If you’re new to golf, you’re going to want to learn some of the basic rules of the game before you get out onto the course. The most important rules revolve around scoring (birdies, pars, bogies, etc.) and penalty strokes (water hazards and lost balls).
However, beyond some of the formal scorekeeping and penalty-counting rules, golf is largely a game of informal strategy (i.e. club selection, shot choices, risk v. reward, etc.) and perhaps most importantly, etiquette.
Odds are, after you play golf for a while, you’ll know more about the informal strategy and etiquette, than you will actual rules of the game - and that’s what makes it so much fun to play.
Below are a few important pieces of golf strategy and etiquette that will make you look and feel confident like a pro out on the course… even if you’re just getting started!
Dress appropriately. This means that you should dress comfortably for both the weather as well as in your own personal style - look good, feel good, play good - right?
However, if you’re a beginner, it also means don’t feel the need to spend a fortune on golf attire that the pros wear. For starters, it’s expensive - but if you’re new to the sport, you may look a little ridiculous wearing top-of-the-line duds while you fish your ball out of every water hazard on the course...
Golf Club Set Makeup. No, this is not suggesting you put lipstick on your putter. Golf Club Set Makeup refers to the combination of clubs you have in your bag between your woods, irons, save clubs, wedges and putter.
If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to have 14 clubs in your bag. Start with a driver, 3 and/or 5 wood, a 5-, 7- and 9-iron, sand and pitching wedges and a putter. From there, you’ll be able to figure out your game and what other clubs you may need to add along the way.
Stretch like you mean it. You may be in great shape, but a golf shot tends to use muscle groups that you don’t work out that often. For that reason, it’s important to take some time to do some good stretches first for your neck, shoulders, torso, hips and legs. Then start with slow, reduced-range warm-up shots to gradually get into the groove.
If you come out swinging with all your might, you may tweak something before you get a chance to take your first shot.
Honours. Except for the first hole (when you manually determine who will shoot first in your group), the person with the lowest score on the previous hole gets “honours” and gets to tee off first. If there is a tie on a hole, refer back to the previous hole’s scores (and so on).
Furthest Shoots First. Whoever is furthest from the hole should always shoot first. While this may seem like a polite thing to do, it’s also a covert tactic.
The obvious reason furthest shoots first is you get to the furthest ball first as you make your to the green, but it’s also meant to help those that are closer see how your ball plays (i.e. how it roles on the green, any unseen hazards, strong winds at play, etc.).
Keeping Pace & Ready Golf. Keeping up a good pace during your round is important, so that you’re not the person (or group) that’s holding up all of the groups behind you. You should always be about 1-2 shots behind the group in front of you.
If you can’t see the group in front of you and have golfers waiting behind you, it’s ok to do away with honours or ‘Furthest Shoots First’ and just play ‘Ready Golf’ - where whoever is ready to shoot can fire when ready!
Search Party. You just hit your ball right down the middle of the fairway (good for you!), but your friend hit theirs into the fescue. Instead of going to marvel at how great a second shot you have, go help them find their ball!
You’ll appreciate it when they reciprocate the favour later on and you’ll probably find a few new balls in the process!
Stay Out of the Way. While you should only proceed down the fairway as far as the furthest shot in the group, sometimes it will make sense to go find your ball a little further up.
If that’s the case, never be in front of (or even in the close periphery) of the person shooting. Not only is it potentially dangerous for you, it can also be incredibly distracting for the person shooting. So, stay out of the way!
Pull the Pin. Removing the pin from the hole when you’re on the putting green is great etiquette, however, you don’t want to pull it too prematurely.
Wait until everyone is on the putting green before you pull the pin out - and even if everyone is on, if someone is relatively far away, it is polite to ask them if they’d like it in or out.
Then, once you take it out, place it gently out of the way of all other players putting lines.
Don’t Cross the Line. While we’re on putting lines, make sure that you never walk on the line between someone’s ball and the hole. While the act alone can be considered down right disrespectful for certain people, the other reason you don’t want to cross the line is that if the ground is wet, you could actually leave a footprint in someones putting line and impact the direction of their ball.
So if you remember anything, remember this - Don’t Cross the Line!
Post Round Hand Shake. Once the last member of your group has sunk the final putt of the round, it’s both tradition and etiquette for all players to shake every other player's hand. Not only because golf has been considered a gentlemen’s (and women’s) game for centuries, but also because it leaves any disputes or personal issues that arose during the game, out on the course.
If you take the time to learn these simple - yet oh so important - pieces of golf strategy and etiquette before you get to the course, you'll be an all-star in the eyes of every single person you play with - regardless of your score.Looking for more ways to improve your game? Make sure you check out Back 2 Basics Golf for Rangefinders, Putting Mirrors, Apparel and more!