New to golf? You’re in the right spot! This introduction to golf will be unlike any you’ve read before. This article is intended to be the first place you go after deciding to learn to play golf. I’ll tell you right now – there won’t be any tips on swing mechanics or how to hit the ball in this article. I’m not a PGA teaching pro and I don’t pretend to be. This article is about mental focus and preparation, sensible beginner equipment, and what to expect from the first couple of months of your golf journey.
Let us be the first to welcome you to the golf community, and to our community here at Fairways and Cabbage. Rest assured this site and community are encouraging, insightful, thoughtful, and non-judgmental. Feel free to explore, ask questions in the comment section, and leave feedback. We encourage the members of this community to engage with each other to share ideas and best practices. The hardest part of golf is getting started. This article will make it a little easier to do so.
I’m a big believer in starting with why – or having a purpose.
Why do you want to play golf? Business or social reasons? Saw Tiger’s big comeback in 2019 and want to give it a shot? Do you want to be a pro, or be able to keep pace and have a few beers with your friends on the weekend? Do you want to compete in tournaments and golf outings at work? Knowing why you want to play golf is the best way to pinpoint your goals and set your expectations. Knowing what your goals are will guide you towards the time and resources necessary to accomplish them.
Golf is a game of expectations. We set our own expectations of what’s going to happen during any practice session or round of golf. The pros make it look easy. That’s why they’re pros. While we’d like to think we’re going to go out there and shoot par the first time we play, the reality is far from that. Remember to keep the game fun – lower your expectations before you ever step onto a golf course. The first time I played a round of golf, the only goal I had was to finish the round. No matter how many mishits I had, no matter how frustrated I got, my goal was to make it through all 18 holes.
You’re going to top the ball. You’re going to hit it fat. You’re going to miss it completely. It’ll go in the water, it’ll go in the woods. The ball will go everywhere except the fairways and greens. Remember: it will take time, practice, and patience to develop a repeatable swing and strike the ball consistently.
Golf is unlike any other sport for a couple of reasons. First: it’s the only sport that the ball isn’t moving when you strike it. Second: It’s the hardest sport I’ve ever played in my life, which is one of the reasons I love it. That seems a little contradictory given the first point, right? Golf is much more of a mental game than a physical game. Sure, like any sport you have to learn sound mechanics and fundamentals. On the golf course, you’ll find that rhythm, mindset, fluidity, and a positive attitude are the biggest contributors to a great round of golf; NOT focusing on perfect swing mechanics at every shot.
Before you get to the driving range or golf course for the first time, make sure you check out the next article in this series: Your First Trip to the Driving Range about what to expect, how to handle yourself, and some tips to ensure you have the most fun possible.
If you’re reading this, you’re seeking knowledge in some way. Just as you want to seek knowledge, people want to share it. Sometimes more than you would like. As you learn and get better, there will be many people who want to offer unsolicited advice. If you can smell a compliment sandwich coming, you’re about to get some of that advice. It starts with “I saw your swing, there’s a lot of good things about it.” Then comes the meat; “If you put the ball a little more forward in your stance, it’ll straighten that drive out! But your follow-through is GREAT.”
DO NOT listen to every swing tip you’re given from every Joe at the driving range. They aren’t teaching pros. Plain and simple. If someone offers you some of that unsolicited advice, there’s nothing wrong with a courteous “I appreciate it, I’m focusing on other things right now;” or something similar. They’ll get the idea. Again, golf is more of a mental game than anything. The last thing you need during a practice session is your plan to fall apart because now you can’t get that stupid ‘tip’ out of your head.
The point is, you have your own style of learning. You are going to figure golf out at your own pace, with or without advice. With or without lessons, although I definitely recommend a couple of lessons. If you’re interested in how I applied accelerated learning techniques and developed an 18 handicap in one year, ((read this article)). If you don’t want to take lessons or can’t afford to take lessons, go to Youtube university. That’s how I learned for the first 6 months or so. There are plenty of credible instructors there. Find a channel that has a lot of content geared towards beginners.
Sensible Beginner Equipment
Be honest with yourself: How much time and money do you have to devote to golf?
It’s no secret – golf can be outrageously expensive if you let it. You’ll have media ads in your face everywhere you turn, touting new driver-face technology or how that new set of irons guarantees an extra 5 yards per club. Don’t fall prey to these tactics! Your wallet (and spouse) will be much happier during this initial golf phase if you follow the next instructions.
Your first set of clubs are going to get ABUSED over the first 3-6 months. Keep that in mind when going on the hunt for your first set. You don’t want to put the insane amount of wear on a brand new set of $1000 irons, that beginners put on their clubs, in the first couple of months, right? Why not learn to make contact with a set that you don’t feel bad about scuffing, mishitting, and topping, before purchasing a nicer set?
My first recommendation for clubs is to go to the local golf shop or a second-hand sports store and pick up a used full bag. Hold a couple of clubs in your hand, check to make sure the grooves are still defined and the clubs appear to be in decent shape. If you have the option available: ask to hit them. You can pick up a perfectly-playable full set of used clubs for $60-$80, with a bag included. At that price point, I didn’t feel bad about making bad shots and potentially damaging the clubs for my first couple of rounds. The other recommendation I’ll share is purchasing the Callaway Strata 12-piece set, new. Top Flite makes a similar set, but I personally owned a Strata set and it was a GREAT starter set! You can pick up the Strata 12-piece set for around $200. They also make an 18-piece set but the 12-piece set has everything you need to get started.
If you want to learn what’s in my bag, and how I built a solid bag for around $500, click here!
Don’t worry about getting fitted yet. Until you have a repeatable swing and can strike the ball consistently, fitting doesn’t make much sense.
You’ll hear many different views on the previous statements. Here’s the bottom line – the first 3-5 buckets of balls you hit are going to be short. Very, very short; no matter which club you use. And that’s if you’re making consistent contact at that point. You might find, starting out, that no matter which club you hit, the ball only goes so far. That’s normal, don’t worry. As you develop a more repeatable and fundamentally-sound swing, your swing speed will increase and you’ll begin to see the differences in distance.
The same sensibility applies to the golf balls you buy. You may see that shiny box of Pro V1s and tell yourself that the $50 is worth it for a dozen. There’s a good chance that every ball in that dozen could be lost by the back nine. Still want to buy them? In the same trip to the second-hand store for your set of clubs, make sure you get a nice big bag of ‘experienced’ balls for your first couple of rounds. If you insist on having brand new balls the first time you play, you can get some pretty cheap ones like these Top Flites for $20 (15 balls), these Callaways for $17, or these Titleists for $22. Some shops like Greater Golf Express here in Charlotte have bins and bins of used balls that are almost brand new for half price.
There are a few more things you’ll need to be ready for the driving range and golf course:
I recommend getting these 3.25″ tees to start. The extra length of the 3.25″ tees will benefit you as a new golfer since you’ll be able to tee the ball a little higher, more easily.
Golf gloves are purely a matter of preference. Most golfers wear gloves on their lead hands. That’s your left hand for righties, and your right hand for lefties. I wear one for the driver, woods, and long irons. Or if it’s hot outside and my hand is sweating, I use it for most shots except wedge shots and putting. I never use a glove while putting.
I really like these gloves from Callaway – $20 and recently found these gloves from MG on Amazon for less than $10. I’ll be writing a review of those very soon.
Appropriate golf shoes are always preferred, but sometimes not required. A nice pair of tennis shoes will do if you don’t want to purchase golf shoes right this minute. The best two types of golf shoes are ‘soft spikes’ and ‘spikeless’. Soft spikes provide a better grip of the two. The spikeless shoes are becoming more and more popular since they make for a seamless transition to the 19th hole. Note: Most courses do not allow you to wear metal spikes. Make sure the shoes you buy do NOT have metal spikes. I’ve gone through probably 10 pairs of golf shoes at this point. My favorite budget-conscious soft spikes are these shoes from Adidas. For spikeless, I’ve recently discovered these Nike Roshe G’s, which are extremely stable, comfortable, and look great!
There are wildly expensive shoes out there, and there’s no reason to spend that much money on your first pair of golf shoes. Always check the clearance rack at the local golf shop! I’ve found NICE golf shoes for half price ($50) before.
Bringing it together
There is SO MUCH to learn about golf. We can’t let it overwhelm us. Instead, we must embrace it! Be students of the game and establish realistic expectations for our game. And shift them over time as we get better.
In this article, we’ve discussed establishing our purpose for playing golf. We discussed setting our expectations based on our purpose for playing the game. By the way, FUN is the ultimate purpose of playing golf – don’t forget that! We touched on some of the mental aspects that will affect our game positively, or negatively if we let them. We took a look into the basic necessities that we need to have a fun round of golf. The next thing on the list is heading to the driving range! Click here to read our First Trip to The Driving Range article!