How to Play Golf. A Step-by-Step Guide.
Since you’re here right now, something tells me that you’re ready to be out on golf course with close ones through sunsets, sunrises, tons of laughs, golf carts rides, fire pits, no shoes, and enjoying summertime living. And perhaps there are a few of you who are eager to get out on the course with colleagues, bosses, strangers even and/or play in tournaments.
You’re here because ready to play golf and live the golf lifestyle.
So, how do you play golf? And what are the foundations to the sport, step-by-step?
Well, golf is a game that was founded by sailors in Scotland (at St. Andrews, now widely recognized as the oldest golf course in the world) hitting rocks with sticks. The course, at the time, and the number of holes varied based on the amount of land available and of course, the amount of time available.
Today, at it’s core, golf is still the same. Except now you use smartly designed clubs and golf balls. And play on a designated, and architecturally crafted course designed to challenge your ability to place the ball where you want it to go.
But, let’s back out a second to make sure we’re all on the same page because the reality is that while I firmly believe that you do not need to be an expert in order to play, you do need to know a few things:
Golfers are creative, not perfect. Golf course will demand this of you - no matter how good your physical golf skills are!
Golfers work at their craft and skill set.
Finally, golfers understand the call for etiquette and are aware of expectations on them.
A quick disclaimer (lol!): FairwayTee.com was founded to help beginners get out on the golf course with confidence. And this blog post serves as a step-by-step guide on the basics of the sport. While you’ll leave this post with a solid foundation, I’ll continue to link up additional resources to help you not just get on the course, but actually playing the game.
And heads up, this post is a long one…
Let’s jump in!
Also, if you’re ready to get out on the course in the sunshine with friends, new and old, I recommend downloading my FREE checklist to get you fully prepared! Click below to get your copy.
How to Play Golf. A Step-by-Step Guide.
Your objective in this sport is to control where you place the golf ball, but to do so with the use of a golf club! In other words, you need to get from the tee box to the green, in as few strokes as possible — getting creative in your shots while selecting the ideal club for the lie of your ball and your skill set.
So, let’s cover a few golf terms before get into basic strategy — use the image to the right for reference as needed:
1.Tee Box + tee markers: the area where players place their tee at the start a hole. Every hole on the golf course has sets of tee boxes (Men’s, and Women’s, sometimes, Veterans/Juniors/Pros). And each tee box area has some form of tee box markers. Tee markers are sets of markets on the tee box where you need to put your tee in the ground. The reason that you need to use the same starting line (though not the specific starting point, is because every player needs to clear the same amount of yardage from green box to green. However, the sport allows you to get creative with their tee placement so long as it is maintained between the tee lines. Men’s tee boxes are typically the furthest from the green known as the “rearrest most tees”. While the women’s tee box, tends to cover the shortest distances (often known as “ladies tees”, “red tees” or the “forward most tees”. The course’s score card (picked up in the club house) will typically tell you the yards to each green from each tee box (also known as the length of the hole). Heads up: you can actually play from whichever tee-box you'd like and your skill set allows — it doesn’t have to be gender specific!
2. Fairway + rough: the fairway is the area between the tee box(es) and the green where the grass is cut/maintained. The fairway runs nearly the length of the hole. The on the other hand, rough, is the area which between the fairway and out of bounds. It's made of unkept, taller, thicker grass. Your goal is pretty much to always to hit dead center in the fairway.
3. Beach (Bunker)/Water Hazards: A hazard in golf means an obstacle. You’ll notice bunkers surround the green and water often surround fairways. PRO TIP: in order to hit from the sand, you need to know your clubs really well — particularly your sand wedge. And since sand can be really difficult hit out of depending on how deep the pit is, I suggest selecting a club that will help you avoid it at all costs! If you still find yourself in on the beach (so-to-speak) and unable to get out, toss your ball onto the green and add a stroke. If you can’t clear the water feature on the course drop your ball parell to where it went in the water and add 2 strokes.
4. (Putting) Green, hole and flag stick: the putting green is the part of the hole with the shortest grass, allowing players to make very precise strokes. To “putt” is to play a stroke ("swing") when on this surface. The size and space of the putting green can vary without any real constraints. And the green itself does not include any bunkers or hazards on it. The hole is, is a hole, located on the green indicated with a flagstick (also known as a pin). This is where you're aiming! The hole (and therefore the flag stick) are moved around daily to make the putting on green more difficult.
Your Golf Course Strategy Intro
Here’s the reality: you’re going to need a strategy in order to get from tee box to green! But you can start with these tips:
Get to know each of your clubs and track consistency with your distance control! Get my distance control worksheet - for free - by clicking here and signing up.
Learn the golf course itself, studying the course you’re going to play before hand. This is really advanced, if you’re looking to get your game to this level, you should definitely join my live webinar here.
Practice, practice, practice!
What else do you need to know about how to play golf?
Your Swing. The foundation of your golf game will be your golf swing. Why? Because you’ll use the same swing for every single club except your putter. And contrary to what you may have heard, not all golf swings are the same. In fact, they’re all very unique to the player. To learn more about the 5 foundations of a golf swing (and learn 5 hacks to help you pin down yours) click here to read more in a recent post on this topic.
Clubs. You don’t need your own, perfectly fitted golf clubs to get going in this sport, but on the flip side the sport can not be played without clubs. Borrow, rent, buy used. There’s no need to spend thousands upfront. Of course, you’ll also need to know the differences between clubs, including how well you manage the weight, length and loft of each club. And since each club is designed for a specific purpose, you’ll want to know which club to select and when. Luckily, I have an entire blog post on this - here!
Course Layout. We reviewed the course layout above, but typically golfers don’t just get out there and golf! A solid casual golfer up to a pro golfer, studies the course before hand, picking out the best possible scenarios for themselves, and testing their abilities with each club before a round starts to see if they can control where the ball lands.
Scoring. Unlike most sports, in golf it’s the person with the lowest score (par) who wins! And your score is calculated relative to par. Each hole has a par and every golf course has a par total (the sum of all holes). You’re competing against par in order to win each hole. If you’re new to the spot, shooting under double par for a round is considered really good golf. If you’re a serious golfer, you’re typically looking to shoot even with par or under par on each hole - leaving you even or under the course par. But remember, to play excellent golf, you’re playing the course. Your cleverness in club selection based on the shot at hand and your skill set will count for double!
Terms. Golf terms can sound like a completely different language, but it’s a really cutesy language! Since we covered a few course in the overall recap above let’s add in some secondary ones:
Tee time: the time that you’re expected to tee-off and start playing a round! The tee-times are set by the course, and are basically a queue so everyone get’s time to play before the sun sets. The course I typically play at has groups teeing off every 11 minutes on the nose. PRO TIP: it's highly recommended that you call, book online or use an app, a few days ahead to reserve your playing time.
Pace of Play: the pace everyone on the course is keeping. In general, you'll want to keep up with the people you’re playing with and those in the group in front of you. If you're new to this sport, this can mean picking up the ball at times and forfeiting the hole, in order to prevent others from waiting for you or allowing others to “play through”. I've done both tons of times. The pace when you first start can feel really overwhelming and since golf is really about the people you’re with and less about your score, I opt to pick-up rather than slow my playing partners down.
Address the ball: to get in position to swing; typically used for an alignment check before you swing.
The 19th hole: drinks and food. And then typically more drinks. I’m not actually a big drinker but I am a bit of a foodie and I love good company. This really is the time for getting to know everyone you just played with, or spending some additional time with them.
Etiquette. There are so many different expectations to this sport depending on the role you’re in each round (winning, losing, 2 people, a tournament) but the gist of all golf course etiquette is respect. Show kindness to your co-players and the staff. Always be prepared to go when it’s your turn, and always be respectful when someone else is about to swing or putt!
Conclusion: How to Play Golf. A Step-by-Step Guide.
If you’re really new to this sport, golf can be overwhelming!
But it’s 100% possible not only to teach it to yourself but also to get really good at it… I’m thinking of Bubba Watson on the PGA Tour right now with 12 tour victories and never having taken a professional lesson.
In order to do this though, you’ll have to do your research and put in the time!
Golf truly isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. And what you get from it is SO much more than what you have to put in…
A social hobby that you can do at any age, with any level golfer, and that allows your social life to continue to evolve.
Spending time on some of the most beautiful properties in the world.
Get up with the sun or stay out with the moon — glow in the dark golf balls are seriously one of the best things in the sport!
And super fun times driving around a golf cart. Seriously! I have yet to meet anyone who hated golf after driving a golf cart!
Whoa! That was really a lot! When I started learning to golf, I found it incredibly intimating and frankly, costly on so many levels! Since then, I created this blog to offer the best in products and resources to make golf more accessible. So, if you’re ready to get out on the course in the sunshine with friends, new and old, I recommend downloading my FREE checklist to get you fully prepared! Click below to get your copy.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions for me don’t hesitate — comment below or write to me here!
And remember, I’m rooting for you!