How to Start Playing Golf

By Steve Silverman

Golf can be an intimidating sport to non-players. Still, with practice and dedication, it is possible for anyone to play and improve at golf. 


Difficulty: Easy
Step 1
Learn about all the clubs in your bag. There are three "woods" in your bag, a misnomer because these long-hitting clubs are metal and no longer made of wood. Use the driver or 3-wood off the tee and use the 5-wood from the short grass of the fairway on long par-5 holes. You will also have 3-, 5-, 7-, 8- and 9-irons in your bag. The lower the number of the club, the longer you should be able to hit the ball. A 3-iron is a good club to use from the fairway when you are at least 180 yards from the hole. A 5-iron may be used from 150 to 160 yards, or from the rough or longer grass. The 7-iron is a versatile club that is good from 140 yards or more but can also be used to create "bump-and-run" shots that bounce and roll a long distance. The 8- and 9-irons, along with the pitching wedge, are good clubs when you are near the green and want to set up a decent putting opportunity. The sand wedge is for use when you are in a sand bunker next to the green. Finally, you will use a putter when your ball sits on the green and you want to stroke it into the hole.
Step 2
Get the ball into the air by hitting down on it. A big mistake of most new golfers is to swing up at the ball so it will fly long and high. Swinging up at the ball will lead to less distance and a poor swing. If you are swinging any club other than your driver or putter, you will want to have a slight down slope to your swing. That will allow the tilted angle of the clubhead's face to do the job. The angle of the clubhead—known as the club's loft—will simultaneously compress and spin the ball to produce distance and accuracy.
Step 3
Contact the ball with the clubhead's sweet spot. This is the spot in the center of the club face. Do not stress if you can't consistently do this right away. Many of today's clubs will help you compensate if you are a little bit off in your accuracy. Make impact with the ball when club head is square. This means you should be facing your target—such as the green or a spot on the fairway—and your body should turn in that direction after you make contact with the ball.
Step 4
Do not swing hard at the ball. Maybe you've seen the impressive distances that professionals can hit the ball, but you don't have to swing as hard as you can to drive the ball a long way. Distance is determined by club head speed at impact. This is done by getting your body behind your swing and turning your hips as the clubhead gets through the ball.
Step 5
Breathe regularly when you line up to putt the ball. This is simple advice but you might be surprised to know how many golfers hold their breath or alter their breathing just because they are going to hit a 12-foot putt. While you want your head and body still when you putt the ball toward the hole, regular breathing will help you deliver your natural stroke, which should be similar to a metronome. You are taking the putter an equal distance back and then forward to create the smoothest putt possible.
Step 6
Practice with a friend. Go to the driving range and play as many practice rounds as possible in order to get comfortable with your equipment and the sport. When you go to the driving range, don't just hit the ball as far as you can. Take your clubs and learn their capabilities by trying to duplicate your swing on every stroke. The sooner you can do this, the more confidence you will develop in your swing.

About The Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.


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