How to Play Golf – The Beginner’s Ultimate Guide
You have definitely found the right golf instruction website if your goal is to learn how to play golf and improve your skills pretty quickly.
NickFoyGolf.com is one of the leading golf blogs where you can find free golf tips, lots of fun golf practice drills, and plenty of advanced tutorials for learning proper technique.
In today’s guide, I’ll be breaking down the game of golf on a beginner’s level so you can quickly learn the basics of golf without having to spend hours reading a book.
How Golf Was Created & Who Invented It
In order to learn how to play the game of golf it’s important to look back and understand the history of golf.
Golf has been traced back to the 900’s in China where they would hit feather stuffed balls with tree branches. But the golf game we know today came more from Scotland in the 1400’s before it was outlawed by the King for being a distraction to the military training.
Great Britain helped revive the sport of golf in the 17th century and the first British Open was held in 1860, which is one of the four major PGA championships golfer’s compete for in today’s world.
How to Play Golf – The Basics
Golf is a sport played outside on a golf course, with the objective being to hit a small white ball from the tee box to the green and into the hole in as few of strokes as possible.
Every golf shot you hit counts as 1 stroke, with par being 72 strokes at most 18 holes golf courses.
There are also 9 hole golf courses and par 3 golf courses if you want to play shorter rounds of golf with friends. The typical round of golf for an 18 hole course can take between 4 to 5 hours to complete.
You have the option of walking the golf course and carrying your golf bag full of clubs or you can ride in a golf cart with the clubs strapped in to the back of the cart.
Golf vs Baseball
Think of playing golf like baseball where you’d toss the ball to yourself and make a swing, hitting the ball as far as you can.
In golf, the difference is the ball sits on the ground and you use a golf club to hit it instead of a baseball bat. The ball is also much smaller making it harder to hit straight.
After you hit the golf ball, you’ll walk to where the ball came to a stop, and you’d do this again and again until you finally can hit it onto the small surface area of the green.
In order to hit the ball, you have to make a golf swing, which is also much different than a baseball swing but has similar concepts like driving power with your lower body and using your hands to help lead the club into the golf ball at impact.
How to Make the Proper Golf Swing
Every golf swing starts with good fundamentals.
Without the basic fundamentals, this sport is going to be very hard on you since the swing is such a complex movement that requires your upper body, lower body, core, and arms to all work in sync to swing the club.
Here’s a breakdown of the golf swing sequence…
This is how you set up to the golf ball before starting your swing.
It encompasses the following; your alignment to the target, your stance width, ball position, shoulder plane, spine tilt, weight distribution on your feet, distance you stand away from the ball and your hand’s distance from your thighs as your arms hang down from the shoulders.
Lastly, don’t forget the golf grip which is most important since it controls 90% of the position of the club face at impact.
The three major components of the golf grip:
- Grip placement in the palm of your hand
- Baseball vs interlock vs overlap grip
- The V in your thumb and index finger for each hand
Start off gripping the club with just your left hand (lead hand).
Your club’s grip should sit lower in your left hand, towards the bottom of your fingers and not so high up the palm. This allows your wrists to hinge easier and gives you more flexibility to square the face at impact.
Next, focus on the V of this same hand (space between your thumb and index finger). It should point up almost vertically towards your chin.
Once your lead hand is set, bring your trail hand from underneath the club so it doesn’t end up too much on top of the club.
This also puts your trail hand’s V into the proper position of pointing towards your back shoulder, indicating a stronger grip.
If you find that your V is pointing to your front shoulder, you have a weak grip which will promote a slice or fade.
Analyze your right hand’s V pointing to your right shoulder. This stronger grip set up will help close the face at impact and draw the golf ball.
This is the first few feet the clubhead travels as you take it back away from the golf ball.
Variations of golf swings will take the clubhead back down the line, to the outside, or to the inside which can impact the rest of the backswing and your swing plane at the top of the back swing.
These first few feet can also determine how steep or shallow your swing plane is when it gets to the top of the backswing.
The Swing Plane
This is the path the clubshaft should travel throughout the entire swing.
Getting off plane during the backswing requires you to make unnatural adjustments on the down swing to get the club shaft back on plane so it can strike the golf ball square and with a straight swing path.
It starts with the angle your golf shaft sits when addressing the golf ball.
It should return at impact to the same angle it started with when the club was sitting behind the ball at address, prior to the takeaway.
The Top of Backswing
This is your golf clubs position as it reaches the peak, before pausing, and starting the downswing.
Instructors will take video of your swing so they can pause it at the top and analyze the shaft angle and club face position.
If you have a solid takeaway and backswing the golf club should be on plane and the face should be square or slightly open.
This is the moment when you change direction from backswing to downswing.
It is very important because it determines how efficiently you transfer energy from the backswing to the downswing and has big impact on the quality of golf shot you hit.
This is the swing motion that sends the club head back towards the ground where it started and will strike the golf ball sending it flying.
It’s an important time for generating clubhead speed so you can hit the ball with power.
It’s also a crucial time to get the club back on plane so that your swing path into the ball is online with where you were aligned.
Lastly, it’s final chance to get the club face squared up before impact so the ball can start straight.
The Hitting Zone
This is the 12 inches of area just before the ball and 12 inches of area just after the ball.
Golf instructors may also refer to it as the “impact zone.”
Everything you do in the golf swing is designed to maximize the quality of the body and club position when you reach this zone.
The more efficient your swing is, the more power and control you’ll have as the club head travels through the impact zone.
After the club hits the ball, the follow through is important because it controls the shape of your swing which therefore controls the flight and trajectory of your shots.
Golf Clubs & Equipment
To hit the golf ball from tee to green, you’ll use different golf clubs which are specially designed for different types of golf shots you’ll hit.
The basic breakdown of a golf club includes:
- The head – the round part that actually hits the golf ball
- The shaft – the long straight piece of steel that connects the head to the grip
- The grip – the rubbery surface of the club you hold onto while swinging the club
As mentioned, each golf club in your bag will serve a different purpose. They’re created with different lengths of shafts, different sizes and shaped heads, different face angles and different lofts.
You’re allowed 14 clubs in your bag to use during your golf round. Any more than that and it’s a penalty according to the rules of golf.
Here is a breakdown of what 14 clubs a normal golfer might select for his/her golf bag:
- Driver – used to hit tee shots as far as possible, getting the ball closer to the green for the next shot
- Wood – used also as a driving club on the tee box as well as a fairway club to get the ball onto the green
- Hybrid – used to bridge the gap between your wood and your 4 iron or in place of your 4 iron
- 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 Irons – used to hit the ball higher into the air so that it lands on the green without rolling off
- Pitching Wedge – used for hitting golf shots from within 100 yards of the green
- Gap Wedge or A Wedge – used for hitting golf shots from within 100 yards of the green
- Sand Wedge / 54 Degree Wedge – used for hitting chip shots and sand bunker shots around the green
- 60 Degree Wedge – used for hitting higher, softer landing golf shots that stop faster on the green if you don’t want the ball to roll much.
- Putter – the club used once you’re on the green that hits the ball into the hole
- Best Blade Putters 2019 Buying Guide
- Best Face Balanced Putters 2019
- Best Scotty Cameron Putters Guide
How to Buy the Right Golf Clubs for Your Skill Level
There are so many different golf equipment brands selling golf clubs that it can be vary confusing for a beginner to decide which set of clubs are the best to purchase.
My best advice is to seek out a golf club fitting professional. These experts understand every component, size, weight, shaft flex, and angle, of a golf club.
They’ll typically have you hit some golf shots on a simulator like the Trackman ($50,000 data machine) to get feedback on your golf swing first.
Then a club fitting pro will work with you to pick out the right set of golf clubs that matches your swing.
For example, someone who swings a golf club very fast (over of 100 mph) might require a steel stiff shaft in their golf clubs so that they don’t bend from the whip, resulting in a loss of power and distance.
An older person or a beginner, who doesn’t swing the club as hard, might require a more flexible shaft in their golf clubs.
Selecting the Correct Golf Ball
Golf club fitting professionals can also analyze your swing and help you pick out the proper golf ball. Each golf ball is designed differently to produce different spin rates, which ultimately impacts how much your ball rolls upon landing.
On tee shots, you want the golf ball to have less backspin so that when it lands it can continue rolling forward, gaining extra yardage for you.
On approach shots to the green, you want more backspin so the golf ball stops quickly upon landing if you happen to hit the ball right at the hole.
Golf Bags – Cart Bags vs Stand Bags
After picking out your set of golf clubs and selecting which golf ball brand you want to play with, you need a bag to carry your equipment.
There are two types of golf bags to choose from:
Cart Bags – these are big bulky golf bags that are used only for the purpose of sitting on the back of a golf cart.
Stand Bags – these golf bags have legs that kick out when you set the bag down so that it can stand up on it’s own while you hit your golf shot. They’re typically used for walking a golf course, with backpack like straps to carry the bag on your back.
You can read our reviews on our sister website, GolfPracticeGuides.com:
Golf Gloves, Tees, Ball Markers, Divot Fixers
There are also many golf accessories you will need to buy from time to time as well like tees and ball markers.
Tees are small wooden (or plastic) pegs that go into the ground on the tee box so that your golf ball can sit on top of it. Once you’ve tee the ball up, you can swing at it with your driver club.
Ball markers are used on the green to mark the location of your ball so that you can pick it up until it’s your turn to putt. The ball must be marked and picked up so that it doesn’t interfere with other putters line to the hole.
In the event you find your ball marker in someone else’s way, you may be asked to move your marker. This is quite simple. Take your putter head and anchor it to the ball marker, then move the marker to the heel of your putter.
Don’t forget to move the ball marker back however or you could face a penalty stroke.
Additionally, you’ll need a divot fixer which is a special tool that helps raise up the dented crater your ball makes on the green upon landing. This keeps the greens smooth so that your putts aren’t bouncing off of divots on the greens.
If you have trouble holding a golf club and want better grip, you can consider purchasing a golf glove. It usually goes on your left hand if you’re right handed and is used for hitting tee shots and approach shots.
Golfers tend to remove their glove once reaching the green.
Think You’re Ready to Go Play Some Golf?
You’ve completed our definitive guide on How to Play Golf for Beginners! Congrats!
We covered everything today from the history of golf to how golf is scored to how to swing a golf club. We also detailed what golf equipment you’ll need such as bags, clubs, balls, and accessories.
If you’d like a step by step practice plan to help train you to become better and score lower, please check out these resources linked below! Don’t forget to share this article on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!
- All Access Golf Resource Library
- Short Game Practice Plan
- Indoor Golf Practice & Fitness Plan
- 36 Easy to Follow Golf Practice Routines
10 Best Short Game Drills
Enter your name and email to get instant access to our PDF download of the best short game drills to improve your golf skills.