Golf is not simple, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. The rich complexity of the game is part of its appeal—it’s chess, not checkers; slow cuisine, not fast food.
Still, as a beginner, you want to get to the fun part as fast as you can. Here are a few suggestions to keep the complexity from getting too complicated.
Don’t go alone.
Golf is a social activity as well as a sport. Most golfers are generous with the beginner who asks for help as long as you ask for the right kind of help (ie: with rules and etiquette, not your swing.)
The culture of golf can mystify—even intimidate—newcomers. The rules, at least, are there for the reading, but the customs, manners, logistics, and more . . . not so much.
So take advantage of your experienced friends—ask them for help in learning the stuff that isn’t in books or online.
Do get schooled.
Both you and your companions will be happier if you know something about what you’re doing. Golf has a lot of moving parts (as does your body when you swing).
At the very least, take a few lessons from an LPGA or PGA professional about the full swing, putting, and short game.
You’ll also reap rewards if you read and watch the plethora of information on this website, the Golf Channel, and in golf publications online and in print. If you’ve got a geek streak, golf offers a rich vein of material and plenty of people to share it with. In business, I find I can always talk about golf with otherwise standoffish clients and colleagues.
Don’t play in prime time.
Would you drive on the interstate during rush hour if you didn’t have to? To beginner hitting grounders, that’s what your local municipal golf course feels like on Saturday or Sunday morning.
Wait until late afternoon, and you’ll find a much quieter course. Other sparsely populated tee times include weekdays at the crack of dawn (at least in temperate climates), and weeknights after the leagues go out.
Do play executive courses.
Don’t let the name fool you.
“Executive” in golf means compact. Why? Apparently, because somebody thinks busy, corporate managers don’t have time to play a full-sized course, at least during their lunch hours.
Executive courses are typically nine holes, mostly par 3s, with yardages on the short side. Fees and pressure are lower, so they’re a great place for newbies and oldies who want to improve their short games.
Don’t pay attention to the scorecard.
That scorecard lies. It says you’re supposed to get your ball off the tee, down the fairway, and into the hole in a mere four strokes. No way—especially if you’re new.
Golf has a problem when it comes to women and yardage. Most courses are too long for the distances that most women typically hit. Even experienced players can have trouble parring holes. Don’t feel bad if you don’t make par; do feel proud of yourself when you can.
Do figure out your personal par.
Golf is supportive of women through its multiple tees and handicap system, which level the playing field among players of different capabilities, including how far they hit the ball. Eventually, if you’re a serious player, you’ll want to sign up with one of the handicap providers, event your scores online, and receive an official handicap index that changes as your score improves.
In the meantime, you can do the math to figure out a realistic par for yourself. The standard handicap index for a new, female player awards her 40.4 extra strokes. On an 18-hole course, that’s more than two extra strokes per hole. Aim to play a par 4 hole in six or seven strokes—when you do it in five, it’s a birdie!
Don’t be afraid to play with strangers.
Nobody else in my family plays golf, so when I go on vacation, I’m showing up solo at the first tee. This was scary in my early playing years, yet nearly every man I played with was welcoming and helpful.
Part of why I didn’t get the cold shoulder from male strangers was because I could talk golf pretty fluently even though I couldn’t play it very well. Experienced golfers don’t care how high your score is; they care whether you know something about the game and play reasonably swiftly. This means that if you’re struggling on a hole, just pick up your ball, maybe toss it on the green a putt out. What you lose in scoring, you’ll gain in points for smarts.
Do join your local LPGA Amateur Golf Association chapter.
LPGA Amateurs is women’s home for golf. You might know this organization by its former name, EWGA (Executive Women’s Golf Association), though it was actually no more “executive” than an executive course.
LPGA Amateurs offers women a 360-degree resource for golf education, casual play, competition, and social and business connections. Your local chapter serves as a virtual country club, but way less expensive. No other organization is as welcoming to female golfers of all experience levels.
Sign up for LPGA Amateurs and you’ll never be lonely again on the golf course. Getting into this group is one of the best ways for an adult beginner to get into the game.