The perfect weekend is about to end with a victory. You’re concentrating, eyes on the ball. The eighth hole is the toughest one, and you’re about to finalize the score and win the day.
You take a deep breath, relax, and launch the ball in the hole’s direction.
Everybody on the field looks into the sky, in the direction of the shot. Will it hit the target? Will you win?
The joy and fulfillment of playing golf were considered as a thing for elderly people until recently when the sport gained some serious traction. The global recognition came with the Big League and World Cups, and the best players have earned respect and big money.
Interest in the game of golf is on the rise, and I’ve decided to bring it closer to you. You can cover the basics quickly, but mastering the game won’t be easy.
Let’s get into the world of golf.
Golf is a game played by several players, where you try to hit the ball with the particular club, forcing it into a hole strategically placed on the terrain. The player who scores with the least amount of swings wins. Each player must have his bag of clubs and a scorecard. For transportation throughout the terrain, special vehicles called golf carts are used. Players take turns swinging the ball.
Before you start your round, make sure to read the local rules on the score card. During the round, don’t ask anyone for, and do not give advice to anyone except your partner.
When playing golf, you should know that there is one basic rule called “loose impediments.” If you are playing golf by this rule, then you are allowed to move natural objects like branches, leaves, and other stuff that are preventing you from making a perfect hit.
Some rules allow you to move your ball in particular conditions (i.e. If your ball gets into the bulky grass, stuck in mud or a small pond). Sometimes, you can move your ball from the wrong position without getting a penalty. For example, if your ball got stuck in some form of man-made obstruction, then you are allowed to move it and continue playing.
Types of Penalties
For not abiding by the rules, you might get penalized, and here are the most common penalties:
More clubs in the bag than allowed: You have to select your clubs before the round starts, and you can’t have more than 14. Breaking this rule will get you a penalty of deducting holes from your score.
A wrong score on the scorecard: If you misrecord a score as better than the actual score, you get disqualified. Simple as that. No cheating allowed.
Grounding the club in a hazard: Your club can’t touch the ground before hitting the ball. The penalty for this is an addition of two strokes to the score.
Water hazard: When your ball lands in water, you can try to play it without penalty, which is extremely difficult. If not, you can remove the ball from water to its original place and replay the stroke as a new one while adding a stroke to the score, or drop the ball somewhere near the water and continue, with the addition of one stroke.
Ball lost or out of bounds: By losing the ball, you will instantly get a stroke plus additional distance penalty. This means that you will have one swing less to complete the hole, and you will have to go back to the previous place and re-play.
Ball unplayable: You can call your ball unplayable anywhere except in the water hazard. If you want to move the ball from the water hazard, you will get -1 stroke.
Airball: Whenever you make a mighty swing, but you miss the ball, you won’t get the penalty, but the swing will count as a stroke.
Two main parts of the golf equipment are the golf club and a golf ball. Those are the fundamentals that you’re supposed to have to even play the game in the first place.
Golf club: Golf can be played with several different types of golf clubs. There are clubs made out of iron, wood, wedges and putter clubs. Some clubs are made for the long-distance shots, while some are made for the low-distance hits. You can have up to 14 clubs in your bag, and as a beginner, you don’t need that much.
Golf balls: As a beginner, you should know that you’ll lose a lot of your balls. Get at least two or three dozens to ensure smooth gameplay. There’s no need for expensive ones.
Golf bag: There are different types of bags – carry bags, Sunday bags, staff bags, travel bags and the most popular ones, cart bags. Depending on your equipment, you should look for a spacious bag that won’t be too bulky. Here’s more on golf bags.
Special golf shoes: A lot of new players do not think about it, but golf shoes can give you extra comfort and support while protecting you from grass or water. On average, it takes you four to six hours to finish the game of 18 holes – that means you have to get some quality shoes. As a beginner, you might think you’ll be fine with your trainers, but that’s simply wrong.
Clothing: Most of the courses will have their dress code, but collared shirts (polos) are the most common in golf clothing. Sunglasses, a hat, and some sunscreen are highly advisable.
Golf rangefinder: This is maybe one of the most interesting pieces of the golf equipment. The rangefinder is a device that will help you determine the distance between two spots accurately. These small, yet very useful devices are game-changing. Here is a detailed guide to golf rangefinders to help you select the perfect one.
Golf glove: The glove helps with the grip, sweat, and prevents calluses, and prevents your club from flying out of your hand because of the force of the swing. As a beginner, you should try your swing to get a feel of the clubs before deciding to buy one. If you get sweaty hands naturally, look here for more info on golf gloves.
Golf can be played on different types of courses. Some of those terrains are hard to play on, but there are some that are recommended for beginners. There are public courses, open for everyone, and private ones, reserved for members only.
Here are the different types of golf courses:
Links course: The most traditional type of the golf course is links. Some of these courses are over a century old. You can find link courses mostly in countries like Scotland, Ireland, and England.
Heathland course: They are called heathland because they are made in the large open areas of sandy soil without much vegetation. Usually found in Great Britain, this course is a middle ground between a links and a parkland course.
Parkland course: These are large, broad, lush courses, with elevation and rough areas. More popular in the later periods, these courses are featured the most in the PGA Tour.
Desert course: Like the name itself, the game is played on a desert terrain. The desert course is the most recent type that is added to the game, and it is mostly played at competitions in the United States and the Middle East.
Snow ice course: Playing golf on a snow terrain is fascinating. The terrain is clean, and balls are colored red.
By size, we sort the golf courses by the number of holes, and the types of holes. For example, you’ll hear courses mentioned like the following: an 18-hole course, a 9-hole course, a Par-3 course, an Approach course, and an Executive course.
Formats of the Game
Almost every game can be played in different ways and by the different rules, but when it comes to golf, you have a bunch of possibilities and formats. Let’s check out some of them:
Strokeplay: This is one of the most common forms of golf played in professional tournaments. In Strokeplay, you are competing on 18 holes. When the game ends, all players or teams count the total number of strokes, and the team with the lowest total net score wins.
Foursome: This type of game is played between two players in a partnership. Both teams are using only one ball that is being hit alternately. One player is playing on the odd numbered holes while the other is playing on the even ones. When the game ends, the team with the lowest total net score wins.
Scramble: Every player in a team tees off on each hole, and after they are done, they decide which shot was the best one. That shot passes the round, and the team continues from that spot until the ball is in the hole. Scramble is one of the most popular game types among the professional players.
Modified Stableford: The score is determined by the number of points, where the fewer swings you make to finish the hole, the more points you earn. Here are the point standings:
- Double Eagle: 8 points
- Eagle: 5 points
- Birdie: 2 points
- Par: 0 points
- Bogey: -1 point
- Double Bogey or Worse: -3 points
What’s the difference between Modified Stableford and a regular one?
The scoring system is different, which means that former awards more points for the good plays while the standard Stableford will penalize weaker plays more.
These are the four formats of golf that you’ll be playing from the start. Others worth mentioning are: Flags, Money Ball, Bingo Bango Bongo, Callaway System, Peoria System, and more.
Mastering the Game of Golf
Now that we have our basics covered; it’s time to go deeper. To master the game, you need to get into the base mechanics and start improving in every single one. Next, you need to perfect your swing, your short game, and start working out to supplement your form. Finally, you need to start developing tactics and strategies for the each course you’ll play to maximize the results and beat your opponents.
The mechanics of a good golf swing can be divided into categories. First, there is the grip, which is essential for the right swing and stroke. Check out the detailed guide to golf club grip on golf.com.
Next, there is the posture of your body. You need to have stability, and a confident, wide stance is the best option. Don’t go overbroad – a bit wider than shoulder-width is ideal. You have to be stable and confident on your feet, especially while rotating your hips and shoulders during the swing. Here’s a useful video on how to position your body for the best swing.
The swing itself has five phases:
- The takeaway: The calm phase where you start lifting your club. Calmness is the most important factor here. A bad takeaway can ruin your entire swing, and your stroke might end in a bad location, or even become a penalty shot.
- The backswing: This is the phase where you lift the club in the air behind your back. Here’s where stability comes in as the most important factor for a successful stroke. Resist the temptation to turn your feet and head to follow your club, and lower the power.
- The transition: The moment of the switch from backswing to a downswing. Pay attention to your lower body in this phase, as it is crucial to a good strike.
- The downswing and impact: When your club travels to the point of impact and launches the ball, the single most important thing to focus on here is to have your hands cross the line of the ball before the club. This is achieved by relaxing the grip a bit, and a lot of practice.
- The follow-through: The aftermath of the impact will showcase the quality of your swing. If you’ve done something wrong, you will have trouble staying balanced after your shot.
To perfect each section of a golf swing, you’ll need to practice a lot. Taking classes is one of the best decisions you can make in the beginning. There are simply too many things that you can do wrong, and you risk developing some bad habits in your play. Expect to pay $50-100 for a lesson, but with a few lessons from a pro golfer, you’ll thank yourself in the future. Remember, a single shot can be performed in dozens of ways, alternating power, angle, speed, and stance. Developing the “sense” and your aiming skills for golf is one of the most important things for a beginner. Online coaching is popular nowadays, and you can even have your swing analyzed by a pro via online services.
You’ll Be Horrible in the Beginning
This is the universal truth that you have to accept. You’ll miss the ball, miss the shot, or ground the club in a hazard often. Don’t expect to be the next Tiger Woods. You will be bad in the beginning, but with enough patience and positivity, you’ll get over the hump and start improving.
To enhance your game overall, working out is recommended. This is advice that many won’t consider, but the difference it makes is amazing. As a golfer, you need to work on your stability, on your legs, lower back, shoulders and your forearms. Some exercises that golfers benefit from are:
- Biceps curls
- “Good Morning”
- Balance-enhancing exercises
- Lower back extensions
- All kinds of plank exercises
Three times a week is a good amount of exercise to enhance your golfing capabilities.
Besides working out to strengthen your body, you need to practice your swing and develop tactics. If you’re playing on the same field, learn the course as best as you can. By doing this, you’ll be able to capitalize on the particular areas of the course and achieve more points or get closer to the hole.
That’s how you win.
Your ball flew over the pond, the trees, and far beyond every other competitor’s balls.
It landed just a few yards away from the hole. You know it, your buddies from the course know it. Victory is secured. You put the ball in the hole with ease and begin the victory dance.
Life is good when you win at golf.
Now it’s time for you to try it.