After 27 years of coaching golf and teaching beginners I thought I would share with you the top 10 list of ideas and advice not to follow.
Beginners Golf Clubs – Do not buy a full set of clubs from eBay. Buying golf clubs from eBay or from any online store can quickly become costly and hold back your improvement. I am not suggesting a beginner would not find a fantastic set of clubs at a great price on online websites and auctions, but you must consider what type of golfer the clubs you intend to buy are designed for. Avoid – Blade Irons – Stiff or Extra Stiff shafted clubs – Custom Fitted Clubs – Drivers with less than 11 degrees of loft. Instead buy a half set of clubs i.e.: – all the odd or even numbered irons; a wedge and sand iron; a 4# hybrid and either a 11+ lofted driver and 5 wood; or just a 3 wood. It will take on average 2 years before you get the consistency and understanding of the distance each club will hit the ball. At this point, you will need to fill in the gaps (to hit the desired distance) and invest in a full set of clubs.
Get Beginner Lessons from a PGA Professional – The one thing all golfers wish is that they had invested in more lessons as a beginner. The learning stage of golf can be tricky and sometimes not very rewarding. However, with the right foundation (like a house) you can build your golf swing to reach your potential. With a bad foundation, it will fall apart over time. Investing early will make golf a game for life and with a good technique, golfers in their 80’s and 90’s can still play and enjoy the game to a very good standard.
Learn to Swing – Beginners get obsessed by the golf ball, as in all ball sports. The ball gets in the way of the club swinging, if the ball is in the right spot it will be hit, if it is in the wrong place it will not. A consistent swinging movement of the club (that returns to the same position every time) will create the rhythm of the swing. In a pressured environment it this rhythm that is important to focus on. This helps to blank out all other thoughts and emotions and achieve consistency.
Do Not Try and Hit the Ball – The more your eyes focus on the ball the harder it is to strike it. It’s like all still ball sports: a football penalty; a pressure snooker shot; a netball shooter; and a rugby goal kicker. The players must all get in ‘the zone’. This is the mind focusing out of the pressured environment and following the well-rehearsed routine, that the sportsperson trusts to deliver the desired result. Similarly, in a pressured environment in golf, beginners will try too hard and focus on hitting the golf ball, rather than on their set up routines and committing to their golf swing.
DO NOT KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN – One of the most over used and most destructive comments I hear regularly is a friend or partner saying, ‘You lifted your head’. This in most occasions is correct, however; there is a cause and effect going on – your legs and spine angle control the height of your head, not the head alone. A good weight transfer, triggered by the correct hip movement, makes it nearly impossible to lift your head, as your spine maintains its starting angle. However, if a golfer tries to keep their head down this limits the hip and weight movement, hence making the spine straighten causing the head to lift. This makes the ‘you have lifted your head,’ cycle commence!
DO NOT KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL – I advise golfers to look towards the ball but not to concentrate on it. By focusing the attention on the ball, the movement of the body and the concentration on the swing is restricted. A common exercise we use is to get golfers to swing the club with their eyes closed. By doing this, firstly the golfer learns not ‘to listen’ to what their eyes are telling them but to ‘listen to’ the feedback their body is giving them. Secondly, it is to build a tempo and rhythm of the swing for the golfer to concentrate on.
Do Not Go onto the Course Too Early – However tempting it is to go on the course with a friend to ‘try golf’ I wouldn’t recommend it. This nearly always ends in disaster. Golf is a technical game that needs consistency, with dynamic speed. The odds of repeating such a movement is very slight and people get frustrated with not hitting the ball. They become embarrassed by their performance and quit golf before properly trying it. Beginners are far better to get a few lessons or attend a golf school, learn the basics and see what they are trying to do This gives a positive mental approach and targets to follow.
Find a Golf Buddy to Learn With – Beginners often think people that play golf are better than they really are. Every golfer hits bad shots, in fact terrible shots, but the better the golfer, the less are the odds of this happening. Try and keep your expectations in check with starting with a fellow beginner, so you have someone to base your performance on. It is easy to compare yourself with someone who has been playing all their life and get a skewed view of your progress.
Remember What it is Like to Learn – Expectation goes up quicker than ability. It always makes me smile when you share the experience of someone hitting their first proper golf shot. I have had beginners shout with joy seeing their first shot struck sweetly and fly into the air. This is where the addiction begins. Frustration quickly follows the beginner’s ecstasy, as they strive to get that feeling again. Like all drugs, the more you have it the more you want it. Keep in check your expectations but enjoy the addiction!
Have Fun, It’s Only a Game – Always keep in mind golf is a game and should be enjoyed by all. Speed of play does not matter, let faster golfers through. The number of shots you take doesn’t matter, as long as you leave the course smiling. Control your expectations and enjoy the company you are with, the fresh air and the beautiful scenery. As this is what makes golf such an amazing sport!