore, the first tip for a beginning golfer is to take advantage of the game’s flexibility: play from the closer tee boxes and avoid comparing yourself and your game to those who have been around the sport for a longer period of time. Take each round one shot at a time and relish the good shots you make, even if your overall score is underwhelming.

Second, be positive. Although a little counter intuitive, great golf shots are precipitated physically by a relaxed and flexible swing; mentally by a positive and determined mindset. Not only does negativity immediately affect your frame of mind, negativity also makes it more difficult to physically relax and swing comfortably. Although glorified in film, the Happy Gilmore way to hit a golf ball (and overall approach to the game) does not work.

Third, you should not keep your score every time you play. Because most of us have a day job and cannot play as much golf as we would like, when we do get out for a round, we keep our score religiously. The particularly devout may track additional statistics or register for a “handicap” with a golf club. (Basically, a handicap averages your best ten recent rounds and shows how much you are typically over or under par). However, in turning every round we play into a tournament, it is very easy to put way too much pressure on ourselves. Instead, try playing a few rounds without the pressure of your score. Focus on each golf shot and each hole. That way, you have a hundred (give or take) chances at hitting the golf ball well, and eighteen holes in which to try for par or better. You should find that you better enjoy the game and swing the club with more confidence and patience.

Fourth, consider alternative playing modes. One of the best ways to enjoy a round golf, without carrying the potential burden of your personal score with you on every shot, is through a scramble. A scramble can be played with two or more people. Generally, it consists in every person on the scramble team teeing off on the first hole. The best shot out of the team is taken, and all other players pick up their own ball and place it at the same location as the best shot. This pattern is repeated throughout the round. This approach allows individuals to contribute their best skill without the pressure of the perhaps difficult lies that usually come from errant shots. For example, a golfer trying to overcome a strong slice may get to enjoy the left side of the course for a change in a scramble setting. Alternatively, a player who cannot hit the ball as long as others can contribute to the score through his or her short game, i.e. chipping and putting. By the end of the round, you should see the course in a different way and have more chances at par. This should give you an added measure of confidence and experience the next time you make it out and play your own golf ball.

Fifth, in addition to learning how to play the game, take the opportunity to learn about its history and growth. Learn about its origins and how the game has transformed over time. Consider the play and habits of the best golfers in history, and find one with whom you can especially relate. Watch a golf tournament or two. Maybe attend one in person. By doing so, you will learn a lot about yourself, your own style of play, and how to improve. You will also gain a greater appreciation for the intangibles that golf teaches a person, like hard work, dedication, integrity, and collegiality.

Sixth, think on the words of one of the greatest golfers in history, Jack Nicklaus: “Don’t be too proud to take lessons. I’m not.” A golf swing includes a lot of moving parts, and there are many approaches to attacking the mental challenges presented by the game. An experienced golfer, like our instructors at Bird Golf, can see the small nuances that can greatly impacts one’s game that come only with years of experience. Think of it this way: did you teach yourself to drive? to walk? to read? No, you had help. Consider the benefit of good golf instruction.

Lastly, decide why you are playing the game of golf and let that determine your level of intensity and commitment. If you are playing for exercise, enjoy the walk. If you are playing to relax, don’t sweat the occasional shot in the water or your difficulty in getting out of the sand. If you are playing for business, focus on your playing partners and how to build those relationships. Finally, there is no reason why these motives cannot be paired with a genuine desire to play the game and improve. But be careful not to let the latter drown out the former each time you step onto the course.

In conclusion, consider the wise words of Ben Hogan: “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” There are myriad ways for a beginning golfer to embrace the game of golf. Perhaps when you started reading this article, you were expecting some technical pointers on how to increase your distance, improve your accuracy, or sink more putts. However, at this juncture I hope you see that golf is a journey, and it is as much mental as physical. So come, play, and enjoy. You will not regret your decision to embrace the great age-old sport of golf.

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