The Basics of Golf: All the Things a New Golfer Should Know

Golf is one of the fastest growing sports-based hobbies worldwide. It does not require super-human strength, speed or size to be enjoyed. It does not require that…

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Golf is one of the fastest growing sports-based hobbies worldwide. It does not require super-human strength, speed or size to be enjoyed. It does not require that you start at age two, although some of the most famous golfers have, to be successful. In fact, golf is one of the few sports that hundreds of people take up after retirement, every year. To get started in the game there are very few requirements: a course, some rental clubs and the desire to walk in the great outdoors for a lovely afternoon. Of course, many folks do get carried away right from the start and buy every golf related item that crosses their path, but none of that is really necessary. Or is it? Read on and find out the basic of golf, from equipment, clothing, to the lingo. You will be looking and sounding like a real golfer in no time. (Oh, and if you throw in some lessons, you might actually play like one, too!)

Getting the Goods: Gear You Need and Some Bonus Goodies

Beginning golfers can start working with rental clubs, but once you know that you will continue, you should really start looking for your own. Rental clubs are great while your learn the basics, but once you have that down, and are ready to start playing for real, you will need clubs that are better suited for your swing, your body type and your height. There are some basic facts to keep in mind when looking for the clubs that you will be using.

1) Price and brand name.

Do not get caught up in the “best” brand names, the ones that the pros are using. You are not a pro golfer, after all, and do not have their financial backing. Most of the world’s players get their clubs supplied to them by the manufacturers- who get the advantage of advertising. You can start with lower end new clubs, or even used clubs and be perfectly okay, and upgrade as you go. Starting with the budget clubs can allow for lessons, either from a pro or a video. Once you improve your game, then you can buy a new club or two. The sky is not going to turn green and fall if you mix the new clubs in with the old. Never buy clubs that are beyond your current budget.

2) Fit and Style

Golf clubs that are too long for you will be unwieldy and hamper your swing. If they are too short, it will cause you to adopt a strange and probably painful posture. The fit of a golf club is so important, that the pros use computer analysis to get their perfect club, but you are not in that league, right? If you are only golfing once or twice each year and still insist on owning your own clubs, you are perfectly within your rights to walk into the local big box store and grab the first set of clubs that catches your fancy. On the other hand, if you are a more avid golfer, start your club search at a sporting good store, or a pro shop and ask if there is an associate that is club fitting trained. The average height golfer, (male or female) should have a fairly easy time of finding good clubs, however those taller or shorter than average height will have a slightly harder time. More on fitting a golf club in the next section.

3) Building Your Own and Custom Built Clubs

If you have looked around and honestly have not found anything to suit you, there are two options available to you for the perfect clubs. The expensive, skies the limit option is to have a computer design the perfect club for you. Your height, swing style, stance, and other preferences are fed into a computer, the perfect club specifications are spit out and the factory builds it. The lower end version of this is to select the components that you would like to have, buy them and assemble them at home, yourself.

And The Other Gear:

Of course, you know that you cannot play golf without clubs, but there are other things that are necessary as well. A basic golf bag to carry your clubs and your other gear should be strong and durable, of decent size, but not so huge that you cannot comfortably carry it. You will also need golf balls, preferably marked with either your name or some other marking so that you know whose is whose.

Along with clubs and balls, your bag should contain: golf tees, (the wooden ones are about the best, as well as the cheapest), golf gloves, a few small items (coins maybe) to use as markers as you go, and towels, (one or two at the minimum). Of course, if you pick up a catalog, open a magazine or pull up a golf website, you will find countless other items, but you really can do without many of those things. And remember, getting caught up in golf gear buying madness will not help your golf game in any way.

Back to Golf Club Fitting: One Size Does Not Fit All

Golf club fitting is serious business. A club that is improperly fit to you will hamper your play, which in turn will affect your desire to keep working on your game. A club that is too long may slow your swing down enough to throw it off completely. A club that is too short will affect posture and stance, making a round of golf an uncomfortable, unpleasant affair. Find a professional who can help you find the right size golf clubs, and make notes as you go. If you cannot afford the exact clubs that the pro shows you, do not worry about it. You can take your notes to buy similar clubs as you go that are more within your means.

There are several factors to consider when finding the right fit for your golf clubs, length being only one of them. Some of these include:

1) The grip.

The thickness of your grip determines how much hand action is involved in your swing. Thinner grip will allow for more hand, thicker grips restrict the hands more. For the proper fit on your grip: Hold your club, checking to see that the middle and ring fingers of the left hand barely touch the pad of your thumb. If not, the grip is too thick, if your fingers make too much contact with your thumb, the grip is too thin.

2) Shaft.

The shaft of your clubs should factor in height, build and strength. The style of your swing will determine the stiffness of your shaft. If you have a golf pro, have him watch your swing to determine stiffness requirements. If not, have a friend video your swing and try to make a good guess assessment yourself, then try out a few clubs of that stiffness. Does it feel right for you?

3) Loft.

This is one area that having a pro is really beneficial. If you do not understand the terms, then you will be lost at the store. Yes, a salesman could make a recommendation here, but what does this salesperson know about how you hit the ball? A golfer that slices, for instance, should consider clubs with less loft.

4) Clubhead Size.

Heads come in several sizes, standard, midsize and oversized. The bigger the head, the easier it is to make contact with that little bitty white ball, especially when you are first learning the game. Once you get better, you could always downsize club heads as you go, unless you decide that you really like playing them. Keep in mind however, that if you are interested in tournament play, some clubs are against the rules, so always check your regulations.

5) Irons.

The better you are, the more specialized your clubs can become. To determine the best iron type for you, you must know exactly where on the clubface that you hit the ball. If there is no one set place that you hit the ball, try the hollowed out irons, if you are more of a directly on the clubface hitter, you can use the more solid, heftier irons.

6) Children’s clubs.

A child’s clubs should be durable, low cost and fit for them as well. Remember, a child bores with new things quickly and additionally, they grow faster than weeds. Do not go overboard and buy your young ones elite clubs- they will either outgrow them or grow bored with them before you are ready to give up the dream of raising the next little Tiger.

What to Wear: NO UGLY PANTS ALLOWED!

Okay. If you say the words, golf attire to most people, they get that daffy look on their face, and you know that they are thinking: tam o’shanter, gaudy shirt and the tackiest pair of pants this side of the Caddy shack soundstage. And while no one is disputing that there are still some stuck in a time warp, traditional golfers that insist on dressing that way, golf gear has come a long way. Thank goodness.

1) Following the Rules of the Course

Most courses have a dress code governing the clothing allowed at the golf course at all times. These will include what kind of footwear is a go or a no go, so it is in your best interest to make sure you know what these rules are. Showing up in your torn Nine Inch Nails tee and the paint-stained sweat pants you rolled out of bed in are not a good idea for anything, but may actually get you banned for life from some golf courses. Know before you go.

2) Fit and Fabric

No matter how well you follow the rules, improperly fitted clothing will impede your game as much as improperly fitted golf clubs would. Clothing should fit close to your body so that there is nothing to get caught up in your clubs, but not so tight that you cannot move comfortably. Watch for the areas that are prone to chafing and make sure that any material that will be in those places, lays flat and does not ride up. Fabric should be soft, comfortable and have some give to it. It should also be breathable and wick sweat away from your skin. An additional perk would be material that is treated with sun block or insect repellent.

3) Budget.

Just as with any other golfing item, clothing can be an area where some people will just go crazy. If you are playing on mainly public courses with only very basic rules of dress, then wear comfortable, well-fitted clothing that fits well in your budget. Unless you are about to be on a televised tour, there is no need for you to have a million dollar wardrobe.

Golf Etiquette: Do’s, Don’ts and The Things Your Momma Should Have Taught You

Golf is filled with rules. Each of the rules has clauses, sub clauses and amendments- enough to make you tear you hair out in great streaming clumps. It is also a game that relies on the basic good manners and decorum of its players. Golf Etiquette is the accepted and expected behavior on the links and is not a lot more involved than basic human decency and the good manners that you probably learnt as you grew up.

Some of these most basic concepts are:

1) Shush on the course.

Do not talk while others are teeing up their shot. When you are walking from one hole to the other, speak in quiet tones so you do not disturb other golfers. Do not use foul language or tell tasteless, salty jokes. You do not know who might catch your words and be offended.

2) Don’t just aimlessly swing away.

Make sure that you know where everybody in your group are, as well as other golfers before you rare back and have at it. Yes, it is funny on television and in movies when someone gets bonked on the bean with a golf ball, but it is not funny in real life. Just shouting “fore” does not constitute being aware of your surroundings. Take a quick glance around and then get into your stance.

3) Don’t mosey and don’t woolgather.

No one likes to snap their fingers in a grown adults face to get their attention. And nobody likes to stand around and wait around for that same daydreaming adult to get back into the game, meander over to the ball and lackadaisically take his or her swing. Focus. Make your plans while you are waiting for your turn. Know what you plan to do, what club you plan to use and the amount of oomph you plan to give that ball before it is even your turn. When it is your turn, walk quickly to the tee, line up your shot and then swing. Need some further incentive? Two words for you, meant to speed you up: 19th hole.

4) Know who gets to go first on each hole.

Going first on the first hole is the “honor” usually given to the most senior member of your group, or the boss if this is business related. On subsequent holes, the honor goes to whoever had the lowest score on the previous hole. Again, if this is a business outing, the smart golfer will be sure that the majority of the time, the boss is going to be first, even if he is the worst hack golfer in the world. A bad score on the links may equal a good relationship in the office.

5) Pay attention to your timing.

If you are consistently twiddling your thumbs waiting for the group in front of you to clear the area, then consider slowing down your group’s pace or asking if you might play through. If on the other hand, the folks behind you are considering rushing forth to beat you with their clubs, you might pick up the pace or allow them to play through. Not all groups are created equal, some golfers wax philosophic on nearly every hole and will take their good sweet time, others are wham, bam, birdie man and will practically lay rubber on an 18 hole course. Don’t worry about keeping up with the crowd; just try to use good sense and common courtesy.

6) And finally:

Leave the course the way that you found it. When you started your round, the greens were pristine, the sand traps were footprint free and there was not a hint of trash to be found. The groundskeeper has enough to do to keep the grounds in such immaculate condition without having to go behind picking up little scraps of paper and such from grown adults, so help that person out. Replace ball marks and divots as you go. Rake the prints from the sand traps and always make sure that you keep track of your scorecards and other bits of debris.

Now, the Actual Rules: Or At Least a Very Brief Overview of Them

Not only do you need to know the rules of the course or club that you play golf at, you need to know the rules of the game as well. From the number of clubs you are allowed to carry with you at one time, to the way you must approach an oddly placed ball, golf has some strict guidelines that are time confusing enough for the professionals that have lived and breathed the game for decades. The best advice for learning the rules of golf is this: get a rule book and study it, work with a golf pro until you have the basics down and let common sense prevail whenever possible.

Of course, as many rules as there are, with all of their clauses, sub-clauses and amendments, the three basic tenets can be boiled down to these:

1) Do not change the course, and leave it the way you found it.

2) Do not move your ball; play it where it lies.

3) If there is no way to do either one or two, then do what is the most fair.

Once you start studying the rules, you will find several things a little daunting. First, they can be very confusing, especially for someone who is just now learning the difference between the clubs. Second, they can be very contradicting. Anytime you see the words “but” or “however” when reading any kind of list, you will know that something is about to be changed, retracted or knocked horribly off course. Try to roll with it. And, finally, all of the rules will involve some kind of punishment, usually in the form of a stroke penalty. (If your game is truly the worst it can be, you do not want to start racking up stroke penalties as well. No need to set a club record for worst score ever.) Don’t worry about scoring and stroke penalties right now, those will come in later sections. Right now, let’s focus on the rules that you need to know for a round of golf.

Here goes:

1) Your golf bag should have at most fourteen clubs. You could carry less, but you cannot carry more.

2) Mark your ball so that you know whose is whose. Balls stamped with your name are great, but not necessary. A quick dot with a marker is fine to serve as your mark. Do not touch a ball that does not belong to you. Period.

3) Do not ask advice of the people around you, and do not give advice to people around you. The only exchange of advice should be between pro and student or between partners.

4) Know who goes when. When you approach the very first tee, the “honor” of that first drive should go to the most senior member of your group, of if you are conducting business on the links, the person considered most important for that afternoon, whether that be the boss or the new client. On subsequent holes, the honor will go to whoever had the lowest score on the prior. (Again, if this is a business outing, that VIP should be the one going first for most of the time.)

5) Do not touch the ball unless it falls within the scope of one of the multiple amendments and such that allows you to do so. If you do move the ball unintentionally, put it back and take the penalty stroke. If you have to move other objects (rocks, grass, sticks, etc.) that are within a club’s length of the ball, then put it back and again, take the penalty stroke. And you are not allowed to move stones, or pull up oddly clumps of grass, even if they will interfere with your proposed shot. (This is the play the course as you find it rule.)

6) Hazards and Bunkers: each course has hazards which can include lake, sea, ponds, rivers, and ditches which are usually marked off by either a yellow line or yellow stakes. Lateral hazards are those hazards that lie to the side of the fairway and are usually marked by red lines or stakes.  Bunkers are also hazards. These are hollow and filled with sand. It should be noted that grass growing around the bunker is not part of the hazard.  If your ball ends up in a hazard and cannot be played, drop your ball behind the hazard itself. There is some leeway in how far back you can drop your ball, as long as you keep the hazard between your ball and the hole. You can also try again from the original start – both options will earn you the same penalty shot.

7) Out of bounds. White stakes or white lines usually mark the out of bounds areas, and will be mentioned in the course rules, and again on the scorecard. If your entire ball is out of bound then you must play a new ball from the last position that you were in. When you add up the score for this hole, add not only the strokes from the new ball but from the first one as well, adding the penalty stroke. If you have not confirmed that your ball is out of bounds, but you are pretty sure that it is, you can hit a “provisional” ball without penalty. If you then determine that your first ball is not out of bounds, you can then play the original ball and pick up the provisional one. Of course, if the first ball is in fact out of bounds, then you must proceed as described in #6- adding strokes from first and second ball and the penalty stroke.

8) Lost balls are determined to be so if you cannot find them within five minutes. Again, start a new ball, count the strokes from both balls and add the penalty stroke.

9) On the putting green, you can remove sand or soil from your putting line. You may also move items such as stones, sticks or leaves. You may also move clumps of grass or sod, if they are not embedded or attached. If you must move your ball before putting, mark the spot so that you can replace it in the right spot. More rules about the putting green are in the “how to putt” section.

Golf Penalties: Adding Strokes For Rule Violation

In hockey, everybody loves the penalty shot. Well, everybody that is except the goalie and the penalized team. In golf, no one likes the penalty shot at all and like it or not, eventually you will get one. Even the best golfers will get one, and it is a fact of life; deal with it. Penalties can come about for a wide variety of reasons. There are so many reasons in fact, that it might be next to impossible to cover them all in one shot. Even pro golfers can be caught off guard when they are assessed a penalty shot for something they may not have even been aware of doing.

We have already covered out of bounds and the water hazards in the previous section. We will cover penalties on the putting green in that section, later in this guide, so let’s focus on a few other situations that may earn you a penalty.

1) Air ball. (Also called, “missing the point”)  When a golfer first starts out, they are likely to do a dozen idiot things. If you take the swing and miss the ball, or fall on your butt (and of course, still miss the ball), or fail to make contact with the ball in anyway, that counts as a stroke. Period. Whiff past the ball three or four times, and you have just sunk your game before you even touch the ball.

2) Unplayable lie. There are three options for dealing with the ball that just cannot be played. It does not matter if that ball is stuck in seven inches of muck, in a tree or sitting in the opened mouth of the resident course gator, if you cannot hit the ball, you cannot play it. These options are: a) pick the ball up and drop it within 2 club lengths of the original spot, and add one penalty stroke. b) Pick the ball up, walk back as far as you want and drop the ball. Same one penalty stroke will apply. c) Return to the point of the original spot. (Not considered to be the best option because you not only rack up the penalty stroke, you lose distance as well.)

A final note on golf penalties: although you know you will end up with one or two during the course of a round of golf, you really should strive to keep them at a bare minimum. Especially in the beginning, your score will be barely above laughable anyway; you do not want to drag it down further with a lot of penalty strokes.

Golf Handicap and How to Figure it Out

Non-golfers are shocked and baffled by the handicap system, and truth be known, new golfers are just as confused as well. First, you must understand the why of the system and then you can focus on the how.

The handicap system evens out the game for all players, allowing for an enjoyable round for all. No other sport does this- you cannot play a pick-up game of hoops with Kobe Bryant and expect to do okay, nor can you grab Wayne Gretzky and the guys from shipping and expect that no one will lose a tooth or end up crying on the way to the hospital. Golf shakes things up with your handicap and that will allow for the fact that you slice on the tenth hole, no matter what.

To qualify for a handicap, you must play no less than ten rounds of golf (18 holes each), keeping your score for each. (Remember when you are playing, you mark your score on a card, which will be signed by both yourself and your playing companion.) Remember, your golf handicap will change dramatically at first- beginners improve their game quickly.

Figuring Out Your Handicap

To get your handicap, you take your last twenty scores, throw out the lowest ten and then average the best ten. You can do this yourself, or for the more modern approach, you can use the course’s computer to do it. You enter the scores and the computer spits out your handicap, no muss, and no fuss.  (If you are a member of a club, getting your handicap this way is usually free, if not, public courses that have the capabilities usually do so for a low fee.) Remember your score will go up and down based on your most recent rounds, so do not get too caught up in it.

The handicap will give you and your fellow golfers a little bit of an idea of how good you are. The lower your handicap is, the better you are as a golfer. Handicap will tell you how many strokes under par you play on average. (Par is the expected number of strokes a reasonable player should expect to take from tee to hole. More golf terminology will follow in a later section.)

Try not to always play with golfers whose handicaps are higher than yours, that will over inflate your ego. Likewise, do not play with only lower handicapped players either; you will become discouraged and unsure of yourself.

The Golfing Stance: Standing Your Ground

When you break a golf swing, stance and posture down bit by bit, it sounds like a complicated dance move that you know you will never be able to get. Start slowly, work on each aspect and don’t allow yourself to get all worked up. (One of the basic tenets of golf is to remain calm, after all.) A good golf pro will work on your balance, posture and stance before he ever lets you whack away at the first ball. These important aspects of the game can influence every single moment of your game.

Start with the width of your feet when you get into your stance: the heels of your feet should be shoulder width apart. For each and every single golfer on each and every single golf course the world over, this will be a slightly different amount. Your body’s shape and size will dictate how wide your shoulders are, and therefore your stance. Once you know how far your heels should be apart, you can then focus on making sure the feet are pointing out at about 30 degrees. This angle will allow for movement from one foot to the other as you go into the full range of motion of your golf swing.

Next, make sure your knees are “ready” for the actual motion of the swing. If your knees are in a locked position, any movement that you make may actually be painful. Allow your knees to be flexed, liquid and ready to go when you need to move them. Keeping your knees loose and free will help maintain proper balance as well.

Check your ball positioning next. The ball should be in the best place for what your are about to do and which club that you are about to use. Remember, you hit up with a driver, and down with the other clubs that will influence where exactly the ball should be positioned within your stance. Finally, your head’s position in your stance will be dictated by where the ball’s position is, your own body type and your own sense of comfort. Do not get caught up in the head down, back straight, school of golf- nor should you keep your head up so high that you cannot even see the ball you are trying to hit. Keep your eyes on the ball, but maintain proper body alignment as well.

How To Putt, Along with a Few Rules On That Topic

Putting is a major part of golf. In fact, experts suggest that most people should learn to putt first. Putting is one aspect of the game where your individuality can come out and shine. Some of the other rules about stance and posture are slightly relaxed for the putt, where you are free to find the method that best puts that ball in the hole. Nowhere in golf is the more emphasis on the sense of “feel” than in the putt. You need nerves of steel, a feel for the shot you are about to take and the right touch on the club.

The first and most important thing to focus on with putting is visualization. If you can see that ball rolling gracefully into the hole, you can make the shot. Or, at least that is the theory. Do not let your mind play tricks on you- the ball and the hole do not change sizes at any time, no matter what your mind’s eye says. The ball did not grow to monstrous proportions, and it will in fact fit in that hole. Of course, there will be days where the hole is enormous and you could not miss it with one hand tied behind your back. And, as unpredictable as some golf games can be, these things can happen on the same day, on differing holes. You just have to realize that no matter how hard or easy that you are having it on the putting green, the hole and the ball are the same size, always.

The grip that you use to tee off is not the same grip that you will use for putting. Not all of putting grips are the same, but they do have a few common denominators. These are: palms of both hands face each other, allowing your hands to work together. There are three common grips that allow for the proper teamwork of your hands, and you should try all three to decide which is the most comfortable and effective for you. Work with a pro to learn these grips, or rent a video. Simply reading the words will only leave you confused and discouraged. You need to see the grip in action- in real time.

Once you get your grip hammered out, you must figure out how best to “address” the ball for your putt. (Hello, Ball! Is an amusing line, but best saved for the most casual of golf outings among friends or silently chortled in your head. Levity has its place of course, but not on the putting green.) Some golfers will stand perfectly square for a putt. Some will angle out more open to the target line. Some are more closed up. The point is simple; your stance during a putt is as individual as your own body. Once you know how you will stand, you will be able to figure out the exact type of swing that your putt will take. That shape will be the deciding factor of what putter you will use for the putt itself.

Next up is speed. If your ball rolls too slowly it will fall from the target line, get stopped by any bumps in the green, or simply “putter” to a stop before you would like it to. If the ball is rolling too fast, you run the risk of having it roll right over the hole, also undesirable. Remember, speed is not the only consideration here, either. You have to know how the green is running and plan your putt accordingly. If you look around, you can tell the direction that all the slopes are running, and how deeply. If you know that the slopes are running toward the right, and the hole is sitting on the left, you will have to adjust your putt to take that into account.

The direction the grass grows does not come into account with any other sport in the world, but in golf, especially with the putt, it can become a major factor. The grain of the grass can affect the speed and direction that the ball will roll. If you play one particular course often enough, you will eventually get used to the way the grass lies and will subconsciously adjust your putt to take that into account.

In the end, putting can be nerve wracking, or it can be the most fun part of the game. Those designations can change from hole to hole. Because the putt is such an important aspect of your game, you need to work on it, regardless of how you feel about that stroke at this particular moment.

Rules for the Putting Green: Yes, More Rules

As mentioned previously, you can remove sand and other loose soil from the line of your putt, as well as sticks, stones or other natural objects. If there are clumps of grass or sod in your putt line, those can be removed as well, as long as they are not embedded or still attached. If there is an artificial object in the putt line, you may remove that as well, otherwise, hands off.

Lift the ball if you feel you must clean it, but then replace it exactly where it was. A ball that would interfere with another’s putt may be moved as well, but replaced exactly where it was, so mark the spot with a coin or other item.

You may repair any damage that your ball caused when hitting the green if the damage is in the line of your putt. You may not repair marks caused by golf spikes however, until everyone in your group has finished with the hole.

If you hit the flagstick with your golf ball while on the green, it will cost you a two-stroke penalty. To prevent this from happening, have the flag removed, or have someone hold the flag until you are finished. It is also a two-stroke penalty if your ball strikes another player’s ball during your putt. You may ask another player to move his ball and mark his spot, if it will interfere with your putt.

The Different Clubs and When You Should Use Them

Golf clubs come in four categories and each club has four parts. The categories are, iron, wood, utility and putter. Each club is built from, the grip, the shaft, the club head and the hosel (the part that connects the head to the shaft). The club heads themselves also have different parts, with the bottom being the “sole” and the front, which is the “clubface”. The part that is the closest to the shaft is the “heel”. Think of the sole and heel as parts of a sock, and remember the clubface is the part of the club that “faces” the hole. Your goal should be to hit the ball with the middle of the club, never near the heel or the front-most section, the toe. And now for the clubs themselves:

Irons

It should come as no surprise at all that the irons were once made from that durable, hardworking material. The irons of today are made from steel or graphite instead, but the name remains the same. Irons are the ones that are numbered from 1 to 9 and are designed to hit a ball differing distances. The technical break down goes like this: the higher the number on the iron, the higher the ball will be lifted into the air. So, that would mean that the 9-iron will hit the ball the highest, and of course, the one will be lowest. Of course, height detracts from distance, so the higher irons will empirically drive the ball shorter distances. High numbered irons will give better accuracy, higher lift and shorter distance. The lower irons will give slightly less accuracy, lower lift and a slightly longer distance. Knowing how far and how accurate you are with each of your irons is important as you finely tune your game. Once you know what your average distance is with each club, you will be able to gauge which to select during different portions of the game.

Woods

Once upon a time, these had wooden club heads, hence their name. Although you can still buy woods that are made of wood, they are also available made from metal or graphite. These clubs have a larger, thicker head than their iron counterparts, and are meant to hit the ball for long distances. These are also numbered from 1-5. As with the irons, the woods will hit the ball for differing distances and you must know the performance of each before real play. Remember that woods are not meant for accuracy however, but distance alone, so you will not be able to make the selections with the woods that you can with irons.

Putters

These clubs are meant for those shots from the green. The shape of the putter’s head will keep the ball from being lifted into the air; the goal for the putt is to roll the ball gently toward the hole after all. Beginners may find themselves helped by putters that have a line along the top to aid with lining their shot up, other than that the basic design does not change a whole lot.

Utility Clubs

There are some clubs that are meant for only certain shots, and do not qualify as an iron, a wood or a putter. These clubs can include a sand wedge, pitch wedge or lob wedge. Some experts will frown on some of the more narrowly defined clubs, especially since it might be a better idea to use more irons in your bag than having a club that can only be used in one specific moment.

The Types of Shots and Some Basic Tips for Hitting Them

Chip and Run

This shot is close to the green, but not quite on it. If the putt is the shot that is the most accurate in all of golf, this one is number two. Use the chip and run if you miss the green and end up in the nearby grass. A well-practiced golfer can actually hit the hole with the chip and run, so it is worth the practice. You can use any of the irons for the chip and run and your selection will be based on how far you actually are from the green when you take that initial shot. For a practice situation, start with the five. The chip and run will use basically your putting grip and stance, making it easier to learn than if it had a whole new set of guidelines.

The Pitch Shot

Just like the putt and the chip and run, the pitch shot is an important part of you short game. This is the shot you will need to use if you are close to the green and need to hit a high ball with quick stopping. This is also a good shot if you are working around obstacles. The pitch shot needs a smooth swing – the pace should be nice and slow. The club selection might be simplified by the fact that there is one with the right title, “the pitch wedge”. The grip you should use would be your full swing, regular golf grip.

Playing from the Bunker

Of course, your main goal in life is to avoid the bunkers and other hazards, but unfortunately that is not always going to happen. Remember, if you are hitting from a fairway bunker, you need to hit the ball as cleanly as possible- high and hard enough to get back out of the trap that you are in. Too soft and too low, you will hit the top or lip of the bunker and watch sheepishly as the ball gently rolls back down to you. Beginner golfers may want to stick with the lower numbered irons, more skilled golfers can try this shot with the higher wood. The grip should be a regular grip with the minor adjustment of gripping down one inch. Your stance must be adjusted to balance well in the loose sand.

Trouble Shots (Hooks, Slice, and Other Golf No-No’s)

Every golfer has an issue. Some hook every third shot. Some slice on the even number holes. Some will hit the ball far too high to be effective in any way. The only way to correct these issues is practice and lots of it.

The Sky Ball (Fountain Ball)

A tee shot that heads up into the blue sky and then plops down without gaining any ground at all is a sky ball. The most likely cause for the sky ball is too much impact on the side of your driver, or too much downward force at the end of the swing. Both can be remedied with practice.

Slicing

A ball that slices starts going toward the left of your target and then ends drifting to the right. The player that slices usually overcompensates their swing, making the shot drift far off course. To remedy a slice, get your hands working harder in the swing. A bit more of a twist in your body will change the angle that your swing makes contact with the ball. This will also insure that to actually make the swing, your hands and arms are going to have to get more deeply involved.

Hooking

Hooks are the opposite of the slice. They start to the right and end up finishing to the left. And because they are so opposite of the slicer, the hook may be caused by too much hand action. Just as the slicer must learn to use more hand and less body action, those who are prone to the hook shot, must learn to use less hand and more body.

The Push

The push is a shot that takes off to the right and keep heading that way. The reason may be not enough body rotation on the downswing, allowing the arms to kind of swing to the right- the push.

The Pull

The opposite shot of the push, is well, the pull. This shot starts left and stays left. The cause is the club that pulls across the body during the downswing, or when your shoulders open too fast. Check your alignment, your weight shift and grip pressure to correct the pull.

And Now, Some Totally Random Golf Terms and Jargon (Some Very Amusing)

Ace: A hole-in-one. Slaps on the back all around. And hey, guess who gets to buy the house a round of drinks?

Double Eagle: Three under par on one hole- a dream come true for most golfers. The last moment of life for others, as they die from the utter shock of accomplishing it.

Albatross: The Brits term for the double eagle.

Eagle: two under par

Birdie: Score of one under par on a hole.

Par: Score equal to the holes published rank

Bogey: One stroke over par on one hole.

Double Bogey: two over par on the hole.

Triple Bogey: Yep, you guessed it, three over par on one hole. If you walk away from the green on hole number one with a triple bogey, it is going to be a long, long day of golf!

Banana Ball: Same as a slice (golfer’s are funny, aren’t they?)

Blast: This one is kind of self-explanatory. It is a pretty wicked shot from a bunker that “blasts” up a lot of sand.

Regardless of how badly you play one day, there is always another day to start again- a bad day on the links is still better than a good day nearly anywhere else. The right equipment, some basic lessons and a beautiful course can have you enjoying a new hobby that will relax you, keep you healthy, strong and fit.

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