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10 important tips for beginning golfers



As adults, we tend to shy away from learning new things because it’s difficult, and sometimes embarrassing. But I promise, learning the wonderful game of golf will be worth it. It’s just going to take some work.

As a resource for beginning golfers, I put together a list of my top-10 tips to getting started in golf. Follow these tips, and you’ll soon learn why golf is the greatest game ever played.

Sign up for weekly or monthly lessons for at least one year

For every Bubba Watson who figured out how to swing on his own, there are millions of golfers who struggle deeply. If you pick up golf by just hitting balls by yourself, you’ll most likely ingrain improper movements. Then when you decide you want to take lessons, it will be a long, tedious process to undo your bad habits.

That’s why I suggest golfers start taking lessons from a certified instructor (not just their buddy on the range) from day one. This way, they’ll develop the proper fundamentals that golf requires — long game, short game, putting, etc. — instantly giving their athletic ability a chance to prosper in the game.

Buy yourself a decent and fitted set of clubs from a golf professional

With ill-fit golf clubs, beginning golfers are going to struggle to enjoy the game as much as they could. So once you have made the decision to really give golf a go, buy clubs that are fit to some degree in length, lie, flex, and forgiveness.

Without decent clubs, golfers often develop bad habits that can take years to overcome. This does not mean they have to spend $5,000 to get started, but they should least give themselves a fighting chance with brand-name equipment that was fit to them in some way, shape or form.

Play golf balls that suit your ability level and golf course

Yes, I know golf balls are expensive, but if you’re going to play seriously, pick a ball type that matches what you want the ball to do and stick with it.

Playing a Tour-level golf ball on holes Nos. 1-13, and then a bargain ball for holes Nos. 14-18 gives you different feels and different reactions off each club. How can you be consistent with different types of equipment?

Don’t play the ball you found that has bounced off the path or has a gash in it, even on the water holes. You are only lowering your chance of success.

Block off your work schedule (in the a.m.) to practice at least once per week

Saying you are going to hit balls or practice golf after work is the same as saying you’ll go to the gym after work… there is always a reason why you just can’t make it. The best way I have found to combat this is to target one weekday to hit balls or practice before work. This is your time, and will help your golf life as well as your work life. Trying to practice while answering the phone or thinking about work is counterproductive. Go to the range before work and you will face a lower-stress environment that fosters improvement.

Your practice should include the ENTIRE game

At the beginning stage of practice, golfers should be learning the ENTIRE game, not just the long game. Beginning golfers often say, “Once I have the swing figured out, I’ll work on my short game.” The problem is, this method doesn’t teach them how to play the game of golf.

Beginning golfers often ignore wedges and lag putting in their practice sessions, but each can save them a ton of strokes. I’ve noticed that beginners struggle to hit the green from 30-80 yards, and consistently three-putt from beyond 20-25 feet. For that reason, I recommend golfers break up their practice time into four different areas:

  • 25 percent long game
  • 25 percent wedges (from 30-100 yards)
  • 25 percent short game (chipping, pitching, bunkers, short putting)
  • 25 percent lag putting.

Getting down in no more than three shots from inside 80 yards is a must in the early stages in order to manage scores and eliminate big numbers on the scorecard.

Commit yourself to playing the game at least 50 percent of the time

Hitting balls on a range only helps you work on your “golf swing.” But the world is full of beautiful swings that can’t score when it matters. If you don’t play, you’ll never learn how to manage rough, hilly lies, adversity, or even success. Remember you are supposed to PLAY golf, not just hit balls.

If you just enjoy hitting balls, then save yourself some money and only buy an 8 iron, 6 iron and a driver, because that’s all you’ll need to have fun at the range. Facilities like Top Golf have proven that the range can be fun, but remember that playing golf is a sport in itself.

Decide if you’re playing golf for fun or for score that day

If you are going out to the course, decide before you start the round whether you are going to play for “fun” or for “score,” as they require two completely different mindsets. Golfers who play for fun can’t get mad or concerned with what they shoot, since they are working on something specific or attempting shots that have more risk than reward. Consequently, if you’re playing for score, you will find golf to be nothing more than a chess game with a ball and a stick.

Manage your expectations based on your current abilities

Over time, you will be able to hit shots you were not able to hit the season before, or maybe even the month before. Remember to enjoy the ride, and don’t try to outplay your current ability level. If you don’t know how to curve the ball with any reliability, then just punch out. Why make a 10 when you could make a 6?

Golf is a compromise between three things: What your ego wants you to do, what your experience wants you to do, and what your talent will let you do.

Leave your bad attitude in the car

A golf ball does not care how much money you have, how many employees you command or what kind of car you drive, so remember to leave your Type-A personality in the car. And if you think you can override the learning curve just because you were a good athlete in high school, you’re in for a big surprise.

Maybe even more harmful to improving at golf is a bad attitude. Whining and complaining not only makes you miserable, but makes you a total drag to play with in general. It’s NOT all about you.

If it proves not to be fun, it’s OK to quit

After all, golf is just a game. So if you aren’t having any fun consistently, it’s ok to stop playing. Golf isn’t going anywhere, and no one wants you around you on the golf course if you are miserable, throwing clubs and complaining, including your best friends. And please, don’t take a bad day on the course home with you to your family.

In golf, you don’t have to break a course record or even break 100 to be an enjoyable playing partner. If you’re having fun, being polite and playing fast, there will always be a welcoming foursome for you!

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.



  1. Sarah Smith

    May 11, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve recently become interested in playing golf and was in need of some tips. I didn’t know that there were different types of golf balls. I also appreciate that you mention that golf is supposed to be fun and if you’re not having fun then it is okay to quit. Thanks for the tips, now I just have to find a golf course close by!

  2. Bump Fuzz

    Feb 19, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Just think of the golf swing as making a sandwich. That was a tip a got many moons ago that has stuck with me.

  3. Woodlands Barbershop Dennie

    Feb 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    There is nothing wrong with beginners but there is an issue with slow players and poor manners that many experience at daily fee courses. Many of these muni or daily fee courses are 5 hour rounds. The main issue I have noticed at these tracks are poor tee time spacing allowing 5 somes and lack of on course marshals.

  4. Troy

    Feb 7, 2016 at 12:45 am

    No question lack of golf lessons is the biggest problem. I play with so many golfers that never get lessons and yet seem confused why they don’t get any better.

    If it’s good enough for guys like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy to have golf coaches … so should we!

  5. Pingback: 10 Essential Tips for New Golfers - Dan Hansen Golf Instruction

  6. PimpDaddyWelfare

    Feb 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

    mhendon, those are things people learn as they play. And its up to us, who play often/regularly, to let them know in a friendly way that these are things to consider when golfing. They may also learn some of this through lessons. Too many times I see people freaking out over “etiquette” infractions and it makes for a really unfriendly environment for new golfers.

    Scott, Lets all head out to the course to have a nice afternoon of golf…. But we have to do it as fast as we possibly can… To some degree I understand what you are saying, but lets be realistic, you DO NOT have to play quickly. No one is going to learn anything or get better at golf by playing quickly. Just be aware of others around you, respect the “pace of play” and let people play through if necessary.

    Im not trying to start arguments here, but everyone was a beginner at some point. I was, just over 2 years ago, and its pretty fresh how the majority of people I ran into were really great and helpful as I was learning. As were those who treated the course as if it were theirs and no one else should be on it.

    • Scott

      Feb 5, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      I understand enjoying yourself but you need to be considerate of the world around you. Not everyone wants play a round of golf that takes around 5 hours. I have a friend that struggles to break 100. I have played numerous threesome rounds with him that were less that 3 hours; in a foursome around 3 1/2 hours. I have another friend that no one wants to play with because of how slow and deliberate he is – and we are still finishing within 4 1/2 hours. Playing quickly means nothing more than getting to your ball and being ready to hit when it is your turn.

      If you have to go through a mental checklist of 20 plus “simple” swing thoughts along with 5 plus practice swings, you should probably just stay on the range or play when the course is empty.

      • pimpdaddywelfare

        Feb 8, 2016 at 9:18 am

        Ok, after the explanation I can agree with you there. Im only in the 90’s as of last year but it doesnt take me too long to play a round. In fact, I dont even like golfing with a particular person in our group who shoots in the 70-80’s because he takes way too long, and too many practice swings.
        I read your comment wrong I suppose. I just don’t like the “beginners dont belong on the course till they shoot below 100” attitude of some people.

  7. mhendon

    Feb 4, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    How about lesson in golf etiquette. 1 keep quiet when its another persons turn to hit. 2 don’t stand directly behind someone as they play. 3 fix ball marks and divots. 4 rake bunkers. 5 don’t walk on someones line on the green. 6 learn how to walk with out ruffing up the green. Take multiple clubs with you to your ball. 7 offer to let faster players through etc.

  8. Scott

    Feb 4, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Play quickly, you are not on the PGA Tour with rent money on the line. That should be number 1. Either play well or play poorly, but always play quickly.

  9. golfraven

    Feb 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    This list would apply to all golfer not just beginners – I would include even Pros here although they should know better.

  10. Andre

    Feb 3, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Great list, I agree with everything on it. I personally think #2 should have been number 1#. I see this all too often when playing. I have left in middle of round because of this. I do enjoying with new people, and especially those whom are just starting.

    • Shallowface

      Feb 5, 2016 at 7:20 am

      If I were to start someone new, I would start them with what amounts to a half swing, making solid contact a priority over distance. Then on the course (which wouldn’t happen until a degree of proficiency is achieved at the range), we start at the forward tees so there’s as little pressure as possible. We look at the scorecard and I explain that bogeys are fine and that on a Par 4, “three of these and two of those” will work just fine. Doubles and worse are the killer for beginners (and everyone else for that matter) and most of those come from poor tee shots that are a result of swinging too full and too hard. But two shots that get a person inside 50 yards on a Par 4 are perfectly adequate.
      If a beginner makes 18 bogeys with this thought process, that’s a 90. Every par they eke out, and they will, takes them into the 80s. They are able to keep up and play with other folks instantly. As their knowledge and confidence improve, they can lengthen out their swing to add distance and the ability to play from farther back. But they stay with the game because early success is maximized and embarrassment is minimized.
      Two other things. First, find a wedge that’s point and shoot, with a wide sole as near to a hybrid as possible. We’re looking for something that Phil would never use.
      Second, when the ball is on the ground, focus on the front side of it at address. This tends to get the club to hit the ground in the right place, in front of the ball.
      I believe and approach like this, where consistency is emphasized over distance at the beginning, would build more permanent golfers.

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The Wedge Guy: 5 indisputable rules of bunker play



Let’s try to cover the basics of sand play – the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers – and see if we can make all of this more clear.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver – excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.
All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play. I’ve always challenged the old adage, “bunker shots are easy; you don’t even have to hit the ball.” I challenge that because bunker shots are the ONLY ones where you don’t actually try to hit the ball, so that makes them lie outside your norm.

Let’s start with a look at the sand wedge; they all have a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force will affect the shot. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”:

  • Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  • Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  • The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  • On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work.  Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  • Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go – the five undisputable rules of bunker play.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game – just send it in. I need your input to keep writing about things you want to know.

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The Wedge Guy: Making the short ones



One of the most frustrating things in golf has to be missing short putts. I’m talking about putts under six feet for the most part here, but particularly those inside of four. You hit a great approach to set up a short birdie…and then miss it. Or you make a great pitch or chip to save par — or even bogey — and it doesn’t go in.

When we face any short putt, several things happen to get in the way of our success. First, because we feel like we “have” to make this, we naturally tense up, which mostly manifests in a firmer hold on the putter, maybe even the proverbial “death grip” (appropriately named). That firmer hold is generally concentrated in the thumbs and forefingers, which then tightens up the forearms, shoulders and everything else. So the first tip is:

  • Lighten up. When you take your grip on the putter, focus on how tight you are holding it, and relax. Feel like you are holding the putter in the fingers, with your thumbs only resting lightly as possible on the top of the putter. To see the difference, try this: while you are sitting there, clench your thumb and forefinger together and move your hand around by flexing your wrist – feel the tension in your forearm? Now, relax your thumb and forefinger completely and squeeze only your last three fingers in your hand and move it around again. See how much more you are able to move? Actually, that little tip applies to all your shots, but particularly the short putts. A light grip, with the only pressure in the last three fingers, sets up a smooth stroke and good touch.

The second thing that happens when we have a short putt is we often allow negative thoughts to creep in… “Don’t miss this”…“What if I miss it?”…“I have to make this”…all those put undue pressure on us and make it that much harder to make a good stroke.

So, the second tip is:

  • Chill out. Just allow yourself a break here. You have hit a great shot to get it this close, so allow yourself to believe that you are going to make this. Relax, shake out the nerves, and think only positive thoughts while you are waiting your turn to putt. And you know what? If you do miss it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one shot. So chill out and have fun…and make more short putts.

Finally, we often tend to get so focused on “just make a good stroke” that we get all wrapped up in mechanical thoughts. Forget those. Focus your vision intently and completely on the target. Most short putts are pretty darn straight, or maybe just on or outside the high side. My favorite thought on these putts comes from a favorite movie, The Patriot.

  • Aim small, miss small. Early in the movie, Gibson’s character took his two very young sons and several rifles and went to rescue his older son. He coached them to “Remember what I told you?” and the son replied “Yes sir. Aim small, miss small.” That’s great advice on short putts. Instead of focusing your eyes on the hole, pick a specific spec of dirt or grass in the back edge, or inside one lip or the other – on whatever line you want the putt to start. Don’t just look at the hole…focus intently on that very specific spot. That intensifies your visual acuity and allows your natural eye-hand coordination to work at its very best.

So, there you have the three keys to making more short putts:

  1. Lighten up
  2. Chill out
  3. Aim small, miss small

I hope this helps all of you make more of them.

More from the Wedge Guy

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Clement: The key to making your practice swing your actual swing



If I had a dollar for every time I hear a golfer say, “My practice swing looks and feels great but when I go to the ball…”

Here is a major reason why that is and you will not hear this from any other teaching academy except ours (for years) for the moment. And it works for every single golfer!

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