Learning to Play Golf
Golf is a sport for every generation, a game that can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female.
Because it is a sport for life, people of all ages are turning to golf for the first time and attempting to master a pursuit that can be highly frustrating.
Learning to play golf can be a bitter sweet experience. Even those who have played the game for some time will testify that golf is game they are continually trying to conquer.
As with any other pursuit, learning to play golf to a reasonable standard will require patience and practice.
A common mistake for newcomers to the sport is to wander on to the nearest golf course armed with their brand new clubs in an attempt to play eighteen holes.
This is a mistake.
Thrashing around the golf course without first learning the basics will surely prove to be a very demoralising experience.
This will only put undue pressure on the novice golfer, especially when there are experienced players in the same group, or worse still, playing in the group behind.
No-one wants to play behind a beginner who will most likely take more than a hundred strokes to complete the round.
So what is the alternative for the learner?
The Practice Range
Anyone who wants to play golf for the first time would be well advised to begin on the practice range, preferably being assisted by someone who understands the rudiments of the game.
The beginner will feel more at ease with a bucket of balls in a driving range bay than on a golf course.
This is the perfect setting for a person who needs to learn the basics of golf including the grip, stance, alignment, ball position and swing tempo.
The value of the practice range is that you play one shot after the other and have the opportunity to respond immediately to your previous swing, making any necessary adjustments.
It would do no harm for the beginner to have several sessions on the practice range before venturing on to the golf course for the first time.
During these practice sessions, emphasis should be placed on mastering the basics of the golf swing and the first of these is the grip.
How you hold the club will determine how well you play the game so it would be wise to do this correctly at the very beginning.
How should you grip the club? Assuming you are a right-handed player, take the club in your left hand so that it runs in a line from the middle of your index finger to about the middle of your palm.
Don’t hold the club all in the fingers or all in the hand. It is a combination of the two.
When you place your right hand on the club, entwine your little finger around the left index finger and feel the club more in your fingers.
Your left thumb will now sit snugly inside your right hand. This will give you a feeling of having your hands working together as opposed to a baseball type grip where the hands can separate.
Most proficient golfers have what is called a “strong” grip.
This means for the right-handed golfer that the hands will be turned slightly to the right so that when you look down after taking your stance, you should see a few knuckles on your left hand.
When your hands are turned to the left, this is called a “weak” grip and usually results in slicing the ball.
Having taken the correct grip, try to avoid gripping the club too tightly as in a kind of death grip.
The grip should feel soft and there should be no tensing of the muscles in your forearms. This will help you to swing smoothly and should result in greater power.
The Proper Stance
Taking the correct stance is another important factor in learning to play the game of golf.
How you stand at address will affect other parts of the swing, such as your backswing, the downswing and how you make contact with the ball.
Some golfers become too rigid and have their legs almost straight which only serves to restrict the backswing, limiting the degree of turn they can make.
Others are almost bent double, reaching for the ball, again interfering with the swing path.
Much will depend on a person’s stature, but generally speaking, standing upright with the knees slightly bent and leaning forward a touch from the waist will put you in a good position.
Closely connected to your stance is how you align your body to the target.
It is an established fact that the majority of golfers slice the ball regularly and one of the reasons for this is poor alignment.
A common mistake you will see in many players is the tendency to align their feet properly to the target but not the shoulders.
It is a natural tendency to open the shoulders to the left (for right-handed golfers) when looking at the target.
Open shoulders at address will naturally cause a player to slice the ball with a resultant loss of distance.
Another key element in learning to play golf is to establish the correct ball position for you.
Those who are new to the game will tend to play the ball too far forward in the stance as this often feels more comfortable.
It is important though to find the correct ball position for your swing and this can be determined by swinging first without a ball and taking note of where your swing bottoms out.
If the ball is too far forward in the stance, this will force you to open your shoulders at address and cause you to pull the ball or slice it.
Experiment with the ball in the middle of your stance with the short irons and make adjustments as necessary for the longer clubs.
Learning to play golf can be a thrilling and rewarding experience. The key to playing well is to make sure you have established the fundamentals on the practice range before setting off into the big wide world of the golf course.
So if you have not already taken up the challenge of learning to play the great game of golf, think about doing so now. You will never regret playing a sport that will last a lifetime.