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Learning to play golf

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Key Points:

  1. Golf is a very advanced sport to learn. Reading a guide is not enough. You probably need a personal tutor to help you improve golf skills.

  2. WikiHow has some articles about golfing, but we have picked the best article available for your convenience. This guide is probably too basic, but learning golf really requires a good tutor and lots of practices.

According to Wikipedia, "Golf is a club-and-ball sport in which players use various clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible. Golf, unlike most ball games, cannot and does not utilize a standardized playing area, and coping with the varied terrains encountered on different courses is a key part of the game."

A professional golf player is a integration of health, wealth, wisdom and fun. Learning to play golf could also be an important social skill for career development.

Here we quote the best way to learn to play golf provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Play Golf. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Playing golf is a fun, relaxing hobby for many people, and a competitive sport for some others. When learning to play golf, you’ll want to start by learning some basic rules and the technique for swinging a club to hit the ball. It’s also helpful to know how to obtain equipment and to learn some proper golf course etiquette so you can safely have fun with anyone you play with.

Part 1: Learning the Basic Rules

  1. Learn the object of the game. In golf, the object of the game is to get your ball from the starting point, or "tee," to the green and into the hole. The hole is marked by a flag, and you want to get your ball in it with as few shots as possible. "Hole" is not only the physical hole, but also refers to the entire area from the tee to the green, where the physical hole is. A standard golf course has 18 holes, or areas with a tee, green, and physical hole marked by a flag. There are smaller courses as well, such as 9-hole courses, which are ideal for beginners.

  2. Play the course by the order of holes. Every golf course is different in terms of how it is structured, and which hole you start and end with. Every hole has a "tee off" area where you start, and a physical hole where you finish. It’s a good idea to carry a course map with you on the course or to go with a group that has at least 1 person who’s familiar with the order of the course. Find a course map at the course’s main office, where you check in and can rent gear.

  3. Take your turn in your group. To avoid confusion and having everyone hit the ball at once, you should know when your turn is. Usually the person with the best score from the previous hole tees off first, with the next best score going next, and the worst, or highest score, going last. After the tee off at each hole, the person who is farthest away from the hole hits first, then the person who is next farthest away, and so on until everyone gets the ball to the hole.

  4. Don’t move your ball on the course. If your ball lands in an unexpected place, which it will when you’re a beginner, it’s against the rules to pick it up and move it. You have to play it where it is, unless it’s blocked by a man-made obstruction, like a yardage marker or a beer can. If you’re not sure that something near your ball qualifies as an obstruction, ask a more experienced player. If you hit your ball out of bounds or into water, you will have to take a 1 stroke penalty, drop your ball again where you shot it, and try again.

  5. Keep score for each hole. Each hole on a golf course has an ideal number of strokes it should take to get the ball into the physical hole, which is known as the "Par." Each time you hit the ball counts as a "1" toward your score. Pars range from 3-5, and each hole on a course will be called a "Par 3," "Par 4," or "Par 5." Your score on each hole has a nickname relating to the par for that hole. For instance, shooting 2 under par, or getting the ball in the hole in 3 shots on a 5-par hole, is called an "Eagle." Shooting 1 under par is a "Birdie," and shooting even with the par is just called "Par." Shooting 1 over par is a "Bogey." Then 2 over par is a "Double Bogey," 3 over par is a "Triple Bogey," and so on.

  6. Win by having the lowest score at the end. When your group reaches the last hole, the person with the lowest overall score is the winner. You can keep track of how you’re doing throughout the game by comparing your score to the pars for each hole. If you’re consistently shooting on par or below par, you’re doing really well. In the beginning, you will probably shoot over par, especially on more difficult, 5 par holes. This is totally normal. You will improve with the more practice you have.

  7. Try a Par 3 course when you’re starting out. A Par 3 course means that all the holes on the course are Par 3, so the distances between the tee and the hole are shorter than a standard course, which has a mixture of Par 3, 4, and 5 holes. These courses are ideal for beginners. The total par for the course is the number of pars added up from all the holes. This number is typically 72 on a standard golf course, less on a smaller course. A 9 hole, Par 3 course would be a total 27 par course.

Part 2: Setting Up Your Swing

  1. Stand with your knees and hips slightly bent. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, with your weight evenly distributed between the centers of your feet, not your toes or heels. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward at your hips so the end of your club is reaching the ground where you’ll be hitting the ball. When thinking about the right way to stand, imagine how a bowler stands before bringing the ball back to throw it: with their weight even between both feet, and slightly bent forward at the hips. The non-dominant side of your body should be facing your target, or the hole. For example, if you are right handed, you will be bringing the club up toward your right and then swinging down and to the left, hitting the ball toward your left.

  2. Bring your club back and parallel to the ground first. When lifting the club, the order from out to in should go clubhead, hands, arms, shoulders, hips. Your dominant arm should stay close to your side, and as you pass your dominant-sided leg with your hands, your weight should start shifting to that leg. When the club is parallel to the ground, it should be faced so the toe, or rounded edge, is up toward the sky.

  3. Bring the club up at a 90 degree angle. Continue moving your weight to your dominant side, and fold your elbows to hinge the club straight up, 90 degrees from your arms, which are about parallel to the ground. You should feel your shoulders in an upward rotation, and more weight on your dominant hip. At this point, the toe of your club should be facing back toward the opposite side of the direction you’re swinging.

  4. Turn your shoulders to bring the club all the way up. Twist your shoulders so that your non-dominant shoulder is directly below your chin, and you’re stretching that side’s lateral muscle. This will move your club up and over your head almost 180 degrees, with the club’s weight in your hands and arms and the club head pointing down toward the ground. Picture your hands being at an 1 o’clock position – that’s how high they should be from the ground. Your dominant hip and ankle, as well as your shoulders, should feel ready to spring downward toward the ball.

Part 3: Hitting Your Ball

  1. Shift your weight slightly to the other side as you swing the club down. As you bring the club down, your weight should slightly shift toward the direction you’re swinging. Your dominant elbow should pass in front of your dominant hip, but you should keep your body centered with your belt buckle pointed toward the ball. Keep your wrists hinged like they were as you start to bring the club down, to avoid throwing the club’s weight from the top.

  2. Straighten your side facing the target as you make contact with the ball. As you make contact with the ball, your hips continue to turn so that your body straightens on the side you’re aiming toward. Your head should remain behind the ball as you make contact, and your dominant wrist should be bent. Your weight is now mostly shifted to your non-dominant side, or the side that your target is on.

  3. Extend both your arms fully for the follow-through. Don’t stop your swing after you make contact with the ball. Bring your arms and the club up so that they’re almost parallel to the ground toward your target. Because you’re twisting your hips in the swing, your arms should move almost inside and back toward your body. Your dominant knee should kick inward toward the straight knee during the last part of shifting your weight, closing the gap between your legs. A proper follow-through stops with the clubhead below the level of your hands, showing you’ve maintained control in your arms and wrists, and the toe of the clubhead is pointing up toward the sky.

Part 4: Obtaining Equipment

  1. Get the minimum number of clubs you need. You’re allowed to carry up to 14 clubs in your bag, but you only really need a driver, putter, sand wedge, 6-iron, 8-iron, pitching wedge, and a hybrid when starting out. You can rent clubs on the golf course, or find racks of discounted and used clubs at many sporting goods stores. If you’ve never played golf before, consider going with someone who will let you use their clubs, renting clubs at the golf course, or going to a driving range to try out different clubs before spending money on your own set.

  2. Obtain tees and balls. Tees are pretty straightforward; they look like a brightly colored wooden or plastic nail that you set your ball on before hitting it. For balls, there is a range of quality and prices to choose from. You will lose balls when you’re first starting out, so it’s best not to spend too much on them right away. Some golf courses provide balls for you to play with; find out ahead of time if a golf course does this by calling the course office. Golf balls and tees can be purchased at sporting goods stores.

  3. Invest in some golf gloves and a bag. Golf gloves are important because you can start getting blisters on your hands from just a few strokes. They also help you keep a firm grip on your club even if you’re sweating. Go to a sporting goods store to try on gloves and find ones that fit you. For a bag, any sturdy bag that carries your clubs, balls, rain gear, water and/or snacks will work. Check out thrift stores, yard sales, or used gear websites online to find a good deal on a golf bag.

Part 5: Playing With Proper Etiquette

  1. Keep up with your group. While you don’t need to rush your shots or run to your ball, it is important to be ready to hit when it’s your turn. Know when it’s your turn, and limit your practice swings to 1 or 2 before hitting your ball. Golf is a social game, so chatting with others in your group is expected, but not when someone is about to take a shot. Too much talking during a shot can distract the person and throw them off.

  2. Yell "Fore!"if there’s a chance your ball will hit someone. This is very important when you’re starting out, because your shots may not go as expected. Don’t wait to yell; the moment you see your ball heading toward a person, yell "Fore!" as loud as you can so they look up and get out of the way of the ball. A flying golf ball can seriously injure a person if it hits them. This step is important for safety as well as being common courtesy.

  3. Stay out of the way of shots. When someone is about to take a shot, stand off to the side several yards away and a bit behind them so as not to distract them. Don’t stand or walk between a person taking a shot and their target. Stay alert of other players not in your group who are using the course. Occasionally balls from other players will travel onto your hole; don’t touch the ball and allow the person to come get the ball themselves.

  4. Look for a lost ball for only 3 minutes. If you can’t find a ball, spend only about 3 minutes searching for it. After that, take a 1-stroke penalty and do another shot from the location you shot from. To do this shot, stand as close to where you were and "drop" the ball by holding it out at shoulder length and dropping it to the ground. If you lose your ball from tee-off, just take the penalty stroke and return to your tee to make the shot again.

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