Golfing Hints for the Newbie

For whatever reason, you have arrived at the idea that it is time for golf to enter your life’s journey. You have seen it on television and it looks pretty easy. Or, you hear your friends talk about how relaxing the sport of golf is – listening to the birds chirp, wind whistling, etc. You also know that much “business networking” occurs in this sport. So… how do you begin?

Let us start with your stance. This is how your body will be held during your golf swing. It is essential to have a natural stance for your foundation. Your stance will consist of feet should-width apart, head down, knees slightly bent, and eyes fixed on the ground/ball. Keeping your head down is key as once you start your swing, your upper body will be pivoting while your head stays unmovable. This takes practice. Have either a golf pro or good golf buddy help you. Just be certain your golf buddy/coach does not have the golf skills of either Larry, Moe, or Curly.

Now let us turn to the equipment: The clubs. When beginning this endeavor, it is recommended to rent clubs. That way you can determine if this sport is for you without spending too much money. Make certain that your clubs are fitted well for your stance, meaning that you are not “slouching over” or “bending backwards” when lining up the ball. Your club should fit easily between your natural posture and the ground. That is essential for a successful swing. One must control the club, not vice versa. Clubs are either of the putter, iron, or woods variety. A putter, of course, is used for putting (a short stroke into the hole). Irons are used for longer distances, while woods are used for the longest drives/distances. Each club will take time practicing with. An essential ingredient to great club handling/usage is a good grip. The most secure grip is known as the interlocking grip – whereby the (for right handers) left index finger “interlocks” with the right pinkie finger. The right thumb rests on the center area of the club’s grip area. Opposite for left-handers. Use this grip and it will be doubtful that the club flying through the air belongs to you. Once your grip is in place, begin developing your swing.

Developing your golf swing appears much easier than it actually is. A powerful swing determines your success or failure in the sport of golf. Your entire body will be utilized in various ways. Now is the time to ask for others’ assistance. Either approach a golf pro, friend, and/or mentor (as mentioned previously). To this day I can envision my rather large-bellied golf instructor showing my class the “hip move.” It was entertaining, but not pretty. Practice your swing where ample space is available. When you hear a good, clean “swoosh” as you follow through… you’ve got it. A solid swing.

Once you feel comfortable to begin hitting golf balls, start practicing on driving ranges, then move up to 9 hole courses. When both you and your pocketbook are confident, “graduate” to 18 hole courses. And on some courses your pocketbook better be more confident than you are. After all, have you seen some of those golf course clubhouses out there? Architectural Digest would be proud.

At the same time you are learning/developing the physical aspects of the sport, stimulate your mind by learning the rules of the game. As in any established sport, there is a governing body that developed the rules. The U.S. Golf Association is the rule making/enforcing body for golf. Pick up a rules book (at a local golf pro shop or bookstore) and become familiar with the rules before going out on your first “public” venture onto a real-life golf course. You will be glad you did. There are written rules and unwritten rules. Rules of play and rules of etiquette. Rules everywhere. No anarchy here. For instance, one written rule of play states, “play your ball where it lies.” This means your next shot starts where your ball previously landed. The counteracting unwritten rule states that if your ball lies off the course, or not where you were anticipating, make certain no one is watching and nonchalantly either toss or kick it back onto the course where it belongs. One written rule of etiquette states, “don’t move, talk, or stand close to the stroker'”(i.e. person taking the golf swing). The counteracting unwritten rule states that it is all right to clear your throat with maximum volume as soon as the stroker begins their golf swing. Or cough, sneeze, etc. You get the point.

A very important written rule of etiquette in the sport of golf tells us to “replace divots.” A divot is a piece of ground removed during your imperfect swing. Of course, there is a counteracting unwritten rule that states we are to be proud that our divots are getting smaller in size. It means our swing is improving. Suddenly a vision came to my mind of Moe divoting up the entire green and having the groundskeeper screaming at him. In memorable fashion, Moe replied (er… gnarled) “What are you griping for?! They’re getting smaller aren’t they?”

This talk of divots brings us to our next point about learning the terminology of golf. It is unique, as any sport is. You better learn it fast in order to “walk your talk.” If someone mentions going to the 19th hole, do not ask if an iron or wood is preferable. Your ignorance will shine through too clearly. Be aware: that trick is usually played on the “rookies.” The 19th hole is the lounge/bar. If you learn anything from this article, have that be it. – firsthand experience talking here.

A “hazard” is either a body of water or sand trap (bunker) on the golf course. Those are supposed to be avoided. Much entertainment can be in store if one witnesses another attempting to hit out of a sand trap, though. Just remember to turn your back if you feel the laughter burst coming on. You do not want to appear too rude. Not to their face, anyway. If a natural hazard is what excites you, try golfing on a Florida course. An alligator will eat your golf balls (no matter how well marked they are) and may also help you speed up your playing time.

The term “greeting your ball” means walking up to your golf ball, placing your club next to it and preparing for your swing. If someone tells you to “greet your ball,” please do not do as Norton did. Do not walk up to your ball, salute it, and say “Hellooo ball!”. That is, of course, unless you do not want to be invited back. Splicing, fairway, rough, tee, amongst other terms all have significance and can be learned by studying the game of golf that you are partaking in.

In closing, four Laws of Golf need to be mentioned:
1) Brand new golf balls are water magnetic. Though this cannot be proven in the lab, it is a known fact that the more expensive the golf ball, the greater its attraction to water. Remember those water hazards we were just talking about?
2) “Tough break” can usually be translated “way to miss any easy one, sucker.”
3) The last three holes of a round will automatically adjust your score to what it really should be.
4) The round of golf you are playing with the person you want to impress the most, will be the one time you swing and miss the ball. Murphy’s Law applies to the game of golf, too.
(Afterthought: For wonderful examples of the unwritten rules of golf, view the movie “Caddyshack”. Just make certain it is not after stomach surgery. The laughter pains will be unbearable.)

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