A Beginner's Guide to Golf

by Derek Clarke

Welcome to the sport of golf.  As you are about to step out on to the course for the first time, you may be wondering just what is expected of you with dress, footwear, rules and other things that you have heard golfers must do and must not do.  DO NOT PANIC!
In this guide you will find, in simple terms, as much as you will need to know to confidently play golf for the first time.

Key points to remember are:

    1. Enjoy yourself; and
    2. Make sure what you are doing (or not doing) will not affect the enjoyment of others or the appearance of the golf course.

So, I will now outline how to go about this and give reasons where necessary.

      1. SPEED OF PLAY: 

Generally, the more experienced golfers will be able to play at a faster pace than someone who is just starting the game.  This does not mean that you need to rush and spoil your fun.  As soon as you notice the players behind you are having to wait, or you feel you are being pressured, stand aside and wave them through.  Once they are out of range, you can continue with your game.  Take your time, but do not dawdle.  Some key things you can do to play faster are:

      1. Leave your clubs at the side of the green nearest to your next teeing ground.
      2. Always mark your scorecard while waiting your turn to tee off at the next hole, do not stand in the middle of the putting green and do it.
      3. Once you have completed the hole, do not practice your putting if someone is waiting to play on.

You may want to consider initially playing at times when the course is not so busy.  Early morning and mid-afternoon are often quiet times.  Ask your club Pro when these times occur.  They may vary from week to week, depending on organised events.

Remember also, a comfort stop for a drink, etc, should be done quickly so that you do not cause an interruption to the players playing behind.  If you lose your place in the field on a busy day, you will have difficulty rejoining it if you stop for a picnic, for instance. 

      1. NOISE: 

There is nothing in the rule book that says you cannot celebrate a good shot with an excited cheer or a high five.  However, you should always be mindful of nearby golfers who are about to play a shot.  Always be very quiet when within hearing distance of someone about to play.  Movement is also a distraction, so be sure to stand still when close to others playing a shot. 

      1. COURSE CARE: 

It takes several thousands of dollars to maintain a golf course, so it is important to look after it.  After all, you (the member), will be paying for it.  When a ball lands on the green on the full, it leaves an indentation.  This is called a pitchmark. These marks need to be repaired.  Use a tee or pitchmark repair tool to do this.  Just loosen and reshape the turf and return it to its original condition by tapping it down level, with the head of your putter.

When playing a shot, particularly with an iron, you will usually dig up a small piece of turf.  This is called a divot.  These must be replaced whenever possible, or repaired in a similar way to repairing a pitchmark, except that you may find it easier to use the spikes of your shoes or clubhead to perform this task.  Do what you think is necessary for the grass to regenerate quickly. 

      1. SAND BUNKERS: 

While a bunker shot can be difficult, it is sometimes impossible and very unfair when the ball has to be played from a footprint left behind by some inconsiderate golfer.  Therefore, it is essential that you smooth over all the imperfections you create after playing out of a bunker.  To make things easy, I suggest you enter the bunker from the edge nearest your ball, and have a rake placed handy to you before you play the shot.  This will minimise the amount of raking and time taken. 

      1. YOUNG TREES: 

Most courses require you to take relief from young trees, so that they do not get damaged.  Often these trees are marked by a stake, and are under two club lengths in height.  The requirements will be printed on the scorecard.  So basically, if you think you may damage a small tree by standing on it or hitting it with your club (sorry, you can’t move if it’s in the way of your ball’s direction of travel), pick up your ball and drop it in a position that will avoid contact with it.  As time goes by you will learn the exact procedure for these and other relief situations.  For now, just be sure that you are not dropping the ball nearer to the hole than where it was originally, and no more than two club lengths away from the tree. 


Please keep your trundler or buggy off the teeing areas and keep a reasonable distance from the edge of the putting greens.  This is done to protect the finer grasses in these areas from undue wear, and it will help to maintain a good surface for you and others to play from.  You should also avoid wet spots, mounds and areas that are worn or under repair.  This will also keep you in the good books with the greens staff, who are busy working hard to provide you with the best possible conditions to play on.’ 

      1. SAFETY: 

Be sure to stand well away from fellow players when they are swinging a club, and make sure that nobody is in danger of being struck by you or your ball when you are swinging.  Serious injuries can occur, as well as costly damage to your equipment.

If you play a shot that is heading toward other players, shout the word “FORE!”.  This will alert all players nearby that they should take evasive action.  “There is a ball heading my way, take cover”.  This is common courtesy, and you will invariably upset people, maybe even hurt them, if you do not forewarn them.  Make sure the players in front of you are well out of range before playing your shot.  This also applies when someone is playing a shot from your fairway to another hole. 

      1. DRESS: 

Most golf clubs have a dress code.  Some are more strict than others.  Generally, you should wear clothes that are clean, in good condition and tidy in appearance.  Tee shirts, offensive logo’s, singlets, football shorts and bare feet have no place on the golf course.  Footwear should be such that it will not damage the grass in any way. 

      1. ON THE GREEN: 

The furthermost from the hole should putt first.  Be careful not to stand on a fellow player’s intended putting line.  If this cannot be avoided, mark the position of your ball with a coin or ball maker and lift your ball away.  Once that player has finished, replace your ball and putt out.  When taking your ball from the hole, stand as far from the edge as possible to avoid damaging the surface around the edge of the hole and the edge of the hole itself. 

      1. SUMMARY: 

The Rules of Golf are quite complex.  You are not expected to know them all straight away.  As time goes by, you will encounter different situations where a rule will be needed to explain your options and the procedure.

Your club Professional and the club’s Committee Members can help you with any queries you may have.  Do not be afraid to ask.