Golf for Beginners: A 7-Step Quickstart Guide

Last updated Dec 15, 2023

Golf for Beginners: A 7-Step Quickstart Guide

New to golf? In this 7-Step guide, I'll teach you everything you need to know and what you need to buy to get started in golf.

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Written By: Zach Gollwitzer

Posted in: Golf Instruction

Tags: Beginners

Welcome to the game of golf. I'm SO PUMPED you found this page.

My name is Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer (this site). I played competitive, D1 college golf at The University of Akron years ago and now share my love for this game with over 1 million golfers every year on this site!

As you're probably experiencing, golf can be very intimidating for beginners.

What's the best equipment to buy?

What are the rules of golf? And you're telling me there's "etiquette" too?!

How do I make contact with the ball and get it flying high and far in the air?

None of this is easy, but don't worry, you're in the right place.

In this guide, I'll give you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW to get started and succeed as a new golfer.

Let's dive in.

What to expect in your golf journey

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I think the hardest part of golf is setting realistic expectations for yourself.

The golf industry is doing a terrible job at this. Walk into a golf store and the first thing you'll see is, "buy our driver and you'll instantly gain 30 yards".

While there are proven ways to accelerate your progress in this game that I'm excited to share with you, it's going to take some time and practice.

A realistic timeline for your game improvement

Below, I've written down what I think is a realistic timeline for your game. This assumes you are like most golfers and only have 1-3 days per week that you can practice and play golf.

  • Months 1-3
    • You'll be visiting the driving range and the golf store frequently
    • You will miss the ball a lot and it will feel impossible to hit the ball where you are aiming
    • You will think, "I have NO IDEA what I am doing"
    • When playing on a golf course, you will lose lots of golf balls and will likely have to pick up your ball before you finish each hole in order to keep a good pace
    • You'll hit a couple of good shots that will have you saying, "That was amazing, I LOVE golf!!"
    • You'll probably want to quit at some point. DON'T GIVE IN.
  • Months 3-12
    • You will start hitting more consistent shots at the driving range
    • You will be able to play on a golf course and finish a couple of holes without picking up
    • You will probably be watching a lot of YouTube videos to figure out how to swing better, and this will probably result in lots of confusion.
  • Year 2
    • Golf starts getting really fun.
    • You can play full rounds of golf on the course and even keep up with more experienced players
    • You will start caring about your score more and trying to break barriers like shooting under 100 or 90
  • Years 3+
    • You'll be good enough to play fancy golf courses and go on golf trips with your friends
    • You will know a lot more about equipment and will likely upgrade your equipment
    • You'll know all of the golf lingo
    • You will have all sorts of golf apps and gadgets
    • You're finally a true GOLFER.

Great, so now that we have some realistic expectations, here is my Golf for beginners: A 7-step guide.

Step 1: Purchase some beginner golf clubs and accessories

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NOTE: I have consolidated all of the equipment recommendations for both men and women in one spot on Amazon. You can find both collections here:

You've probably noticed—it's really easy to spend thousands of dollars on golf equipment.

But you don't need to in order to get started.

The primary goal when getting started in golf is purchasing a few clubs that get you out to the driving range and golf course!

Keep in mind, if you stick with the game, you will likely be replacing this beginner set within a year or two, so don't go for perfection right now.

What is the best place to purchase beginner golf equipment?

Buying golf equipment is tough. There are so many options and a LOT of salespeople trying to get you to buy the flashy new clubs that just arrived at the store.

What to look for in your first golf club set

There are so many options here. You can buy new or used, individual clubs or a full set, in-person or online...

So I'll give you an easy way and a hard way to buy your first set:

Buying on Amazon is my recommendation as it simplifies everything for you. As I said, you will likely replace this entire set within 1-2 years as you get better at the game, so no need to get this perfect!

How many clubs do you need?

As a complete beginner, I think 10-12 clubs is a good starting point. Once you improve and need to upgrade your clubs, you will want a full set of 14 clubs (the maximum that is allowed in golf).

Below are my two recommendations for men and women that I think are GREAT choices. Most sets on Amazon come in the following quantities and include all the clubs you need such as a pitching wedge, sand wedge, irons, fairway wood, driver, and putter.

  • 9/10/12-piece sets - this is my recommendation. I think a full set starting out is a bit overkill, and with 9 clubs, you can hit just about any shot a beginner would need to hit.
  • 14-piece set - this is a full set. I don't think you need all of this starting out, but if you want to know you've got every possible club, go right ahead.

Other things you need to purchase

While purchasing a golf set on Amazon gets you a golf bag + clubs, you'll need a few additional things before you can play a round of golf.

Below is my short list of essentials. There are more things you'll eventually want to buy, but I view this list as the bare minimum to get out on the course:

  • Golf balls
  • Golf shoes
  • iOS or Android GPS App, GPS watch, or Rangefinder
  • Accessories (tees, groove cleaner, towel, etc.)

Best golf balls for beginner golfers

As I mentioned in the "what to expect" section of this guide, you will lose lots of golf balls.

Unless you have deep pockets, your primary concern with golf balls is price.

Sure, there are golf balls that help beginners hit it a little bit further, but I'm here to tell you—your choice of golf ball will not matter much until you start shooting below 100.

For that reason, my top choice for beginner golfers is the 36-pack of Wilson Profile Distance golf balls. Wilson is a well-known golf company and in this pack, you're getting 3-dozen golf balls for less than $1 per ball. That's about as cheap as you'll find while maintaining good quality.

Best golf shoes for beginner golfers

With golf shoes, there's really no such thing as a "beginner golf shoe".

While you could certainly play golf without golf shoes, I highly recommend purchasing a pair so you can start getting used to the feel of them. As a competitive golfer myself, I would never play golf without spiked golf shoes because they provide so much stability for my golf swing.

If you plan on doing a lot of walking (vs. riding in a cart), I'd invest in a quality golf shoe. On average, you will be walking ~3 miles for 9 holes of golf, or ~6 miles for 18 holes of golf. That's a lot of walking, so you NEED a great shoe.

While there are plenty of great choices, FootJoy is one of the premier golf shoe brands and has a GREAT option for both men and women with the FJ Flex/Fuel golf shoe. This shoe has built-in, subtle "spikes" which provide great grip while avoiding a full-blown "spiked" golf shoe.

Best GPS for beginner golfers

When you are playing golf, you will need to measure the distance from your ball to the hole in order to choose the correct club to hit.

There are 3 primary ways to measure distance on the golf course:

  1. Use a free iOS or Android GPS app - this is my recommendation for beginners. There are many apps that allow you to track your round score, and stats, and also see the distance to the hole via your phone's GPS such as The Grint, 18Birdies, and Garmin Golf apps.
  2. Use a GPS Watch - sometimes, carrying your phone everywhere is annoying. Instead, you can purchase a watch that will tell you the distance to the hole, and in some cases, allow you to connect with your phone to track your score as well. If you're going down this route, you can't go wrong with the Garmin S10.
  3. Use a laser rangefinder - this is the most accurate and is my personal choice. That said, I don't think beginners need this level of precision starting out. If you insist on going this route, the Bushnell Tour V5 is my top choice. There are some budget options like the Gogogo Sport Vpro, but I just don't think you can beat Bushnell when it comes to laser rangefinders.

Best accessories for beginner golfers

Wrapping up our list of beginner golf equipment to buy, there are a few essential accessories you will need. Here's what I recommend purchasing:

  • 3 1/4" Golf tees - you'll see all sorts of marketing for tees of every kind, but the pros (and myself) play good old wooden golf tees. Don't overcomplicate this part of golf. Generally, 3 1/4" is long enough for hitting a driver.
  • Groove Brush and Towel - after enough shots, you will have dirt in the grooves of your irons. Pour a little water (or spit) on the club face, clean the dirt with this groove brush, and wipe clean with a towel.
  • Divot tool + Ball Marker - if you manage to fly the ball on the green, it will make a small indentation called a "ball mark". You will use the divot tool to repair these ball marks. The ball marker is what you will use to "mark" your ball on the green before you pick it up to clean it.

Step 2: Learn the basic fundamentals of the golf swing

You've successfully drained your bank account on golf clubs and accessories and now, it's time to justify the cost, right?!

Let's learn how to swing a golf club (and play golf).

What should you focus on learning first?

As long as you are playing golf, you are learning new techniques and shots. This process continues with all skill levels.

To get the most out of your practice, here are the key fundamentals I would learn, and the exact order I would learn them.

  1. Proper Golf Grip - To hit any golf shot, you need to learn how to grip the golf club. I recommend purchasing a grip trainer and using it around the house whenever you have the chance. The grip is the only connection you have with the golf club, so learn it well! Here's an in-depth guide on how to grip a golf club.
  2. Chip Shot - The chip shot is a short game shot that you need to learn because you'll be using it all the time around the greens!
  3. Pitch Shot - The pitch shot is another short game shot, but is longer than the chip shot. I consider it a "mini full swing". Learning the pitch shot is great because it will help your full swing by allowing you to develop good fundamentals.
  4. Iron Shots - For beginners, this is one of the more challenging shots, but you will need to learn how to hit your irons.
  5. Full Swing Driver - Most beginners want to learn this shot first because it's the most fun! Learning to tee the ball up at the correct height and hit the driver is essential. When you're starting, it's important to focus on a smooth tempo, great posture, and making solid contact.
  6. Bunker Shot - while a bit more advanced, you will find yourself in a bunker at some point and it is important you know the proper setup to escape!

What are the best ways to learn golf?

While the entire premise of the "DIY" Golfer is you should be able to teach yourself golf, there are a few exceptions.

When you are first starting out in this game, it is very challenging to teach yourself the golf swing from the ground up. I know this because that's exactly how I learned—by watching tons of golf tips YouTube videos, reading sites like this one, and experimenting.

Instead of doing this, I recommend group lessons.

Option #1: Group Lessons

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I love this way of learning golf because it is affordable, yet gives you a lot of "hands-on" instruction that you will likely need in those first couple months of learning the game. It also makes things less intimidating because the majority of golfers attending these golf lessons are at the same skill level as you—complete beginners.

Option #2: Private golf lessons

If you have the money, many golf instructors offer lesson packages, which can be an excellent way to get started. You will generally pay $400-600 for 6-10, 30-minute private golf lessons.

Most instructors will teach at either a driving range or golf course.

Option #3: Join a country club

If you know you're in this for the long haul, one of the fastest ways to learn golf is by joining a country club. It's expensive, but if you can manage it, you'll get all of the following benefits:

  • The course usually won't be busy - this is a huge benefit to the beginner golfer because you don't have to worry about keeping pace with the group in front of you as often
  • The head pro gives private lessons - you'll get 1:1 instruction from the head pro, who is generally going to have more experience teaching than the average teaching pro in your area
  • Other amenities - if you've got a family, country clubs generally have pools, private events, and lots more you can bring your family to while you hone your golf game!

Option #4: Online lessons

A very cheap way to learn golf is online. For example, I have a beginner's guide to golf video course you can take to get up to speed, learn the swing, and get the most out of this game.

Step 3: Hit the driving range and start practicing your swing

Now more than ever, there are tons of driving ranges, indoor golf simulators, and social venues like Top Golf to practice your golf swing.

To improve your game, I recommend going to the driving range and hitting 50-100 golf balls at least once a week.

Here are my "golf for beginners best practice tips":

  • Purchase an alignment stick and start practicing your posture and alignment - nearly 100% of beginner golfers line up improperly. The earlier you can start training your body to line up to the target, the sooner you will start hitting great golf shots. Grab these GoSports alignment sticks and get started!
  • Hit on real grass whenever possible - any practice is great, but the more you can hit from real grass, the better feedback you will get. When hitting off artificial mats, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether you've made solid contact or not.
  • Focus on your driver, fairway woods, wedges, and short irons - while practicing your 4, 5, and 6 irons is important, I think beginner golfers would benefit from focusing on the clubs they hit the most, which is driver, 3-wood, and those wedges and short irons.

For more tips on practicing golf at the driving range, I recommend checking out some of my guides:

Step 4: Find beginner-friendly local golf courses and start playing

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While there is technically no such thing as a "beginner-friendly" golf course, I'm here to tell you that some courses are going to be less inviting to the beginner than others.

As I mentioned above, a country club is probably the best place for a beginner that has the money to purchase a membership because these courses are generally less crowded and gives a beginner space to learn the game at a slow pace.

If you are like I was, you don't have that luxury. I grew up playing public golf courses, which can be very busy.

As a beginner, I recommend finding a golf course that has cheaper greens fees since those courses are likely going to have the most beginners at them.

Furthermore, the day of the week and the time of day you play will matter. You will want to go when the course is least crowded. Otherwise, you will have groups of golfers playing behind you that will expect you to play fast and keep up with the group ahead of you. As a beginner who hits lots of shots, this can be challenging.

Here are the least crowded times to play golf:

  • Weekdays
  • Weekends after 4 pm (golf courses have reduced rates called "twilight rates")

How to book a tee time

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In order to play any golf course, you will need to reserve a time to play which is called a "tee time".

Most golf courses allow you to "book a tee time" online, but you can always just call the golf shop.

Know the dress code

Nowadays, golf courses have become less strict about dress codes. In general, public golf courses are far less strict than private country clubs.

All that said, here are rules of thumb to follow for men and women when dressing for a round of golf.

Men's golf dress code

  • Collared shirt
  • Golf shorts or pants
  • No denim
  • Tuck in shirt
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Women's golf dress code

  • Collared shirt
  • Golf shorts or pants or skirt
  • No denim
  • Tuck in shirt
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Know basic golf etiquette

While it might seem odd to the new player, golf etiquette is a big deal and you'll have some very angry golfers staring at you if you're not aware of how it all works.

Luckily, it's not hard to get the hang of.

Remember these rules, and you should be good!

  • Keep up with the group in front of you - as a beginner golfer, this is probably the most important rule. Starting out, you will be taking lots of shots, looking for your golf ball a lot, and generally playing slower than most golfers. You should try to target around 12-15 minutes per hole, and if it is taking longer, you should pick up your ball and go to the next hole. If you don't, faster groups behind you will get mad (unless they are very patient people).
    • If the course is empty (not busy) and nobody is behind you, take all the time you need and enjoy your round! That's why I recommend playing in the evenings—less busy!
  • When someone is hitting, don't move around too much - it's hard to hit a golf shot when people are moving around and making all sorts of noise
  • Don't drive your golf cart past golfers while they are hitting - sometimes, this is unavoidable; just make sure you keep some space
  • Don't walk in someone's "line" - when on the putting green, the imaginary line between a player's golf ball and the hole is what we call "their line". Step over this when you walk because if you step on it, you could make scuff marks that will affect that player's putt.
    • Some golfers make WAYYY too big a deal of this. As a competitive golfer, the only time I cared about this was when someone walked in my line on a short putt.
  • Don't drive the golf cart close to the green - a universal rule for all golf courses is to keep the golf cart at least 50 yards from the green at all times
  • Rake the bunkers - if you hit from the sand, after you're done, rake the bunker so the next golfer doesn't have to hit from your footprint!
  • Maintain a safe space between you and the person hitting - this is for your own safety. Stand at least 10 feet from a golfer while they hit.
  • Know where to stand on the tee box when someone hits - see the image below
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Know the basic terms and rules of golf

While knowing the rules and "slang" for golf is not required to play, it's good to know the basics.

Basic Scoring in Golf

You may know this stuff already, but here is the basic scoring in golf:

  • Lowest score wins
  • Each hole has a "par", which is determined by the length of the hole. Generally, anything less than 250 yards is a "par 3", anything between 250-450 yards is a "par 4", and anything greater than 450 yards is a "par 5". This will vary based on the "tee" you play from (championship, mens, womens)
  • If you take 4 strokes on a "par 4", you've "made par"

Most important rules of golf

  • Teeing Off
    • Start each hole by teeing off from within the designated tee area.
    • The ball must be played from between the tee markers.
  • Order of Play
    • The player farthest from the hole typically plays first (except on the tee box).
    • Players take turns hitting shots, with the player farthest from the hole going next.
  • Penalty Strokes
    • Adding penalty strokes for rule infractions is common in golf.
    • Common penalties include out-of-bounds, water hazards, and lost balls.
  • Putting Green
    • On the putting green, you can repair ball marks and remove loose impediments.
    • You can place a mark behind your ball and then pick your ball up to clean it or aim it at the hole
  • Flagstick
    • When putting, you can leave the flagstick in the hole or have it attended.

Step 5: Stay positive, manage your expectations

Listen up. Golf is going to frustrate the heck out of you.

What started as a "fun hobby" can quickly become an anger-inducing obligation if you let it.

Remember, this is a game that is meant to be enjoyed. Sure, we're all trying to shoot lower scores, but if it comes at the expense of your enjoyment or someone else's (because you're being an annoying playing partner), it's not worth it!

As you learn golf, remember to take a few deep breaths and smile. You will hit lots of bad shots, your swing won't always feel that great, and bad breaks will happen.

As soon as you can, I recommend reading Golf is Not a Game of Perfect. This book will help you manage expectations and give you the perspective you need to shoot lower scores and enjoy golf.

Step 6: Get involved with a golf league or tournaments!

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While I love a quiet range session in beautiful weather, I'll be the first one to say—golf is about people.

Golf is a great way to build friendships and enjoy time with your playing partners.

In most cities, there are local golf leagues that you can join. This is a great way to make new friends and challenge yourself to improve.

If you're really serious about improving your game and competing, you can also join Golfweek's Amateur Tour, which allows golfers of all skill levels to compete in tournaments.

Step 7: Keep learning, upgrade your equipment, and practice

The last step is a never-ending step. This game has something for every skill level and you'll never master it. That's the beauty of golf!

When should you upgrade your golf clubs?

At some point, you'll want to start replacing those beginner clubs that you bought because they will start to hold you back.

I recommend gradually replacing your clubs and equipment.

A great golf set does not come in a box; it's built to your preferences.

I'd recommend starting by finding a great driver. After that, get some quality wedges. Then find some good irons, find a bag you love, and after that... Well, that's up to you!

You might even consider getting a proper golf fitting which will help you determine what clubs and golf shafts are right for your swing and game.

How much should you practice at the driving range vs the golf course?

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When you're just starting out, you're going to need lots of repetition practice, which happens at the driving range. That said, there is no substitute for getting on the course and learning how to play.

So in my opinion, you should try to equally balance your driving range practice and on-course play.

Conclusion and your next steps

I hope you've enjoyed this guide and it has provided you a "quickstart to golf".

If you liked it, I've got a LOT MORE stuff for you including a FREE, personalized practice plan that will help you get the most out of your practice!

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