A beginner’s guide to golf
4 March 2023
If you’ve made it this far, it’s probably because you’ve discovered that there has never
been a better time to learn golf. Golf is a game played over a vast outdoor space, a
worthwhile source of exercise, and a mind-distraction that is uniquely suited for a
socially distant society. However, you must overcome all of the intimidating factors that
may have kept you away from golf up until this point in order to truly appreciate it. For
starters, it’s a tough game with a lot of equipment and customs that could be
overwhelming to someone new:
● Every golfer has failed at some point—many of us still do!—and you would be
surprised at how much you can learn along the way. Our goal is to teach you the
fundamentals, including not only how to hit a golf ball, but also what you need to
hit the ball with and anything else you need to get started with golf (you don’t
need golf shoes right away). Golf Digest has been around for 70 years because
there are a lot of things to talk about when it comes to the best game in the
world. But it’s best to start with some fundamentals to keep things simple.
● Johnny Miller, a Hall of Fame golfer who is now a commentator, once said that
when he was teaching his kids how to play golf, he would let them hit balls into a
pond because it was fun to see the water splash. Notably, there was no
discussion of how to swing or hold a club or anything else technical.
● Does that imply that you will never require lessons to improve? No, getting a
good coach will definitely help you get better. Eventually. Will Robins, however, is
firmly in Miller’s camp, emphasizing the game’s dynamics first and then fine-
tuning later. This means practicing your swing on a practice range, Par-3 course,
or even an open field with a bag of plastic whiffle balls before learning more in-
depth swing theory.
● Robins asserts, “You stiffen up and probably have trouble even making contact
when you move from the phase where you’re just trying to whack it to the phase
where you actually start thinking about mechanics.”
● Instead, keep your focus on the sensation of swinging the club quickly rather
than hitting a ball. Hold it for three seconds until you reach a balanced finish. You
can check out the video series by Robins, which will help you get off the couch
and onto the course with fewer swing thoughts and more solid shots.
● There are a plethora of golf tips available—we’ve seen them all, trust
us!—making it difficult to choose one that works best for you. A good starting
point? A good swing motion can be thought of as a combination of many good
players’ actions. You’ll hit the ball more solidly the closer you can get to some of
those benchmarks without necessarily trying to imitate any particular player’s
swing. Nick Clearwater, GolfTEC’s director of instruction and one of Golf Digest’s
50 Best Teachers, has swing data on over 50,000 players at all handicap levels.
● Are there two obvious examples that prevent you from hitting a solid shot that
doesn’t dramatically curve to the right? how you turn your hips through and turn
your shoulders back. Tour players, on the other hand, turn and tilt their
shoulders so that the one closest to the target is lower.
● A quick hip tip can also significantly increase your chances of making solid
contact. On the downswing, beginners tend to stall hip rotation—the amount of
hips turning toward the target—and attempt to control the swing with their hands
and arms, according to Clearwater. At impact, tour players have almost twice as
much hip rotation toward the target.
● In the broadest sense, your clubs themselves will assist in indicating when their
best use is. Each club is made to do a specific job, which is to send the ball a
certain distance at a certain trajectory. The driver, fairway wood, and hybrid,
which are the longest clubs in your bag, have longer shafts and less loft on the
face, allowing the ball to travel a greater distance and exit the hole. As you
progress from a 5-iron to a sand wedge, the shafts of irons become progressively
shorter and the loft on the face becomes progressively higher. As a result, the
ball will travel shorter and descend more steeply.
Cameron McCormick, a Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher, states, “The first secret to using
each of those clubs well is to set up to give yourself the best chance of success.” For
instance, “you’re trying to maximize clean contact and hit the ball on the descending
part of your swing arc with a short club like a wedge,” he says. This indicates that the
ball should be slightly behind center or behind your sternum.
That is in contrast to your driver, which should be played with the ball close to your front
foot—at least six inches apart. The Golf Digest Schools series from McCormick serves
as a set of owner’s manuals for the various clubs in your bag and is a great way to learn
When you first start playing golf, one of the most intimidating aspects is determining
whether you are using the appropriate clubs. The key with equipment, as with most
things in this game, is to start slowly but strategically. First, you don’t have to start with
14 clubs in your bag, even if the majority of players eventually do. In essence, you need
less than you need.