Golf – an introduction
Ask any golf player, and he or she will tell you that golf is a game that everyone ought to play. You may take action on this interest as a hobby and soon find that you want to play like a pro. The game of golf can be quite addictive and transform your weekends and holidays into fun-filled breaks. The rules are strict but simple and once you learn the basics and develop skills, it is practice that will take you ahead. When you step on that attractive expanse of green, you need to know which club to use and have the ability to hit the ball. Getting started with golf is not difficult and it depends on how much time you intend putting aside, and your budget. Whatever your goals, golf is a wonderful sport and a great pastime for men, women and children. It helps you stay fit. More important, you are out in that fresh air and you can opt to play individually or in groups. It also brings you new friends, enhancing your life socially. Even if it is challenging, sometimes annoying when you take time to master a shot, you will soon find that it is easy to get hooked to golf.
Let’s begin with a quick recap of what you need to know. Golf is a game that is played on a private or public golf course with eighteen or nine holes. These courses are usually divided into the front nine holes and the back nine holes.
Your aim would be to hit the golf ball into the hole with the minimum number of strokes, as you swing at the ball. You start by teeing off at the tee, progressing to the fairway and then the green. You are likely to find water, sand and foliage on the way. A scorecard keeps track of your scores. The player who has the least number of strokes at the end of eighteen holes is the winner of the game. Here’s a quick look at golf –related terminology you need to know as a beginner:
o Each game of golf is called a round.
o “Par” is the number of strokes any average player would play to reach the ball into the hole.
o If you take the ball into the hole in one stroke less than par, it is called a birdie.
o Two strokes less is an eagle
o Three strokes less is a double eagle.
o If you hit the ball in the hole with one stroke, it is a hole in one.
o If you take the ball into the hole one-stroke over par, it is a bogey,
o Two strokes over par is a double bogey.
Golf is not a game that you can master overnight. Also, it can be an expensive hobby. But don’t spend a lot of money before you have practiced at least a little. As a beginner, it is best to be thrifty. While manufacturers such as Dunlop, Knight, Wilson, etc. are well known for their quality golf sets at around $150 or less, there are retailers such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc. who sell bargain sets.
It is also a good idea to check out garage or yard sales. Many professional golf players buy new sets every year so don’t be surprised if you actually end up with a great deal on a quality set.
What you need to get started with golf
To play, you need the following equipment to get started:
o Golf clubs
• This includes irons, woods and a putter. Woods can be numbered 1, 2, 3, up to 12. These are used to hit the ball to the farthest distance which could be about three hundred yards.
• Irons are numbered one through nine and include a pitching wedge and sand wedge. Irons are used for making medium distance shots to up to 200 yards.
• The putter is used to play on the green to tap the golf ball into the hole.
o Golf balls
o Optional - Golf shoes, gloves, umbrella, towel and cart. Golf has a strict set of rules governed by the US Golf Association (USGA) which includes scoring, penalties, etc. There is also a special set of rules called golf etiquette which you must become familiar with to avoid offending players on the course. Here’s a quick round-up of basic golf etiquette:
Related to course maintenance:
• Replace divots
• Repair pitch marks
• Rake sand bunkers
• Do not put trolleys or bags on the green
• Lay flag down gently
• Follow paths
Courtesy to others:
• Be still and quiet around players taking their shot
• Do not obstruct other players
• Let other players play through - don`t hold up other groups
• Attend flag for partner if requested
• Mark card off the green
How to learn golf
Ideally, it is best to get private lessons from a professional golf player or coach. If there’s a local golf course near where you live, this may not be difficult. Begin by setting up a lesson before you actually go out on the course since it can annoy regular players to see a beginner holding up their game!
If you are not ready to spend a lot, yet want to get started soon, consider a golf academy. There are golf schools that have lodging packages for short term courses if you are prepared to travel. The best thing, of course, is weekly lessons with your local golf professional player whose charges vary according to the course they are affiliated with and time available with them. You may be able to get golf sessions for under $30 per lesson that could last thirty minutes to an hour. You can learn the fundamentals of golf from books and watch instructional videos. Visit your local library and bookstore for books and videos related to golf. You will find books about the top players, the history of the game, etc. in the sports section. Try and find books that have plenty of illustrations and photos since that will show you how the game, the players, the skills and stance look, making it easier to understand. You can learn the finer points of intricate moves like the swing, various drills that you can practice on your own at a driving range or even in your own backyard.
Golf videos are a wonderful way to learn as these are often made around professional golfers or well known coaches.
The internet has plenty of information and instruction, including tips on playing golf. Sign up with forums and discussion boards and browse the coach’s pages for how to articles. Most of these sites are full of useful information and guides that will help improve your game. It can also be fun interacting with others who are learning the game just like you.
Practice is the key
Ultimately, it is practice that will actually help you become proficient. So you have to get out there to a golf course or driving range and practice your swings. The more your practice, the better you will get. Here are some basic tips you must remember when you practice:
• Set yourself a target. You already know that your aim is to take the golf ball as close to the hole as you can, but that doesn’t mean just swinging and hoping it happens. You have to find the target first by gauging the distance from you to the hole. You then need to find a mark ahead of the ball in line with your target and then swing to hit the ball.
• After you plan your swing, grip your golf club and practice a few swings. Ensure that your grip is comfortable so that your arms easily swing. Your dominant hand must be directly below the other hand.
• Your stance is the next thing. Stand just under arms length from the tee, face the ball and your target with your feet together. Then, shift your feet a little so that your left foot is just ahead of your right foot and about shoulder width apart.
• Now, it is time to swing. Start by taking the club forward and ahead of the ball. Then pull it back until it is parallel to the ground. As you swing, the club must track the same path. Your swing must be one complete flowing movement without pause. When you swing, your head should be down, watching your club strike the ball. After you hit the ball, continue to swing till the club hits your back as you raise your head and watch where the ball goes.
After you have practiced the above a few times, apply all the tips you have learned from your coach, the books and videos and keep practicing.
Where can you practice?
You can practice at the driving range where there are practice putting greens. Here, you can hit as many balls as you want. Some ranges have practice chipping areas and sand bunkers.
Alternately, you can also practice your swing in your backyard with waffle golf balls. Your living room is a good place for putting practice. Once you are ready to play, par 3 courses are ideal for beginners. These have nine holes as short par 3s. There are executive courses that are shorter than the regular eighteen-hole courses. If you feel like trying the 18-hole courses, choose one that is not too long and is easy, without too much sand and water.
The game of golf needs a lot of concentration and patience if you want to be a good player. While studying the techniques used by pros, you need to find the one that works best for you. Thus, develop your own skills and work hard. Here are some tips that will help you become better at the game:
• You will find that golf lets you use your entire body, including your feet, hips, torso and arms to execute your golf swing. You also need to develop the right stance for your shot. Thus, practice your posture and keep your head up, with your knees bent and arms relaxed to make your swing a smooth and fluid movement.
• Take care to watch your grip. If you hold your club very tight or too loose, it can affect your drive and your swing. Rather than use your palms, use your fingers.
• What you need to realize is the game of golf does not entirely depend on your personal skills. There are other factors like the direction and speed of the wind, the grass and the moisture in the atmosphere. You need to observe and get familiar with the course to get ahead in the game. Combining your skills and the other factors will enable you improve your game.
• As with any sport, you need to find time to practice on a regular basis. When you practice consistently, it helps you develop muscle memory and pace your energy in the right manner. For beginners, especially, it is best to play in a practice course or driving range. Even if you begin playing the game, it is important to continue to practice and work on your swing. This will help improve your swing through frequent practice.
• In addition to your swing, you should also practice to improve your drive and putt as this will take you from being an amateur player to a pro.
The vital thing about any hobby is enjoying it and having fun and golf is no different. Amid all the hard work, don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the process. It can be easy to get frustrated sometimes and difficult to grasp a technique. Be patient and persistent and before you know it, you will be well on your way to being an accomplished golf player.