Beginner's Guide to Golf

What every new golfer should know when picking up the game.

So you're interested in learning how to play golf, but aren't sure where to start? You're in luck! This is your go-to list for everything golf: golf terms, tips, and a quick guide to many of our local courses. A one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this exciting, yet nerve-wracking sport. So, bookmark this page and get comfy – the Central PA Golf Guide is going to help you learn about the game we all love.

Cliff-notes version of the history of golf

Golf has a long history, so we won't bore you with all the details, so here's the important quick-hitting stuff. Similar versions of the game can be traced back hundreds of years, but the modern, 18-hole version started in Scotland in the 1400’s. The first recorded mention of golf was when it was banned by Parliament in 1457 because it was distracting people from military training. We assume the Scots preferred a personal battle with a stick and ball than fighting other people one involving swords. Fortunately the game survived and people have been enjoying the game ever since. 

Golf Terms

There are many terms used while playing golf. We've provided a few of the more common ones below. 

  • Tee Box - the area where you play your first shot of the hole
  • Tee – the wooden peg you place your golf ball on at the start of the hole 
  • Fairway – the central part of the golf hole that leads to the green
  • Green – the soft, plush ground surrounding the hole
  • Pin/Flag – sometimes these terms are interchangeable. This is your target for every hole.
  • Rough – the wild area on either side of the fairway - often filled with trees and long grass.
  • Bunker – a sunken area on the golf course, often filled with sand. Also called a Sand Trap.
  • Hazard – streams, ponds, bunkers, trees - anything that comes between you and successfully getting the golf ball in the hole
  • Stroke – any swing made in an attempt to hit the ball
  • Scoring:
    • Your score is your total number of strokes for the course minus the "Par" for the course.
    • Ace – a hole in one
    • Eagle – 2 strokes under par
    • Birdie – 1 stroke under par (sometimes called a double eagle)
    • Par – the standard number of strokes it should take to get the golf ball from the tee to the hole
    • Bogey – 1 stroke above par
    • Double Bogey – 2 strokes above par
    • Triple Bogey – 3 strokes above par
  • Handicap – A system used to rate the average number of strokes above par a player scores in one round of golf.

Golf Clubs and Golf Gear

Sure, good golf clubs and top of the line golf gear could help you improve your game, but it shouldn’t be a crutch you rely on, especially when you are new to golf. Your first set of golf clubs are likely to get scuffed, banged up, and possibly even broken, so don’t spend a fortune on a nice set until you are more skilled.

New golfers should find decent, mid-price range clubs. Golf clubs for intermediate players differ from those that new golfers should buy, and even intermediate golf clubs are vastly different from the ones the pros buy. Keep in mind that there is always the possibility that you will end up not liking the sport or not doing very well in it, so splurging on a set of golf clubs in the beginning is not ideal.

The professional golfers we've talked to recommend the following tips for beginner golfers:

  • Ask a friend if you can borrow their golf clubs.
  • Rent golf clubs from the golf course clubhouse.
  • Buy used golf clubs from sellers on eBay, Craigslist, or a local marketplace.
  • Don’t buy an entire set. Start with a few basic clubs: a wood (driver), two or three irons, a sand wedge, and a putter.
  • Don’t forget: there are an array of golf club numbers to choose from, so do your research!

Central PA Golf Lessons and Instruction

Golf lessons are important if you want to actually be a successful golfer and play a great game. For the most part, golf for beginners is not intuitive. You must train yourself and your body to do things that do not come naturally, and without someone there to correct mistakes and give guidance, you will develop bad habits.

Most of the golf courses in our area provide golf lessons with their golf professional. Pricing and availability vary from place to place, so it is important to research each location and find out what might be best for you.

Professional golf lessons are better than any information we can provide in this beginner’s guide to golf, so get out there with a pro and learn golf by actually playing.

Rules of Golf

Golf has a lot of official rules and unofficial rules as well. It is always good to have a firm grasp on the basic rules and then discuss group rules when playing with friends.

We'll be adding a series of blog posts on our blog over the summer, but for the full list, check out the official rules of golf at the USGA website.

Golf Etiquette

Even beginners should know some of the key etiquette rules for the course. Golf etiquette will change depending on where you are and who you are playing with, but for the most part there are a few undeniable standards shared between all who play golf:

  • If you have a tee time, show up on time.
  • Don’t talk during someone’s backswing.
  • Don’t walk through someone else’s line (the line from their ball to the hole).
  • Don’t hit the ball into the group ahead of you.
  • Don’t get angry after every shot that isn’t perfect.
  • Golf carts are not to be used as all-terrain vehicles. 

These are the unwritten rules that you may not learn at your central PA golf lessons, but they are as important as any other rules you may come across at your local golf course.

Tips for Beginner Golfers

Finally, here are a few tips and reminders for beginners to keep in mind:

  • Golf is a difficult sport at first; be persistent if you really want to learn it.
  • Do not play difficult courses or from difficult tees until you are ready.
  • Enroll in golf lessons at a professional golf school or from a golf professional at a local course.
  • Aim, don’t just swing.
  • Be patient. Golf can be frustrating at times and people play at different paces.
  • Have fun!

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