The Front Nine: 9 Beginner Golf Tips

Published on 06/07/2023 · 9 min readAre you new to golf and hoping to improve quickly? Read these 9 simple and practical tips that will get you hitting straight and scoring low in no time.
Michael C, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Michael C

Photo by Lukáš Opekar

Golf is a hard game and can leave you feeling like you’re doing something wrong. You’re not; golf is just that hard. Every single golfer - whether PGA professional or your friend who makes it look easy - started where you are. We were all beginners or new golfers at one point, so we all know what you’re feeling. Here are nine simple golf tips that can help your fundamentals improve quickly.

1. Check Your Ego

One of the first beginner golf tips is to check your ego. Ego is the killer of golf scores; it is why going to a driving range and smashing the ball farther than the person next to us is so satisfying. However, on the course, hitting a pitching wedge on a par three and being 60 feet short is not better than hitting a 9 iron and being 10 feet short. With that same idea, a 200 yard shot in the middle of the fairway will serve you better with different clubs than a 300 yard shot in thick rough or trees. If you want to impress someone, beat them every time you play without ever driving the ball farther than them.

A beginner golfer always should remember that distance is important but the short game can make or break your golf game. Chipping and putting with the shorter clubs are the keys to having lower scores. Spend more practice sessions focused on putting than on blasting drives at the range.

2. Practice Hitting

Photo by Aldo Parrotta

Next on the list of beginner golf tips is practice. The golf swing is a complex chain of movements that even PGA Tour players are constantly working to improve. As a beginner, you will have to develop your swing before you can truly start to conquer the course.

  1. My two favorite exercises are using foam or wiffle balls. This allows you to practice at home, in a public park, or in just an empty field. The ball flight and contact won’t be the same, but it can help you work through things like a pre-shot routine, golf stance, golf grip, posture, alignment, and mechanics and gain confidence in your swing.
  2. Recently, there is another option for this sort of practice; BirdieBall is a unique new product that has a similar ball flight to a golf ball and gives you better feedback on contact. BirdieBall is perfect for giving you the ability to work on your swing without needing a driving range or course. However, BirdieBall does fly about 40 to 60 yards, so you still need a larger space. 3. The truest way to do practice swings and work with your swing is at a driving range. Other things you can practice on the range are the correct position, learning the target line and ball position, being parallel, and trying to always use alignment sticks.

Of course, this has you hitting real golf balls so you can really see the ball flight and distances. The main challenge with a driving range is that you hit off a mat or grass, which provides you with the best lie. Often, your distance at a driving range is 20 to 40 yards longer than on the course because it represents a perfect situation.

3. You Don’t Need a Full Set to Start

Beginner golf tips number three; golf clubs are expensive. There are plenty of ways to find a better price, such as getting used clubs or a starter/prepackaged set. Beginner golf tip, when it comes to used clubs, you can get a better quality club at a lower price, but they will have wear, and the more wear, the better the price. Your options will also be limited based on what happens to be around at the time you’re looking, which means certain specs might not be available.

Starter and prepackaged sets are the most economical way of getting a set of clubs. However, they will lack the performance quality of clubs sold separately as an iron set or a driver or putter. Typically, with starter sets, you get design and technology that is five or so years behind the current season’s technology. This does not mean that the clubs won’t perform, but better performance exists. You don't need all the hybrids, fairway woods, or longer clubs to start, just get a few and some golf shoes and you're on your way.

Coaches would always recommend to play your best golf and if you’re looking to get the best performance, focus on getting a game improvement iron set and putter. Most game improvement irons for beginners will help with distance and get you close to 200 yards with the 5 iron, which you can hit twice to be on or near the green. These same irons tend to have a larger club face that helps improve forgiveness with a larger sweet spot.

4. Fitting the Clubs

Photo by Xi Xin Xing

Moving on in the beginner golf tips list. Check your equipment. As you begin to learn your swing, having the right fitting clubs is important and will head you into the right direction. The main focus for you as you learn should be on the length and lie angle.

The lie angle is the angle of the shaft as it comes up to your hands from the club head. If it’s not right, the club head won’t be flat on the ground. If the club head isn’t level at impact, the sweet spot will be smaller. The right length and lie angle will help you play the best you can with the equipment you have.

Beyond the length and lie angle, custom shafts are not as critical as you are still developing. Standard length clubs best fit men between 5’8” and 6’0”. If you are an inch or two on either side, you can probably still play the standard length without much of an issue.

The big thing to remember here is that the fitting session only reflects how you were hitting in that session. Getting a fitting done only brings you significant gains when your swing is a repeatable motion that allows the fitter to help fine-tune your club specs to make consistent contact with the ball.

5. Don’t Worry About Every Shot

You’re going to have miss-hits; not every shot will go the way you expect it or want it to. Don’t stress or get angry about it. This will take away your enjoyment of the game. If you can, try a teacher. A teacher will get you some good golf swing tips. There's a lot to the golf swing, including where your left arm goes, left shoulder, left hand, chin, right shoulder, and wrists. How do you use your muscles, right hand, or right arm? How do you start a backswing, when does the downswing start, and what is the top of the backswing? All things that are part of the learning process. Want to minimize a slice or a hook? How about a weight shift, and do I bend my knees or waist? So much to think about.

Often beginners master hitting their clubs at the driving range and then struggle on the course. Typically, this is related to conditions being perfect at the driving range compared to the rough or sloping terrain on the course. The more you let misses get to you, the more likely you are to miss-hit.

6. Swing Tempo

It is tempting, especially after a bad shot, to swing as hard as you can to get back on track. However, when you attempt to crush the ball, often your swing mechanics break down, resulting in a higher likelihood of a miss-hit (again). This can be the start of developing bad habits with your swing mechanics.

One way to work on your swing tempo is to get out to the practice range, get a bucket of balls, and develop an effective practice routine. During golf practice you want to establish a driving range routine that will transfer to the course. Range sessions have a tendency to just hit range balls with a full swing and tee shots. Develop your swing tempo one ball at a time.

Bad swing habits can be hard to break and often require golf lessons to correct. The basic rule is to relax before every shot and take the club back at an even tempo and then forward almost effortlessly. Focus on making a good golf swing. This will give you more control of the club head and enable you to strike the center of the club face more often. The center of the club face will help you have good shots more often.

7. Club Selection

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I often see beginners with a 60-degree wedge or Lob Wedge (LW) in their bag. This surprises me, because this is not a club that you need as part of your first set. A 60-degree club is a highly specialized club for high-flying short shots, wedge shots, or bunker shots around the green. You can achieve the same results with more versatile clubs like a Sand Wedge or 56-degree wedge. While players new to the game will more likely than not blade or miss-hit a LW, the 56-degree wedge will result in better shots closer to the hole. If you struggle to get the 56-degree wedge airborne then maybe consider a 60-degree club, but only maybe.

8. Size Does Matter

As you learn, it helps if you play smaller courses like a par 3 course. Smaller courses mean you are less likely to need a driver, 3 wood, or other distance clubs, so you can get higher-performing iron sets to learn, and then add a driver and 3 wood to the set later. If there aren’t smaller course options near you, play more forward tees. You do not have to play the farthest back tees.

By playing more forward tees, you shorten the course length, which, as you develop your skills, helps with the enjoyment of the game. The most forward tees are often called the “women’s tees” or “senior tees”; this is not true. Anyone can play the most forward tees; it is more about matching your skill level with how you can play the course. By moving forward, some fairway hazards, such as water, bunkers, and well-placed trees, may not be in play for you, resulting in an easier chance for par or birdie.

9. Walk the Golf Course

Photo by Joy Brown

The last one on the list of beginner golf tips is to walk. When you’re first starting to play, a great strategy to improve your course management is to walk the course. Walking is not only a great way to get fresh air, exercise, build endurance, and relieve tension, but it also helps with calming down and relaxing before your next shot. This helps with miss-hits and allows you to focus more on your next shot rather than on the one you just hit. You also save a bit of money in the process, as you’re not paying for the golf cart for the round.

With dedicated practice, patience, a good routine, and the clubs you need, you’ll be progressing to be a better golfer in your game in no time.

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