Important Things You Need to Know Before You Pick Up the Game of Golf

I love golf…….

The beautiful landscape of the course…….

The mental and physical challenge of accurately hitting a teeny tiny white ball……

The camaraderie of my golf partners……

The feeling of success when you play a hole just right…….

Laughing, celebrating, reminiscing about great golf shots……

I love golf…….
green mountain national golf course

But, at the same time, I worry when I hear people say they want to start golfing to have “something fun to do in their later years”…… OH HELL NO!!  Do you know what you are getting yourself into?

Are you prepared for the humiliation and frustration of hitting a ball sideways in front of an audience? Do you understand the excessive costs and time it takes to be a half-decent non-embarrassing golfer? Do you have 10 + hours a week to engage in this wonderful past time?  Do you have the patience and sense of humor to weather a challenging round, or season, or even several years of not-so-great golf?

I don’t mean to discourage you, and I am half kidding. Golf can be a tremendously fulfilling and fun sport. But, let’s deal with facts here. Golf is both enjoyable and frustrating. To be best prepared, here are some very important things you might want to consider before you take up golf

Golf takes a lot of time and practice.

One of the biggest hold backs to a good golf game is not practicing or playing enough. What differentiates a good golfer (not great…good) from a bad golfer is the frequency of playing and practicing. Good golfers play and practice several times a week. Playing 18 holes, twice a week, means you need to have 5 hours open, two days a week. If you work full time, this means your weekends are now busy with golf. Is this a commitment you want to make? If so, GREAT. Go for it.  But if not, just realize that you will take a long time to get better! And that’s fine, if you have that kind of patience.

Hitting the practice range is also essential…don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Especially for a new golfer. This means another 2-3 times a week of practice either at home, or at the range.  Tip: To save time, I bought a golf net and keep it in my front yard. I can practice anytime I want. And this save A LOT of time.

Lastly, please, for the love of God, take a lesson. Or two. Or twenty. Find a pro you love and who teaches you well, and commit to learning. Many recreational golfers do not take lessons. I don’t know why. Stubbornness? Not wanting to know the truth about your swing? Most likely both. The weird thing about golf is you can have a crappy swing and still score well. Some people are afraid to lose their mojo when they take a lesson. But a good golf swing is essential. Take the lessons.

Golf takes 5 -10 years to get decent.

Maybe more. It’s taken me close to 15 years to be decent. DECENT. ( See above: practice is essential. I do not practice enough).  Golf is totally different from playing softball, or soccer, or running. You can still have fun and succeed in those sports in a relatively short period of time if you’re athletic and fit. But golf has tons of moving parts; 13 clubs for various shots, different swings for different shots, conditions, course difficulty, physical fitness.  ( By the way, don’t assume that fitness alone will do it for you. Some of the fittest people I know are not good golfers.  See above: practice is essential.)

Furthermore, it’s an individual sport, and since you will be very erratic as a new golfer, it can be embarrassing. You’ve got to get over that, or you’ll never progress. Part of what I LOVE about golf is that part of it.  If you can get over the fear of embarrassment and laugh at yourself a bit, you will become confident on and off the course.   Bottom line, if you choose to begin golfing, realize you should be in it for the long haul. It’s very rewarding to finally get good after so many years of hard work.

(Post Script: I have 2 clients that both started golfing just 5 years ago. They have handicaps of 8 and 14.  They practice a lot. They play a lot. It’s their life.  They bucked the trend.  But that is not the norm.)

Golf is expensive.

Golf clubs run $600-$1000. Lessons, $80/hour or more. Playing golf, $40-$200 per round. Balls, clothes, driving range, drinks at the 19th hole. Total? Take out your calculator. Of course, it all depends on how often you play and what golf “social scene” you want to travel in, but it can be a lot. It does not have to be expensive if you don’t want it to be.  Play with hand me down clubs. Take group golf lessons instead of private lessons. Play at your local course. Save your money for buying a round of drinks when you win, or lose, or whatever you and your friends decide.

Golf is a mind-body-spirit game.

If your mind is not quiet and still, and you are impatient or used to being perfect at things, Golf can kill your mind and spirit. Hahahahahahaha….. I’m not kidding. Many people give up golf because they can’t stand the pressure, or don’t like being so quiet and focused for so long.  Golf is a slow game, but it’s a long game. And this is the part that I like. I need more slow-down. I need more things that challenge me mentally as well as physically.  Your mind is what typically either makes you or breaks you in golf. Golf can help you train your mind.

stress triggers eating habit

Golf can hurt you IF you are not physically prepared.

Most sports involve rotation of the body in many different planes and angles. Great athletes rotate shoulders, hips, wrists and ankles with ease, as they respond to the ever-changing stimulus of their sports. Most sports are reactive.  But golf is different. Your feet are fixed. The ball is stationary. You can not play golf by reaction. And you don’t create power and speed by moving in space via running or jumping. You create power and speed with lots of isolated rotation of the thoracic spine and then the hips. If you do not have flexible hips and shoulders, and don’t have a strong core, you can really stress out your back ( Or even shoulders or wrists, as people swing incorrectly due to physical deficiencies).  A very high percentage of golfers have back injuries at some point in their “careers”. You must have both flexibility and strength to withstand the forces of the golf swing, as clubhead speeds can reach 80-120 mph.  Of course, most recreational golfers do not take their golf fitness seriously. This is a big mistake. Having pain during or after golf, being unable to walk the course, or swing with ease, can really ruin your fun. And this is supposed to be fun! Be physically prepared in some way.

One more important point: the golf swing is all about power and speed. If you were lucky enough to play a throwing sport in your youth, and you know how to move fast and with strength, your chances of being a good golfer are higher.  Give it a shot! If you weren’t a “teen age athlete”, still give it a shot. Borrow clubs, take some group lessons and go out with your best buds and have fun.

Golfing with kind, friendly people is a #1 tip. WHO you golf with is key to having fun and getting better. Avoid people who are critical or make you nervous on the course until you get a bit more proficient. Then, go out and smoke ‘em.

As the old golf joke goes “golf is a good walk spoiled”.  Don’t let that deter you…the glory of that perfect shot will keep you coming back for more.

PS- For a primer on golf fitness: My Book, available on Amazon:

Getting Golf Ready-An Introduction to Golf Fitness

Getting Golf Ready Fitness Book