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For Beginners
Where to Start, for those New to Golf

What should you start working on, if you are new to golf?For Beginners, Start Here

Now that you've committed to learning the game and have acquired some equipment, how do you go about getting started? Golf is such an exciting journey to embark on, but it can be a bit overwhelming. There's equipment, rules, etiquette, technique, scoring, mental game, fitness, booking tee times and of course lots of learning! Certainly you want to be "ahead of the game" and start out on the right track to avoid having to go backwards and unlearn some bad habits, otherwise you would not be reading this article on at this moment!

While I cover rules, equipment, etiquette, technique and so on in many other articles, this article is designed to guide you on how and what to practice as a rank beginner.

Locate a Practice Facility

After you get equipment, the first thing you need to do is locate and get comfortable with a practice facility. By that I mean find a place that is convenient and not intimidating to you. Stop by, look around, talk to the people at the counter about hours and deals or packages on range balls and check out the clientele. If you deem it someplace where you'd like to hang out or don't have any other options, check to make sure that they have a practice green and bunker as well. Most facilities do have both, however I have heard from time to time that some players have to split time at 2 different locations to get a full practice session completed. They may like one location for the full swing as it may have better mats and grass, but doesn't have a green so they have to practice short game separately.

Get Ready to Practice Effectively

Now that you have acquired equipment and have your practice destination take a moment to sit back and set realistic practice goals. In other words, you need to practice enough that you will improve, but don't want to set goals you will never reach and end up disappointed in yourself. Just like a weight loss or exercise program, you need to devote the time and stick to it. How much time is enough? Like anything else it depends on the individual. Everyone learns at different rates and has their own level of hand-eye coordination and athletic talent. I would say for most working individuals setting a goal of 3-4 practice sessions a week is attainable. Practice sessions will typically run 1-2 hours so you will want to schedule accordingly.

Divide Practice Time Appropriately between Full Swing and Short Game

At this point since you don't have any weaknesses in your game (you don't have a game yet) it would be wise and again put you ahead of the game if you get in the habit of devoting equal time to your short game. I, like other teachers, would tell you that the short game is 65% of your score, but to make things equal and again realistic (we all know how badly you want to learn to hit those long shots) starting out 50/50 should suffice. That means if you go out for an hour, thirty minutes will be working on full swing (irons, hybrids, fairway woods and driver) and thirty minutes will be spent working on short game (putting, chipping, pitching and sand).

Focus on Making Solid Contact with Shortened Swing

I have an article dedicated to setting realistic goals for results, so I won't go into detail here, but know that as a beginner your goals should be very small. The first goal is simply always to just make contact every time. You want to make sure that you eliminate whiffs and wasted swings as that will only embarrass you more and pile on the strokes on your score card. To learn to hit the ball every time and make square contact from your putter up through the driver you will want to start with an abbreviated swing. Don't jump to a full swing. Start small and after proven success work your way up. When you've got a big swing going and the club moving all over the place and at high speed, as a beginner you are basically throwing control and consistency out the window and only frustrating yourself further. Be patient, work your way up and you will be much happier.

Work your Way Up from Wedges to Irons to Driver

Take note that you should also work your way up from short clubs to long clubs. It may be months, even a year before you will even get to the driver so pace yourself. If you have better luck hitting a 5 iron or a 7 wood off the tee and it's going to go further and straighter 100% of the time, why punish yourself by rushing to learn the driver. With that being said all capable instructors would start you with irons first. Working your way up means learning to hit the wedge consistently and solid before attempting a 9 iron. Then learning to hit the 9 before the 8 and so on.

Visualize and Build the Shapes of Your Putting Stroke and Swing

Since I'm big on learning shapes as it helps students visualize lets start with putting. The most simple way to learn the putting stroke is actually inside using a wood or tile floor. If you have a line on your putter hover the line over the crease on your tile or wood floor. Use the straight line to work your putter back and forth either on the straight line or moving in a slight arc away from the line (some players see and feel a straight path with their putter and others see and feel an arc). Your arms and shoulders form a triangle when you let your arms hang straight down and grip the putter. Simply visualize this triangle rocking like a pendulum,staying intact ( in the form of a triangle with no bends or angles) and working the putter head back and forth along the tile. From there you can easily apply the triangle, pendulum and straight line to hitting low running green side chips with a wedge or 7 iron.

Move from Shortened Swing to Forming the L

As shots get longer than a putt or chip, you will need to learn to use your wrists by cocking them and forming the letter "L" between your club shaft and front arm (the one closer to the ball) on both the backswing and follow through. This will teach you the proper motion for pitch shots and pretty much get you up to half of your full swing. This is the length where you will want to stay for quite some time to make consistent solid hits in the sweet spot. There will be time later on for getting to a more full swing for power. That is simply achieved by adding coil and shoulder turn to your back swing and a complete unwinding follow through.

Practice Consistency

Every time you go out to practice do yourself a favor and follow this routine. Start with a wedge making the "triangle" swing for twenty to thirty balls. After you have consistently hit the ball every time (no whiffs) and in the sweet spot simply work your way up to the "L" swing. Once you are comfortable with the wedge work up to a 9, then 8 and so on. This a foolproof and efficient way to build your own swing and start learning how to execute all the different shots from short game to full swing.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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