Over the years most golfers will probably hear thousands of tips and well meaning on advice on how to improve. It can certainly be a game of trial and error with much frustration along the way. With many years of playing experience I find the golf tips for beginners below extremely helpful and just wish I had known them when I started.
1. Get Your Posture Right
So many mistakes and bad habits are a result of the wrong posture. Getting your posture right consistently can not only eliminate mistakes but help indicate which parts of the swing are causing errors. As a general rule, the ball will go in the same direction as the shoulders are pointing. As much as possible players should make sure feet, knees, hips and shoulders are parallel to the target. The correct posture is not entirely upright but knees slightly bent with the weight on the balls of the feet. The stance will widen depending on the club selection but for a 7 iron the feet should be just wider than shoulder width. The back should be as straight as possible (not upright) but leaning slightly forward so that the ball is just beneath chest at address. At address for a mid-iron shot, the ball should be in the middle of the stance. For longer clubs the ball should be further forward, i.e. toward the left foot for right handers. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting the posture right.
2. The Right Equipment
The benefits of using the correct equipment, especially custom fit equipment, are astounding. This can really make the difference between becoming the best golfer one can be and enjoying the game, to struggling for years to make any real difference to one’s score. There’s no question that a good golf swing should be able to handle most equipment but it’s also true that learning with the wrong equipment can lead to serious bad habits and a very frustrating experience. As a general rule, most beginners should start with Flex (F) or Regular (R) shafts but it will depend on the swing speed, attack angle and tempo of the swing. Places like American Golf can provide great advice for free and it’s well worth finding out your basic requirements before spending good money on clubs.
3. The Grip
Take it from me, it’s very difficult to hit consistently good golf shots without a good grip. I attempted this for years before one quick lesson brought my game on massively. There is definitely not one correct way to do it and you will even see big variety amongst PGA Tour Players (see JB Holmes for example). Also, different grips will be required for different types of shot – such as punch or lob shots. But generally players should focus on developing the right grip they will use for 90% of woods and iron play. To get an idea for how the grip should feel, the left thumb should point down the middle of the front of the grip towards the face of the club. The left fore-finger (pointing finger) should interlock with your right pinky finger. If you’re a right handed player and wear a watch, the watch face should point in the direction of the target. As this is so important to get right, you should speak to your local coach if you’re unsure.
4. Structure Your Practice
For almost everyone the temptation when starting golf is to go straight to a driving range and start hitting hundreds of balls. There’s nothing wrong with this but it’s not as efficient as having structured practice sessions. By all means, hit 10-15 balls to get loosened up at a range session. But always try to have some clear goals in mind. One great drill is to imagine the first nine holes of your local course and play a mini-round of golf. This way you will hit a drive, followed by an approach shot and perhaps a chip to the green. You may even want to practice a recovery shot if your drive isn’t straight. This may not be as fun as whacking aimlessly for 45 minutes but it will definitely improve your consistency on the course.
5. Work on Your Short Game
It really helps to spend at least 60% of your practice time on the short game. As the saying goes, a four foot putt is just as important as a 300 yard drive. So when it comes to scoring well, you have to be good from 100 yards or less. Any experienced golfer will tell you the same.
Tip 1: Assuming you have the right posture and grip, try this drill with a wedge, gap wedge and sand wedge. Take your club back to just below shoulder height and follow through to the same height on the way through. Focus on keeping a smooth momentum with just a little bit of acceleration on the way through. Keep the left arm completely straight and let the hips, arms and shoulders do most of the work.
Tip 2: Following on from Tip 1, keep a note of your distances with your different wedges. Repeat the drill taking the club back to different heights in the back-swing: try to think of different numbers on a clock face. This should give you a good idea of how far your hit each wedge from different positions in the backswing. Knowing these yardages is a huge help.
6. Develop a Consistent Tempo
For the beginner golfer, thinking about tempo might seem overly complicated. However it can be a very effective way of building a consistent, fluid swing. Many players like to count 1-2-3 in their heads from the start of their swing to the finish. There are a number of good gadgets on the market these days to help with different tempos to automatically ingrain them in the swing.
I find the following drill to be very helpful for both tempo and balance:
Stand with both feet together and try to hit a full swing. If you swing too hard you will lose balance and feel like you are going to fall over. Try this three to five times and aim to stay completely balanced after each swing. Now hit some shots with the feet apart with the same rhythm and tempo. This will provide a good indication of how you should swing the club out on the course.
7. The Take Back
The first 12 inches of the backswing are crucially important and so many players get this wrong. Keeping the left arm as straight as possible, practice taking the club straight back for the first 12 inches of the backswing. This means the club should still be parallel with the target line. Another way of trying this is to think about passing your club to a friend standing directly to your right, on the same path as the club. A wide takeaway like this helps generate power for the follow through.
8. Think About the Finishing Position
The ideal finishing position (for right handed players) is to have the club over the left shoulder and behind the head. Try hitting some shots with this finishing position in mind and concentrate on holding that position for three seconds. This will really help get the club through the shot.
9. Focus On A Target
One of the best tips I’ve ever been given is to focus on a very small target in the distance and visualise it for a few seconds before hitting a shot. Staring at this small target is incredibly helpful in focusing the mind and body. By seeing the target in the mind’s eye, your mind and body work together as much as possible to send your ball in that direction. A very common mistake players make on a tee is to look at all the potential hazards. Automatically your mind is focusing on the danger and not on the middle of the fairway. You’ll be amazed at the accuracy of shots when putting this technique into practice.
10. Roll Your Wrists
I can’t believe how long it took me to learn this but it’s improved my game drastically in the last couple of years. The best way to develop a consistent golf swing is to play with a draw, i.e the ball flight should be going from right to left. Here’s a good drill to help with the right technique.
It’s important to have the correct grip for this drill as it will really help with the wrist action. Take a 7 iron and set up for a normal shot. Take the club half way back and simply try to hook the ball. Focus on the right hand crossing over the left hand at impact as this will cause the wrists to roll. It doesn’t matter if the shot is terrible, as long as you can see the ball moving from right to left you will start to get a feel for how to draw the ball. Repeat this as many times as possible trying to get that right to left shape. When you think you’ve mastered it from a half swing, try taking the club further back.
Follow these golf tips for beginners and you should start to notice a real improvement to your game. Always remember that golf is a continuous learning curve and not to get disheartened if you make a lot of mistakes along the way. My number one tip to anyone is to try and enjoy the game and not take it too seriously.