The Ultimate Guide of Golf Tips for Beginners: How to Improve Your Game

Published on 10/04/2023 · 12 min readStart your golf journey the right way with our ultimate guide to beginner's tips. Master the basics and watch your skills soar on the golf course!
Brendon Elliott, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Brendon Elliott

Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images

Over the course of the last three years, golf has had a rather unlikely boom. The COVID-19 pandemic was a surprising catalyst for golf’s surge in popularity from 2020 through today. With many activities being deemed unsafe, golf — a game that can be played singularly and in wide-open spaces — was seen as something people could do safely and without fear of catching COVID.

With record numbers of people playing golf and predictions showing this trend continuing, it would make sense that golfers are craving content. Those players spiking the participation numbers include golfers who haven't played in recent years and have now found their way back, diehard golfers playing more often, and newbie golfers with little or no experience.

Regardless of what type of golfer one might be — lapsed, diehard, or newbie — most regularly seek information on topics such as golf equipment trends, what’s happening in the professional game, and how they can improve their own game.

With 27 years of experience working in the golf industry and celebrating 15 years this year as a PGA professional, I have always had a passion for helping golfers become more informed so they can enjoy their golfing experience even more.

In this article, I want to focus on what I feel are the most important things beginner golfers should know in order to play better and increase their overall enjoyment of the game. These tips will include topics such as important technical aspects of the game to know, ways to increase your on-course experience, and even how to reduce your scores without ever going to the driving range.

My Top 10 Tips For Beginner Golfers

A new golfer taking a playing lesson. Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images

The following tips will help any new golfer who has recently found their way into the game. Additionally, folks considering taking up the game can gain great insight from these suggestions.

Starting off on the right foot as you begin your golfing journey will help increase the enjoyment you get when you head out to the course.

1. Learn From a Certified PGA or LPGA Professional

Getting started the right way is essential to having the type of experience you would want to have in golf. While getting initial advice from a friend, neighbor, or family member who plays is common, it may not be your best course of action starting out.

A lot of new golfers today also turn to YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to learn the game or pick up advice. While many who are stars in this area on social media, with boatloads of followers, are highly qualified to teach, even they would tell you that nothing beats in-person instruction and coaching.

A great place to get started in finding a certified PGA professional in your area is https://www.pga.com/coach. This directory of PGA members throughout the country can give you all the information you need to select a qualified coach in your area.

Brendon Elliott's PGA Coach profile on PGA.com. Screenshot courtesy of Brendon Elliott

2. Learn the Pre-Swing Fundamentals

What is known as the pre-swing fundamentals of posture, grip, and alignment are critical components to playing the game and doing so correctly. These are the cornerstones of the game. How you stand to the golf ball at address, hold the club, and get your body set up to your target will all affect the outcome you get once you swing the club and make contact with the ball.

  • Posture

    • Posture in golf is how you set your body up to the ball prior to swinging. This is otherwise known as your stance. Doing this correctly will allow you to move the body properly once you start the swing.
  • Grip

    • Your only connection between your body and the club is through your hands. How you put your hands on the golf club will determine how much success you will have with being able to control the clubface throughout the swing. When the clubface starts to make its way closer to the point of contact with the ball, you want to do all you can to ensure that it is square to your target line, and that all starts with a proper grip.
  • Alignment

    • The last pre-swing fundamental, alignment, may be one of the most important of all in terms of the direction you hit the ball. Many golfers misunderstand this simple concept.
    • Golfers often align their bodies directly to the target, which is an incorrect way to set your body before hitting a shot. Correct alignment requires your clubface to be square to the target line, which is an imaginary line running from your ball and toward the target (fairway, green, etc.). It is not the body that aligns with the target. The body should be running parallel left to the target for right-handed golfers and parallel right to the target for left-handed golfers. This includes your feet, knees, hips, and shoulders. If you line your body directly to the target, you will actually have your clubface and target line running too far right of the target (for righties).

To gain complete insight into the three areas of the pre-swing fundamentals as mentioned above, head over to my article “How to Swing a Golf Club” right here on Curated.

3. Get on the Golf Course as Soon as Possible

In almost every other sport, when you begin playing it for the first time, you are almost always on the actual field of play. That is not always the case in golf; nine times out of 10, a beginner golf lesson or first experience will be on a driving range or practice putting green.

While this conceptually makes sense to many golfers, it can be a frustrating experience for someone who wants to begin playing the game. Those first few experiences for a new golfer matter greatly in building a love for the game.

With that idea in mind, finding a coach or instructor who will get you on the course as quickly as possible as you begin learning how to play is very important. Granted, there is indeed a great deal to learn and understand as far as the technical aspects of the game go, and that is absolutely part of the process of getting going as a golfer, but getting on the course is important.

When you first visit the course, your coach should teach you all about the course's parts, the game's basic rules, and proper etiquette, such as pace of play, replacing divots, and fixing ball marks.

There is a very popular and useful teaching and coaching program called Operation 36, where the mission is to start new golfers on the golf course. This is well worth looking into. To find an Operation 36 program in your area, click here.

Overview of Operation 36 Program. Screenshot courtesy of Brendon Elliott

4. Managing Your Expectations Properly

There is no getting around it — golf is a very challenging sport. There is a great deal to learn, which can sometimes get frustrating for a new player. One of the most important things I can tell you as a newbie golfer is this: It is critical to pace yourself as you go. Understand that golf is a process that takes time to get good at and that you must manage your expectations while you develop your game.

5. Play From the Correct Yardages for Your Ability

Many golfers think that in order to get your money's worth when you play, you need to tee off from a set of tees as far back as you can. I would discourage you from ever doing this, especially while you are learning to play. You will get nothing except frustration out of playing a set of tees that are too long for your current ability level.

In Tip 3, I shared with you the coaching and learning model for golf called Operation 36. A golfer starts their golfing journey in this format by playing nine holes from 25 yards. Until you can shoot a score of 36 for nine holes from that 25-yard mark, you have not reached the point where you should play a round from any farther back.

As Op36 goes, you cannot move back to the next tee yardage until you can shoot a 36 for nine holes from a particular distance. This is a brilliant way to develop properly as a golfer and have more fun as you go.

6. Understand How a Proper Golf Swing Works

PGA Coach Brendon Elliott in a playing lesson. Photo courtesy of Brendon Elliott

Having a basic understanding of how a proper golf swing should work is an important benchmark in a golfer's development. I am not talking about executing a proper golf swing, which takes a great deal of time and effort in and of itself but rather fully understanding the basic principles of a golf swing.

From the pre-swing fundamentals, which I mentioned in Tip 1, to the backswing, transition from the top, downswing, impact, post-impact release, and on to the finish, you need a basic understanding of how this is all supposed to happen in sequence.

Knowing that the hips, lower body, and upper body rotate around a fixed point (your spine) is important. Understanding how much the lower and upper body is supposed to rotate in both the backswing and downswing is important. Understanding how each of these areas is supposed to rotate in sequence is important. Understanding your hands and the path that they are supposed to follow, along with the club itself as you swing, is important.

That seems like a lot, and it is, but that is only scratching the surface. I have long believed that in order for a golfer at any level to progress, they must be a student of the game and have as much of an understanding of the swing as they possibly can. Only then will they be able to fully understand their own swing and where deficiencies, bad habits, and tendencies may lie.

7. Use the Correct Equipment for Your Current Ability Level

Photo by Dasha Petrenko

There are a lot of different choices in golf equipment out there in today's marketplace. From drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, pitching wedge, sand wedge, and putter, there is much to know about each. Navigating the waters on what might be best for you and your game may seem overwhelming at times, but it does not have to be.

Places like right here on Curated can be a source of help when it comes to deciding what is best for you and your current ability. Simply contact a Curated Golf Expert for free for more personalized advice or answers to your questions regarding equipment.

My biggest piece of advice as an instructor and coach is to buy what's best to help your game. Avoid buying the equipment the pros play with or the latest and greatest as advertised on TV, online, or in golf magazines that are marketed as a sure fix for what ails you. Some of those products may indeed be right for you, but you will be best served by making an educated buying decision and not an impulse one.

8. Chronicle Your Golf Journey From Day One

Student Bretton Mackiewicz going through her golf journals. Photo courtesy of Bretton and Kevin Mackiewicz

There is a young lady who started playing golf in my Little Linksters Golf Academy programs when she was around seven years old. Today, she is a very accomplished 16-year-old competitive player with a bright future ahead.

One thing that she has done almost since the beginning of her golf journey is keep a running journal of her rounds. She has also kept all her scorecards from all the places she has played. Doing this is far more than an exercise in nostalgia and remembering her steps along the way. It is a fabulous way to really see how far she has come as a golfer over the years.

Golfers often forget what it was like when they started, how long it took them to get better at a particular part of their game, or what it felt like to break 100 the first time. The better one gets, the more important it is to remember how far you have come and what you have accomplished.

This tip is not often shared but could prove very valuable the first time you feel down about your game and may be considering quitting. Trust me — all golfers have been there many times, including me!

9. Work on Developing a Good Short Game

The short game, including wedge shots from 100 yards and in, pitching, chipping, bunker shots, and putting, is the lifeblood of playing well. If you can develop a great short game, you will be far more successful than your playing partners.

The best way to work on your short game is to use gamification when you practice. This is basically playing games and competing in challenges against yourself as you practice all areas of the short game.

10. Always, Always, Always Have Fun When You Play

When you can keep things in perspective and understand that golf is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, you will progress faster as you learn to play. This tip goes hand in hand with Tip 4, Managing Your Expectations. Golf is a challenging game in itself, so all a negative attitude does is make things that much harder. There really is no point to it.

Bad shots, a bad putting stroke, a wild slice, a wayward hook, topped longer clubs will all occasionally happen. Not letting your emotions get the best of you can be a secret weapon in this game. Part of accomplishing this is by staying present while you play, and a good pre-shot routine can help with this.

This tip is important from day one of your golf journey and all the way up to your peak years when you are playing your best golf. Beginners need to know this, but competitive, accomplished players also do.

The following is a text conversation I had with one of my students this past weekend after he finally had that big breakthrough he had been looking forward to. He shot a -4 par round in competition and scored in the 60s for the first time.

Text conversation with a student about having fun to play good golf. Photos courtesy of Brendon Elliott

Summing It All Up

The best way to tackle learning golf is to see it as a long-term process. One of the best ways to manage that process is by working with a reputable PGA or LPGA coach and getting golf lessons with them. Feel free to contact me here on Curated if you have any lingering questions or any other golf-related needs.

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