Last Updated – June 23, 2023
Whether you are just starting out, or have been playing golf for years, we are always looking for some tips to improve our game. I’ll share my top 7 tips for beginners, but players who have been around the game for a while might benefit as well.
I’ll cover every part of the game, and share some references to help you improve and enjoy the sport in the process.
Top 7 Tips for Beginners
1 – Have Fun
One of the best golf tips for beginners, or anyone for that matter, is to simply have fun!
Golf can be an extremely challenging game. I think you have to ask yourself, why do you play golf? Maybe you are doing it for social interaction with friends or family. Possibly to get some exercise.
No matter your reason, it’s likely other parts of your life have a level of stress that golf can help you get away from. But if you don’t have fun while you’re golfing, you’ll miss out on many of its benefits.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very competitive and it can be incredibly frustrating to shank a ball into the woods. Believe me, I know! I’ve never thrown a club or anything too crazy, but I have been known to drop an F-bomb every now and then. Ok, maybe a bit more than “every now and then”.
I grew up playing golf and often times I “feel like” I should be better than I actually am. This has led to a lot of frustration. But I finally realized that it was foolish to continue doing something that only frustrated me and stressed me out even more after a long week of work.
I ended up reading a great book. The Four Foundations of Golf, by Jon Sherman. It changed my outlook and my approach to the game. I started enjoying it more and just having fun. This resulted in a snowball effect where I started scoring better and having more fun because of it.
Bottom line – If you are going to put the time and energy into an activity outside of everything else you’ve got going on in your life, shouldn’t it be fun?
2 – Manage Your Expectations
I know I said golf tips for beginners, but this one applies to any amateur player, ANY!
If you are able to manage your expectations, I believe it will contribute to keeping the game fun. If you have ever watched professional golf, you’ll see one great shot after another.
The problem with that, however, I believe this creates a false impression. They don’t show many of the bad shots, and we tend to forget them as a viewer.
If you are new and trying to break 100, I talk a bit more about course management in this post.
Professional Golf Stats
What if you are a measly 20 – 30 yards from the hole, how close to the pin do you think you should put your ball?
Within 10 feet? Sounds reasonable, right? It was only 20 – 30 yards after all.
According to PGA Tour stats from 2022, the tour average from that distance was 9′ 4″. These are some of the best golfers in the world!
It is a very difficult game, expecting to put every ball on the green or in the fairway just isn’t reasonable, not even for the pros.
I have two recommendations to help you manage your expectations. Both of these have helped me a great deal.
Follow Lou Stagner on Twitter. @LouStagner. Lou is a total data nerd and is always providing interesting stats on amateur vs pro golfers. You’ll get some helpful perspective.
If you are inclined to spend a few bucks, The Four Foundations of Golf from Jon Sherman is a great read, not only for expectations but for overall game improvement.
3 – Choose the Right Equipment
This one may not seem obvious, especially if you are just starting out. Equipment is manufactured with specifications that vary based on the desired outcome.
With the wrong equipment, your hitting accuracy may suffer, or you may end up spending way more than you actually need to.
Premium golf balls are designed for maximum distance off the tee, plus great control around the green. Most golfers are not skilled enough to take advantage of the short-game spin premium balls produce.
The price of a premium ball can be 3x higher than a very high-quality ball that is designed more for beginners and mid-level golfers. I’ve done a lot of analysis on golf ball performance, you may be interested in my review of the best golf balls for beginners.
Learn more about why golf balls matter!
A driver, for example, is generally really good at either producing distance or providing forgiveness. Meaning, if you don’t hit the ball perfectly on a forgiving club, it may still go pretty straight.
On the other hand, if you have a driver that is made for extra distance and lacks some of that forgiveness, you could be all over the place. Knowing which club to choose can be overwhelming.
So, I would recommend either getting properly fitted, or at least doing enough research to point you in the right direction.
Related – Best golf grips for sweaty hands
In general, new golfers should use more forgiving clubs.
Related – When to use what golf club
4 – Work on the Fundamentals
Working on the fundamentals of golf can be its own book! So I’ll try to keep this a bit short and focus on the high points.
It all starts with your grip, gripping the club properly and consistently is critical. There are plenty of videos with professional instruction to help. Learn it and practice it.
Stance and Alignment
Get into the same position and posture every time and use an alignment rod to train yourself how to setup properly.
Some golfers will hit a ball offline from their target and think, well I must have pushed or pulled that. Then they “fix” it. But, they may have actually been lined up exactly where they hit it.
Now you’re making adjustments to your swing when it was actually an alignment issue. Practicing with an alignment rod eliminates that variable, and helps you get repetitions where your brain learns “what good looks like”
Learn your distance for each club!
There are obviously a ton of factors that go into how far away from the hole you will be after any given shot. But, one of the easiest of those factors to control is choosing the correct club. Bonus – Click the link in the title above for a swing speed calculator and a full chart of estimated golf club distances.
Most amateur golfers grossly overestimate how far they can hit the ball. They hit one 150-yard shot with their 9-Iron and think that is their 9-Iron distance. But in reality, their average is more like 130. Get to know your club distances, your REAL distances!
Master your short game and incremental distances
You may hear the saying “drive for show, putt for dough”. Well, that’s not necessarily as important as golfers once thought.
People will argue that you use your putter more than any other club. While that may be true, usually about 18 of those putter strokes are from less than 3 feet. It doesn’t take loads of practice with your putter to get decent at making a 3-foot putt.
I think it is important to spend time on your putting, but you will likely benefit far more from practicing your approach shots. How hard do you hit a 50-yard shot? How about 75-Yards? 30? Getting comfortable with those incremental yardages can do a lot for your game.
5 – Enjoy the Process – Balance
If you are a competitive person, you’ll experience frustration and possibly even hate toward the game of golf at some point. I have had weeks where I go play Tuesday and am hitting everything really well, I win some money and think – I’ve finally got it figured out.
Then Thursday rolls around and I’m buying everyone beer, and not because I hit a hole-in-one!
Simply practicing some meditation for your golf game can go a long way.
Establishing a consistent pre-shot routine can put you into a mental space that is very positive for your next golf swing. Once you’ve hit enough balls, you’ll develop some muscle memory.
It’s important to remember and savor the good shots! When you get into that routine, your putting your body and mind into a familiar place, so no matter what is going on around you, the routine itself can put you into a good place, your happy place!
Personally, I use the “think box/play box” method. One of the all-time greatest golfers Annika Sorenstam explains it very well in this video.
Practice – Play – Adjust – Repeat
It is really important to balance your expectation, your practice, and your play. If you plan on just going to the driving range for months before jumping on a golf course, you’ll miss out. You really need to start playing to get a good feel for the game.
On the other hand, if you simply want to play golf and skip practice, you cannot expect to improve as much as your potential. I’m not saying you need to spend hours at the driving range, but if you don’t work on the fundamentals, you’ll certainly make it harder.
Consider this – In an 18-hole round of golf, how many times do you hit driver? 12 times, 13 maybe? So in 4 – 4.5 hours, you got 12ish repetitions with your driver. Do you think those repetitions, spread over a 4-hour window will help you hit your driver better?
If you want to improve, spend a little time on the putting green, in the chipping area, and on the driving range. Then make sure you are having fun on the course and applying what you’ve learned from your practice.
If you are struggling with hitting the ball fat, here is a resource that may help you understand where to focus on the golf ball during your swing.
If you decide to get lessons, I highly recommend it, follow their advice!
6 – Intentional Practice
When you go to the driving range, you can’t just take a full swing with every club blasting them down the range and expect to benefit to your fullest potential. Instead, be intentional with it. Pick a target, pick a landing zone, pick a shot shape, then execute.
You’re certainly not always going to execute, but you will get a heck of a lot more out of it than aimlessly smashing balls down range.
Have a plan going into your practice session. Maybe you want to work on hitting incremental distances. 30/50/75/100…don’t just hit each of those yardages. Hit some with a higher arc, some lower, try a fade or draw. Each shot should have a “plan”!
7 – Be a Student of the Game
I am not saying you need to memorize the USGA rule book.
Understanding the rules and etiquette will get you more comfortable on the course and create a more enjoyable experience. Managing the course is really about your play, and how you plan to handle the next shot.
Here are some tips on the mental aspect of golf, from a former Olympic Athlete.
Know the Rules
I have been golfing for well over 30 years and there are still a ton of rules I don’t fully understand. So I am not saying you need to be an expert, but you certainly need to know the basics.
Honestly, if you’ve continued reading this monster of a blog post, you’ll probably have no problem with this recommendation…Take 30 minutes and read the USGA rules and interpretations.
Again, no need to be an expert, but get familiar with them. This will help you navigate the game and put you in a more familiar place on the course resulting in better performance.
The person furthest from the hole hits first, with exceptions if you are playing ready golf.
Play ready golf!
The player who had the best score on the previous hole has the honors to tee off first. If that’s you and you’re not ready, tell your group – “ready golf” and let them go.
Fix your ball marks!
Replace your divots!
If you are playing slow, let faster players behind you play through.
Do not spend more than a couple of minutes trying to find your ball.
Be ready for your next shot. I.e. If your group is teeing off, don’t pull your driver out after everyone else has already hit.
Be quiet when other players are hitting.
Respect the golf course, your equipment, and other golfers
Don’t walk in a players line on the green
Be mindful of where you are walking/driving. I.e. If your golf ball goes into another hole’s fairway, don’t just drive out there, make sure you are not interfering with other golfers.
There are probably 90 more pieces of advice here, but this is a great start. Just be a decent human being and you’ll be a welcome addition to any golf course!
If it’s your first time, don’t be afraid to ask someone, many golfers are happy to help!
Understanding things as simple as on course yardage markers can help you speed up play.
Understanding the game includes how you manage your play. It’s not always about simply smashing it as far as you can.
Here is an example – Let’s say I am on a 350-yard par 4. I can drive the golf ball 300 yards.
When I look at the fairway, at about 275 yards it gets very narrow and it is surrounded by sand traps. I could hit my regular 300-yard drive, leaving myself with 50 yards to go. But the risk I’ll go in the sand is significant.
I’d rather play from 75 yards in the fairway than 50 yards in the sand.
Another example might be your approach into the green.
Let’s say that if I am on the left side of the fairway, I’ll need to hit over a sand trap to reach the green. But if I am on the right side of the fairway, I’ll be hitting over all grass to attack the flag.
Wouldn’t you rather go over all grass just in case you come up short? I would! But you needed to plan for that shot.
Golf Tips for Beginners – Final Thoughts
Here are some great tips for the ladies!
I hope these tips are useful for you. I realize the majority of them are mental. Things that you can control without taking a golf swing. Many golfers, even those who have been playing for years overlook several of these.
If you are a beginner and you follow just half of this advice, you’ll probably be better off than 65% of other golfers. Get comfortable with your own swing and technique.
One last tip – don’t overthink it, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Best of luck on the golf course!