How to Play Golf, a Complete Beginner’s Guide


Posted : Wednesday, July 13, 2016
The perfect setting to learn how to play golf  

What Are the Basic Rules of Golf?

The R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) and the USGA (United States Golf Association) govern the sport of golf worldwide.They operate in separate jurisdictions, but share a commitment to a single code for the rules of golf. While the rules are varied and many, for the complete beginner, the best place to start is to review the R&As Quick Guide to the Rules.

These rules take three separate sections into account with fourteen sub-sections and set any beginner golfer on the path to getting to know the game of golf. While this is not a complete list and as the golfer progresses they should familiarise themselves with more advanced rules; it is recommended for the novice. The R&As Quick Guide to the Rules includes:

Getting Started

•  General Points
•  The Tee Shot
•  Playing the Ball
•  On the Putting Green
•  Ball at Rest Moved
•  Ball in Motion, Deflected, or Stopped

Relief Situations and Procedures

•  Lifting, Dropping and Placing the Ball
•  Ball Assisting or Interfering With Play
•  Loose Impediments
•  Movable Obstructions
•  Immovable Obstructions and Abnormal Ground Conditions
•  Water Hazards

Lost, Provisional and Unplayable Balls

•  Ball Lost or Out of Bounds, Provisional Balls
•  Ball Unplayable

What is the Golf Handicap System?

A golfer’s gear. Golfers learning how to play golf for the first time must learn the golf handicap system

 
You might routinely hear golfers using phrases such as “I’m playing off six” and be rather stumped as to what they mean. This refers to the golfer’s handicap, a system used in the vast majority of amateur competitions to allow players of any ability to compete fairly against one another.

Golfers of many years’ experience will most likely record far better scores than those who are new to the game, so by using the handicapping system, the novice player is given a better chance of competing on a level playing field with accomplished veterans of the sport.
 
In golf, a handicap represents the number of strokes to be deducted from a player’s actual score (called a gross score), to give a fairer standard score (called a nett core). Inexperienced golfers will have a higher handicap. This can be reduced by consistently recording good scores in competitions, with the ultimate goal of playing off ‘scratch’. This means that the player’s handicap is zero, so the number of strokes they hit will also be their nett score.
 
A good rule of thumb is; the better the player, the lower the handicap. Professional golfers tend not to have handicaps as they play in competitions without handicap, something for beginner golfers to be aware of to avoid any confusion. The application of handicapping also varies according to the format of the competition.
 
In stroke play, the handicap is simply the number of strokes that a player can deduct from their round. For example, a player who completes a course in 80 strokes and has a handicap of 10 will record a nett score of 70.
 
In match play competitions where handicapping is used, a player may give or receive strokes to and from an opponent. This depends on both players’ respective handicaps and the handicap allowance use.

How to Swing a Golf Club

Perfecting how to swing a golf club correctly takes practice

 
Step 1: Push Back and Angle Down

•  Push your hips back.
•  Angle your spine towards the ball to set good posture.
•  Flex your knees slightly for stability.
•  Ensure that your right side is lower than your left.
•  The ball should be in line with the left side of your face.
•  The clubface should be facing the target.

Step 2: Position the Club First

•  Keep your right arm close to your right side.
•  As the hands pass your right leg, shift your weight to the right.
•  When the club reaches parallel to the ground, it should be parallel to the target line too so that it is swinging on the correct arc.
•  The clubface at that point should be toe up and square to the swing arc.

Step 3: Move Your Weight to the Right Side

•  As your weight moves to the right, your left arm should be slightly higher than your right.
•  This is so your right arm does not dominate the swing.
•  Once your shoulders begin to rotate, pull your hips into the swing and feel a loading action in your right hip.

Step 4: Stretch Your Left Lat

•  Turn your shoulders to complete the backswing.
•  Your hips should be turned half as far as the shoulders.
•  Your left arm should remain straight but not rigid.
•  Your right elbow should point to the ground.
•  The hands should swing back to 11 o'clock.
•  Your hands and arms must be under the club to support its weight when holding it over your head.

Step 5: Lead With Your Lower Body

•  To begin the downswing, move your left knee and hip over your left foot.
•  Start dropping your arms.
•  Return your right elbow to a position in front of your right hip.
•  Your belt buckle should point at the ball.
•  Your shoulders should still be closed to the target.
•  Work the lower body and keep your head behind the ball.

Step 6: Straighten Your Left Side Upon Impact

•  As you strike the ball, ensure that your head remains behind the ball.
•  Straighten your left side as your right side moves forward.
•  Keep your hands slightly in front of the clubhead at impact.
•  Keep your left wrist flat and your right wrist bent.

Step 7: Extend and Rotate on the Follow-Through

•  On the follow through, extend both of your arms fully.
•  Keep your right shoulder down, not turning in conjunction with the left.
•  Swing your arms back to the inside.
•  Kick your right knee inward and keep your left leg straight.
•  Keep the clubhead below your hands.
 

Step 8: Keep Your Right Side Moving to Finish

•  To finish, your right side should rotate past your left.
•  Your momentum should take your arms behind your head.
•  Your right foot should be on its toes, with your body weight on your left heel.
•  Your shoulders should have turned more than your hips so as to achieve a full upper body release.
•  If you have done it exactly right, your body is comfortably balanced as it was immediately before starting the swing.

Note: If you play left-handed, observe the above guidelines with all instances of left and right substituted for one another.

Perfecting the Correct Golf Grip

This step by step 10 minute video from Free Online Golf Tips explains how the correct golf grip should look and feel.

The Interlinking Grip:

•  Your two little fingers are interlinking with one another as you grip the club.

The Overlapping Grip: 

•  The little finger on your right hand rests partially on top of the little finger on your left hand as you grip the club.

The Baseball Grip: 

•  Your two little fingers are directly alongside one another, but not linking or overlapping in any way, as you grip the club.

Gripping With Your Left Hand:

1.  Place the golf club in the fingers of your left hand. The grip of the golf club should run from the middle of your index finger, to the base of your little finger.

2.  Grip the golf club half an inch from the end. This will give you the best balance of golf club control, ball-striking ability and necessary power.

3.  When you look down at your left hand, you should be able to see two and a half knuckles. The ‘V’ shape made by your left thumb and forefinger should point towards your right shoulder.

Gripping With Your Right Hand:

1.  Place the ‘fleshy pad’ of your right thumb on top of your left thumb.

2.  The ‘V’ shape made between your right thumb and forefinger should point towards your chin.

3.  If the ‘V’ shape points over your left shoulder, your right hand is in too weak a position.

How Tight Should Your Grip Be?

There is a school of thought that believes that gripping your golf club tightly causes tension in your body and negatively affects your swing. On the contrary, having a firm grip of the club at the point of impact with the ball gives you better control of the strike.

When you go to begin your swing, your grip should be a happy medium between tight and loose.
Then, as you come down to strike the ball, the grip should be as tight as possible. Try to take note of how tightly you grip the golf club at the point of impact with the ball to see the effect it has on your strike.

Getting Your Golf Stance Right

Part of learning how to play golf is getting your golf stance right

 
•  Use a golf club to measure the width of your shoulders.
•  For all full shots, the insides of your feet should be half a golf club width apart.
•  Widen your stance by two to three inches when using longer clubs e.g. the driver.
•  Narrow your stance by one to two inches when using shorter clubs e.g. short irons and wedges.
•  Do not point your toes out at a wide angle.
•  Your back foot should be at a right angle to the target line.
•  Your front foot should only be very slightly angled outwards.
•  Do not bend your knees fully; they should only be lightly flexed.
•  For most shots, spread your body weight evenly between your toes and heels, and also between your feet.

Golf Chipping Tips for Beginners

Practising your putting and chipping are really important aspects of learning how to play golf. See our golf chipping tips
 
Top Tip 1

•  To get closer to the ball, move your hands towards the bottom of the grip (closer to the bare shaft of the golf club).
•  This is often referred to as ‘choking down’ by golfers.

Top Tip 2

•  Flex your knees slightly more than usual.
•  Do not hunch over the ball.

Top Tip 3

•  Take a narrow stance.
•  Keep your body open so that it can easily rotate as you take the chip shot.

Top Tip 4

•  Do not let your body become too square.
•  If you do, it will resist rotating, your hands will begin to flip, which will cause you to lose control over your shot.

Top Tip 5

•  Keep most of your body weight on its forward side with the ball back in your stance.
•  This is so you can achieve consistent contact with the ball and more control over your shot.

Top Tip 6

•  Keep your head up and your neck in line with your spine.
•  Be sure that your eyes are firmly on your ball.

Top Tip 7

•  Use a variety of clubs for chipping, depending on the situation.
•  An 8-iron is ideal for low-rolling chips. A pitching wedge works better in deeper grass. A sand wedge is made for chip shots in bunkers.

The Importance of Golf Etiquette

One of the most important aspects of learning how to play golf is to understand good golf etiquette amongst golf players
 
The game of golf should be played in the correct spirit. Honesty, integrity and courtesy are the three words that have come to represent the spirit in which the game of golf is played.

Etiquette is an integral part of the game of golf. It defines the game’s core values and describes the manner in which the game of golf should be played. This is to ensure that all players gain maximum enjoyment.

The Course

•  Always leave the course as you would like to find it.
•  Repair pitch-marks, replace divots and rake bunkers.

Fellow Players

•  Always be sportsmanlike and polite.
•  Avoid distracting other players.
•  Keep up the pace when in a group.

The Game

•  Learn the rules and how to apply them to the game.

For a more detailed look at the etiquette expectations when playing golf, the R & A has published information on behaviour on the course which you can view here.

For any beginner golfer it might seem like there is a lot to learn, but the best advice is to practice, practice, and practice! Joining your local golf club, hitting a few balls at your local driving range or booking a weekend away to a golf hotel are all great places to start.
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