The Front Nine: 9 Golf Tips for Beginner Golfers

Are 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.

Photo by Lukáš Opekar
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Golf is hard 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 at one point, so we all know what you’re feeling. Here are nine simple tips that can help you improve quickly.

1. 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 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.

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

Man in green shirt with golf putter looking at his 10 foot putt
Photo by Courtney Cook

2. Practice hitting

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 your 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 practice and work with your swing is at a driving range. 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

Golf clubs are expensive. There are plenty of ways to find a better price, such as getting used clubs or a starter/prepackaged set. 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.

I would always recommend that 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.

golf irons and wedges in a golf bag

4. Fitting the clubs

As you begin to learn your swing, having the right fitting clubs is important. 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. 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.

white golf ball on green grass

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. 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

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 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 club, so you can get a higher performing irons set 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 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.

man in blue shirt and shorts swinging a golf club on golf course
Photo by Courtney Cook

9. Walk the Golf Course

When you’re first starting to play, a great strategy is to walk the course. Walking is not only a great way to get fresh air and exercise, 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 your game in no time.

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Written By
I started playing golf when I was 12, but I did not really put forth the effort into golf until after college. I really focused at this time because I moved to an apartment complex with a golf course. My learning at the time was slow going, but I did improve my game overall. Since that time, I jumpe...

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