Many people who are new to the game of golf have a hard time improving their skills.
They may not know where to start, what clubs they need, or how often they should practice.
This blog post will give you some tips on how can a beginner get better at golf and improve your skills!
Why Play Golf?
People decide to play golf for all sorts of reasons –
- Their partner plays so it’s something they can play together
- They like walking, so decide to add golf to the walk
- It will be good for their career
- They need more exercise
- Being good at sport is not pre-requisite
- Increased social activity
- A new challenge
Whatever the reason, golf is a game unlike no other.
The Essence Of The Game
First and foremost you are completely accountable for your own actions and reactions.
The Rules of Golf decree that you record your own score and therefore have the opportunity to display integrity in the way you handle that.
If you want to cheat, go ahead. But who are you cheating? Yourself.
And do you think your playing partners won’t notice? Of course they will and your reputation will be on the floor.
Furthermore, let’s say you get away with it and your handicap starts to come down. How long do you think you can keep that up?
You will plateau and then go back the other way for many reasons, in particular because something will be eating away in your sub-conscious mind and any distraction means you are unable to give the matter your full attention.
And to make progress, you need to focus 100% on the job in hand.
Learning The Game
If you are new to the game, everything is exciting and you are really up to learn and learn.
You may be in a rush to progress but take a tip from me – you will only get out of the game what you put into it.
If you are at school, you know that your results are consistent with the amount of work that you put in.
In your career, you will learn your trade more quickly if you are doing something every day.
So it is with golf and sport generally.
You learn and practise.
The more time you are able to practise will determine how quickly your game will improve.
Obstacles To Success
Time or rather the lack of it is the biggest single obstacle to success in golf. To progress rapidly – assuming you have some aptitude for the game.
I recommend that you practise and / or play at least three times during the week.
Now that sounds like a lot of time but it needn’t necessarily be so.
Half an hour to keep your swing and rhythm going will suffice for two of those sessions if that is all the time you have available.
Quality practise rather than quantity is the order of the day.
Plan your time and know what you are going to do when you get to the range or course so you make the most of the available time.
Initially, you can practise grip, posture, direction, back-swing, down-swing anywhere you happen to be.
Practise without a ball and ensure that you nail the basics before you attempt to hit a ball.
When you go to the range, you have a degree of confidence that your set-up is good and you are ready to hit some balls.
Expectation levels must be realistic.
You are not going to play like Rory, so don’t expect to!!
What you can expect is to hit some half-reasonable shots that will give you satisfaction at the time.
The problem is that we then expect to do just that every time and we are then disappointed.
One of the reasons to practise in fairly short sessions is to enable you to be satisfied with your efforts and not to be too disappointed when you hit poor shots.
Remember how long it took you to walk as a child, or how long it took to learn to ride a bike or drive a car.
Things do not happen overnight.
The margin for error in golf is minute, so be realistic in your expectations.
To help with this, record your progress.
Write down the results of every session and monitor your progress.
If you hit 50 balls, record how many were satisfactory and then check against that the next time and so on.
Be satisfied with progress and understand that even the professionals sometimes have to settle for less than they would like.
Practise properly by which I mean don’t just go to the range and ‘bash balls’, practise with a purpose.
In the case of beginners it is as I said above – practise and record your progress.
In the case of fairly new players, the principle remains the same – practise makes perfect.
One of the most amazing things about golf is you never stop learning.
Just when you think you have cracked it, a problem arises and you have to find a way to get over it.
Again I would draw a comparison with work (or school). If you have a problem with something at work, you (hopefully) calmly look for the most expeditious way of solving the problem.
So it is with golf.
Very few golfers play their best golf when their mind and/or body is out of control.
If your body is agitated, it is controlled by the mind and therefore your mind is also ‘delinquent.’
So in addition to the physical side of golf, learn to accept that golf is a continuous learning curve and accept it as a challenge.
Certainly don’t beat yourself up over a poor shot or even a poor round.
You must therefore learn how to get your mind and body under control and the place to do that is away from the course.
Whilst you are learning the technical side of the game is an appropriate time to focus on what is required mentally to allow you to improve and get enjoyment from the game.
What I am about to tell you is something you MUST learn at the very beginning of your golfing life and is fundamental to your progress.
REMEMBER THAT GOLF IS A GAME AND THE FIRST RULE OF GOLF IS TO ENJOY THE GAME.
Many players, in particular low handicappers, impede their own progress because they cannot accept that they have no God-given right to play good golf.
They also think there is a miracle cure but unfortunately the only person who can rectify this situation is the player.
Do not restrict your potential through poor temperament.
Not everyone can be a single-figure handicap golfer, so don’t expect to be.
The most you are entitled to expect is to be rewarded for practising and working hard to be the best you can be.
Again, that is no different to school or work. and why should it be?
Some amateur golfers who have been very successful in business also expect to have the same success in golf.
If they could achieve the same level of success they would be on the Tour – so it’s a pretty unrealistic attitude and can only lead to disappointment.
The bottom line is that you can learn mental as well as technical attributes at every stage of your golfing career but it is much easier to learn mind control at a very early stage.
And that requires practise.
Just because you have decided to have a look at golf, I certainly wouldn’t recommend that you rush out and buy a set of golf clubs just yet
Most new players borrow clubs or are given other players’ cast offs!
This is fine until you have developed some of your own characteristics and are in need of something more suitable to your height, physical attributes and ability.
One of the most (if not the most) important club is your putter. It is essential that you like the putter.
In addition, it needs to be properly ‘fitted’ to suit you.
Most golf outlets will ensure the length of the putter is right for you and you can test on the practise putting greens there.
As the game of golf is primarily about getting the ball in the hole, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having the right putter for you.
Too Much Advice
There is always someone who has an opinion about what you are doing wrong!
That person is normally a below average golfer but has all the theory!!
What I’m saying is that especially in the early days, you will probably be bombarded by advice.
Learn and practise what your own coach is telling you and politely say ‘Thanks but no thanks’ to anyone else.
That’s not to say you may wish to change coach some time in the future but NEVER try and work with two coaches.
Now to contradict that!!
There are specialist putting coaches and even short game coaches – but their worth is realised when you reach an appropriate level.
That is normally when you are approaching single figures as an amateur or when you are a tour professional.
These coaches don’t do it for nothing, so there has to be a good reason to spend more money on specialist coaching.
On the Course
So you feel confident enough now to go out onto the golf course and play a few holes. The natural temptation is to want to play 18 holes.
Whilst I accept that is what you are working towards, it is in my opinion, better to start by playing (maybe) 9-holes and I’ll tell you why.
You will feel nervous because you have not played on the course before and you don’t want to look silly. It’s our old friend fear of failure.
Unfortunately it is inevitable that you will duff some shots, so don’t be surprised or embarrassed.
Tour pros started in exactly the same way as you – they learned the game from the bottom up and they would have fluffed shots too. They still do sometimes!!
When you are wayward from the tee it invariably means that your ball will go into the rough.
Obviously you will look for it and that probably leads to holding up following players.
You are entitled to look for your ball but need to make a decision fairly swiftly about whether you continue to look or drop another ball.
If you elect to take the first option then wave the following group through so you minimise the time you are holding them up. There is no shame in this – everyone has been there.
The disgrace comes when you continually hold following players up, so don’t hesitate to call groups through if you think you will be a while looking.
The second option of dropping another ball is fine in practise play or when you are learning the game.
Lake balls are inexpensive and you must expect to get through a fair few during the course of your golfing life.
Naturally you can supplement these with balls you find on the course.
The subject of precise club selection is relatively unimportant in your early days, although you will have some idea of the distances with each club from your practise on the range.
This should form part of your monitoring and recording your progress as it will enable you to improve club selection more quickly.
Club selection becomes more crucial as your game progresses and you enter competitions.
It is therefore common sense to learn this aspect as early as possible. Learn this on the range as far as you can – certainly carries, wind direction and with a bit of visualising, hazard avoidance can be determined on the range.
So that when you go onto the course you can make a reasonably informed choice of club.
Again, don’t expect to get it right all the time.
Even top pros misjudge, especially at crucial times.
So use what knowledge you have acquired and make the best decision you can. And remember that at this early stage it is not going to make a real difference to your game.
What it will do if you are smart is to enable you to learn from mistakes and build up your experience.
For example, you will learn that you need more club if the hole is uphill or if it’s into the wind. But this primarily comes from experience – another reason for recording progress.
Progress will depend on the amount of time you are able to devote to the game. Of course this depends to a degree on what you want from golf.
There is no disgrace in being an 18-handicap golfer – if that is what you want to be.
If you are a naturally competitive person, that may not be enough for you.
So if you want more than that, you will have to spend more time at practise – on the specific areas that you are learning and taking that to the course to enable you to get round in reasonable shape and time.
I’ve said it before and it is worth repeating – you will only get from golf what you put into it and you MUST not expect any more than that.
So many golfers want and expect to be better than they are without putting in the work.
As a comparison, I want to lose weight without cutting down on the amount of food I eat!! But I don’t expect to.
You will probably start thinking about joining a golf club.
Decisions as to which golf club are sometimes dependent on where your friend(s) are members.
It is good to have playing partners that you know as they will need to be fairly patient with you as you are learning the game.
Work out what you want from your golf club and find out if all the boxes are ticked.
Don’t join any club that you don’t fancy for whatever reason.
If you want to eat or drink after playing (or maybe before!!) ensure the club has the facilities.
Similarly, on site practise facilities may be important to you, although independent ranges allow you the opportunity to practise away from the gaze of your fellow members.
Some clubs have reputations for being ‘stuffy’. That may be appropriate if you are taking up golf for business reasons. Find out as much as you can and make your decision.
There are many considerations when you decide that golf is a sport you want to learn. It offers a variety of pleasures to suit most potential players.
You have made the decision to learn the game for whatever reason but when you start to improve it is very easy to get ‘hooked’.
At this time you must make a judgement on how far you want to take your abilities. I have said earlier that time is the major obstacle to improvement in your game.
If you don’t have the appropriate time to spend then don’t set the bar of expectation too high or you will be disappointed and become disillusioned with the game.
The bottom line here is that it is not the game’s problem, it is yours for being unrealistic in what you can achieve with the amount of time you are able to give to the game.
Obviously if you are looking to become a low-handicap player you must have time to practise on and off the course.
You probably know that top professionals spend hours practising – but that’s why they are professionals!
So set your stall out appropriately and you will not be disappointed with this wonderful game.
Learn and practise what your coach is teaching you and progress at the rate commensurate with the time you devote to the game.
Play with people you like and are sympathetic to your needs when you are learning the game.
BUT don’t pay any attention to what they may be saying you should be doing!!
Progressing technically can lead to developing problems in your mind.
It’s the old problem of increased expectation and we will develop that in the next chapter.
For now remember GOLF IS A GAME AND IS TO BE ENJOYED.