Some of my favorite lessons these days are with people who decide that it’s time to take up the game of golf or get into it more seriously. I’m always intrigued by the reasons people give for getting into golf or why they come back to it after a long hiatus, and I almost always make a point of asking them the reason. It usually varies from “I’m retiring” to “My co-workers play a lot and I need it for business” to anything in between. But the good thing is that they are ready to give it a try or a second chance in their lives. As a PGA Professional I am well aware of the sobering statistics in the game today, and the fact that we are losing golfers at an alarming rate. So in the interests of helping you love the game more, here are some random thoughts as to things you want to learn, acquire, or consider as you become a true golfer.
First, let’s clear up the slow play myth right away. Many of my students, especially female golfers, feel anxiety over getting on the golf course because they don’t want to slow people down. They have an inner fear of being that car in the left lane with the hazard lights on and everyone blowing their horn at them or passing them on the right. Stop worrying about that part! Here’s my take: learn to be ready and pick up your ball and no one will care what you shoot out there. All good players were bad players once, so they understand your fear and what you are going through as you struggle to get the ball to go up in the air and straight ahead. The key point is that they really don’t care what your score is as long as you can keep up with them. So if you get out there with better players, don’t worry about your scorecard, but simply enjoy the day and understand that if the other players are starting to have to wait for you, pick up your ball and move on. Play the game for the enjoyment of each shot, and not for an end result.
In addition, take the time to invest in a reasonably good set of golf clubs. Many of my beginner students don’t feel like newer clubs will help them as their games just “aren’t good enough” to see a difference. That’s just plain wrong in my opinion. If anyone can benefit from better technology it is the novice player. It’s incredible how often I see clubs that are not even close to fitting the ability level of a beginning golfer, and this only adds to the difficulty of the game. I’m not suggesting that you need to go out and break the bank on a perfect new set of Titleist clubs (although they are great), but what I am saying is that there are many options for you. In golf retail there are generally “tiers” of clubs that can fit all levels and budgets. There are “box sets” which have a bag and all of the necessary clubs at a great price and solid quality, there are mid-range price point manufacturers, and there are the premium brands with all of the options you could ever want. Find the one that works for you but understand that any one of these options is better than your grandfather’s old MacGregor irons from 1965.
My other piece of advice is to shut off your computer and turn off Golf Channel. No, I don’t mean cut yourself off from the world entirely, but please stop watching golf tips! There are endless golf shows and golf tips on You Tube and Golf Channel, and I even have a few tips on there as well. But much of what is out there can also harm you as a player just starting out, and will only lead to more frustration. It’s not to say that many of these tips and drills aren’t good for someone, but they may not be right for YOU. Instead take that time and invest in some golf lessons with a PGA or LPGA Professional so that you can clarify the areas needed to improve your game and stop searching for some secret that doesn’t exist. I have many students who come in claiming to watch and read everything on golf, and at the end of the conversation they can’t even answer what they are trying to focus on in their games because their minds are flooded with the next great secret to golf. So do your long-term golf health a favor and get a professional opinion on your game and have them provide you with a road map for success. Golf isn’t easy and it takes small steps to get better at it just like anything else you have become good at in your life.
Finally, make sure that you remember. Remember that it is just a game. Remember to get out there and learn with a friend so you can enjoy the journey together, and occasionally laugh at each other and your bad shots. Remember that it is played outdoors in beautiful settings that, despite the sometimes bad quality of your golf, beats sitting in an office any day of the week. Remember that some sports fade away in our lives due to old age, but golf can be played for a lifetime, sometimes in the company of your kids and grandchildren (that’s pretty cool). Remember that golf is sometimes like life in that it doesn’t always treat you fair, but for the most part you get way more enjoyment out of it than frustration. Oh, and remember that there are people out there who are trained professionals at teaching you the game and making you love it forever. We’re waiting for you.