Golf is a great game to learn and to play and like any other sport, it takes time and patience to develop the necessary skills to become proficient at it. Part of the allure of the game is the learning process and let me say it is not for everyone. During this learning process you will experience all emotions and in the end you will have a lot of good memories and good times.
Generally speaking, the point of the game is to put a 1.68 inch golf ball in a 4 ¼ inch hole hundreds of yards away in the least amount of strokes while striking the ball with a golf club. Like in any sport, there are a set of rules that go with it. Some are meant to help you around the course and others involve penalties and each player is responsible for following and when necessary penalizing yourself - this is one of the many aspects that makes this game unique. Oh, and there is also the unspoken rules also known as: etiquette.
Ultimately this game is meant to be fun: fun while you are learning, fun while you are playing and fun while you are not having fun.
The most basic technical skill you need is the ability to strike a golf ball with a golf club towards the hole. Your tools consist of long, medium and short distance clubs as well as a putter. Unlike popular belief, direction is much more important that distance, in other words, it is not as important that you hit the ball far as it is that you hit the ball in the general direction of where you are aiming: towards the hole. As you improve your ability to strike the ball, your distance will also improve. There is a mental aspect to the game that needs to be learned as well.
A golf pro once told me, when I was first introduced to the game in the University of Utah, that it takes four years to become a golfer. To be honest, I think he was being optimistic; I’ve been playing this game for more than four years, and I am still learning the game. Actually, let me rephrase: I have become a golfer AND I am still learning the game.
I’d like to define a golfer: It is the person who plays the game by the rules, with purpose and aims to learn and improve this craft. Aims to complete the task at hand, ego aside, honestly and accepts the outcome of his effort, respects the course and the people around him, including other players, course staff and crew.
Take the time to learn the course you are about to play. Use a rangefinder or yardage book if you don’t know the course. Plan your hole and the clubs you will use to get to the green. Take the time to learn your clubs. Know how far you hit each one of your clubs.
Keep a handicap, and play from the appropriate tee box for your playing ability, this will make the game more fun. While you are learning to strike the ball, go to par 3 courses. A full size course can be a daunting task for a beginner and not much fun. Practice more than you play, and when you do so, always aim at something. Whether a flag in the driving range, tree on a field or the hole in the putting green.
Learn the Rules of the game. Read about golf etiquette. Understand the markings of the course (white stakes, red stakes, yellow stakes, and ground under repair), and most importantly try not to lose your ball.
The golf course is a big open space with carefully manicured tee boxes, fairways, sand bunkers and greens. It takes a crew of about 25 people working 7 days a week to keep it healthy and in good playing conditions. As a helping hand to the maintenance crew, leave the course as you found it, better yet, help them keep the course beautiful by repairing or replacing divots, fixing ball marks on the green and raking sand bunkers.
Follow the local rules of the course you play, mind the pace of play and follow the cart rules.