By Tim Peightal, PGA Professional
The best advise that I could give anyone wishing to play the greatest game of all is this :
I would suggest you go to a range and just begin to hit some golf balls mimicking what you think you saw on TV or what you believe you witnessed your friends doing. Let your own athleticism take you as far as it can. If you still have the need for more punishment, find a facility that offers clinics and supplies clubs. Inquire and make sure the class sizes are small. Between 2 and 5 people is plenty for your first formal introduction to the game. It also insures that you will get some individual attention. You may want to take a series of these clinics. They can be very informative and inexpensive. At this point you may want to get a rule book and see what kind of rules govern this insane game. It will also give you some insight as to what you are getting yourself into.
If the bug has bitten you and the game gets into your blood the next step should be to find someone that you consider a really loyal friend that already plays the game and plead your case as to your probable addiction and talk them into taking you to a local club for a round of certain bliss. I would suggest a par 3 or a course that is not to busy and one that is golfer friendly. (This is where you have to have complete trust in your so-called friend.) While playing ask your friend questions about certain things like:
why you probably have to take a cart,
why they parked the cart where they did,.
fixing ball marks,
the proper way of marking your ball.
These are all things that pertain to helping understand how to get yourself around the golf course.
If you are still convinced that this is a wonderful game then I would begin to get serious about it. Find out what golf professional in your area has the reputation for being an excellent instructor and has the patience of Job. See if you hit it off and understand their concepts of the game. If so, sign up for a series of lessons and make a commitment to set aside some time to begin practicing. It's not enough just to take lessons you must apply what you are learning. Remember to be patient with yourself as well as with the golf professional. You must practice to get better but its very important that you are practicing using the right information.
For this reason I make my final suggestion. Make sure to see a P.G.A. professional because their goal is to make this game as enjoyable for as many people as possible.
So now that you've made the commitment to play golf here are some suggestions on what to do next. It would be very helpful for you to develop a good practice routine. Plan your time wisely. Let's say you have five hours a week to devote to practicing. You should spend at least 60% of that time on the short game, which is chipping, pitching,sand bunker work and putting. This is the area that will allow you to shoot lower scores. Also you will have more success in hitting good shots which will build you confidence. This is the scoring area and no matter what level of skill you achieve in golf it will always be of great benefit to be efficient around the greens.
The other 40% of your time should be divided between the Tee shot and the fairway shots. Golf is one of the those games that should be taught form the hole back to the tee, but most of us don't do it that way. If you go to any golf course or practice facility you will see the majority of the people whaling away at drivers. Don't fall into this trap. Yes it is true, you need to be able to drive the ball in play and with some length but ultimately you score with the wedge and the putter.
Feel is a big part of the game also and I believe it is easier to develop feel working on the short shots. The swing is softer and slower so you get more feed back. You hit more solid shots and you can carry this feel over into the long game. During a round of golf you probably won't hit every shot perfect or hit every green in regulation so you will have to rely or your shot game for help. Learn it and practice it right from the beginning and you will never be sorry.
Even the tour players who are the best players in the world rely on their short game to score. I think that is what sets them apart. They seem to have the uncanny ability to turn a 5 into a 4 instead of turning it into a 6. Although you may never reach their level of ability from tee to green we all can certainly learn to chip,pitch,put and SCORE!!!!
Ok, so now your addicted to the game, it happens quite easily. How do you get comfortable playing with other people.
Well, most seasoned golfers have compassion for the plight of the newly afflicted player. Most of the time they will be eager to play with you and to encourage you. They will also want to impart their wisdom upon you. This is always well intentioned but not always good for you. At this stage of your golfing career it is easy to get confused, so you'll have to listen politely and decide what fits you and what doesn't. Tell them you are taking lessons from a golf professional and that may be all the input you can handle for now. Its easy for a new golfer to try and digest to many suggestions, stick with the professional.
Most new players are a little apprehensive about playing with people whom they think play well. If you learn to get yourself around the course quickly and are aware of the rules to some degree they won't mind playing with you regardless of the score. Slow play seems to the one thing that gets everyone on the course upset. You can avoid this misery by being aware of what's going on and be ready to play when its your turn.
Don't worry about how well the other people are playing, just enjoy yourself and try and learn something about managing your way around the course every time you play. It will get easier each time out. Stick to your practice routine but remember you have to practice but have to play also. The playing is just as important to your improvement. That's the measure of the effort you put into practice.
Remember - golf is a game and it has got to be fun, before you will ever get better.
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