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Getting started – golf
Golf is shaking off its image as a sport for retirees or corporate meetings. More and more people of all ages are taking to the greens and enjoying the game on their own or with friends, socially or competitively. Read professional golfer Lynn Kenny’s guide to get you started in this addictive sport.
What’s it all about?
Courses vary in length and difficulty and comprise of 18 holes. The point of the game is to hit your ball, using a club, inside the hole marked by the flagstick in as few hits as possible.
Golf can be played in teams or as individuals, but whatever format you play, the winner is always the person who has hit the ball the least number of times.
There are a couple of kinds of golf play, namely strokeplay and matchplay. Strokeplay is when you total the number of times you hit the ball over a round (18 holes) and the person who has the lowest number wins. Matchplay involves you playing against each other, and you have to beat the score of your opponent on each hole.
Who does it suit?
Golf is definitely a game for everyone. Any age, any shape, any sex, any ability can play and enjoy golf. It has become increasingly popular for women with the help of increased awareness and media coverage of the Ladies Professional circuits, especially in America and Europe. It is a great game to play socially with friends, and when you get better, you can get competitive with it too!
Do I need to be very fit to start?
No but bear in mind that if you play 18 holes then you will be walking around five miles, with some inclines, as well as carrying or pulling your golf bag on a trolley. It is great exercise without being too tough but will certainly help to get you fit!
The key skill you need as a beginner is patience because it can be quite tricky at first! There are also some rules and etiquette that you would need to be aware of in order to play on a regular basis.
How does the scoring work?
Golf is a game played over 18 holes that vary in distance and difficulty. You start from a specified area called the tee box and hit your ball towards a flagstick that indicates where the hole is – and your ball needs to finish in that hole in as few hits or “shots” as possible.
Par 3’s are the shortest holes, with the aim being to hit the ball 3 times to get it into the hole; Par 4’s are a bit longer and should take you 4 shots to complete the hole and Par 5’s are the longest holes, where 5 shots are required.
When you add up the pars, this gives you a number usually between 68 and 74 and that is the par of the golf course, or in golfing terms, the “standard scratch”. This is the all important number that determines your handicap.
What is a handicap and how does it work?
Golf is a fantastic game because of the handicap system. It makes golf a game that all standards and ages can compete at together. But can be a little complicated to get your head around at first.
Your handicap indicates what standard of golf you play. For example, on a golf course that has a “standard scratch” of 72, if you hit the ball 72 times over 18 holes then your handicap would be zero – this is truly excellent and many golfers will play their whole golfing life without achieving a single figure handicap!
If you are just starting however, you might hit the ball 108 times. In this case, your handicap would be 36 (the highest handicap you can get). You can then reduce your handicap (and probably win competitions at the same time!) by scoring lower on a round than your existing handicap is. If you hit the ball 98 times for example, you would then take off your handicap of 36 and will have scored a nett 62. This is 10 shots lower than the “standard scratch” of 72!!
There is a person at every golf club called a “handicap secretary” and they will adjust your handicap every time you beat the “standard scratch”. Your aim is obviously to get your handicap as low as you can.
The beauty of this system is that you can be playing against a very good player who has a Gross 74, Nett 72 (handicap of 2) and you can have a Gross 100, Nett 66 (handicap of 34) and win the game or competition – so it really is a game for everyone.
Do I need to take lessons?
If you have never played golf before, then I would recommend asking a friend who plays to show you the basics including how to hold the club, how to stand and what the different clubs do. It will also help you if you can watch someone else playing to see what they do so you can copy it.
I would also recommend you get a few lessons from your local golf professional. They can be quite expensive (anything from £20-£50 for half an hour) but are definitely necessary to make sure you start out with good habits and technique. Then you can go away and practise without them. It’s like riding a bike, once you know what to do then you can go away and work at it – you won’t forget the basics.
You can also spend some time at a driving range practising your key shots before heading out on to the course.
What equipment do I need?
A set of golf clubs consists of 14 different clubs; but if you are just learning you don’t need to have all of them at first. The essential clubs to start with are:
Putter, Sand Wedge, 9 iron, 7 iron, 5 iron and a 3 wood.
You will also need to have some golf balls to hit – you don’t need to buy the expensive balls, you can get “lake balls” which have literally been picked out of a lake on a golf course (lakes on golf courses are designed to swallow up bad golf shots!) so they are second hand but perfect to get you going.
In order to hit your ball off the tee box, you will need to have some tee pegs to put the ball on, and to avoid getting blisters on your hand, you might want to get a glove! If you are right handed, you get a glove for your left hand, and if you are left handed, you need a glove for your right hand.
A golf bag isn’t needed for the driving range but is practical once you are on the course.
What should I wear?
You should try to wear something that you are comfortable in, and will be able to move around in. Layers are also good for the inclement British weather. All weather golfers will need a good set of waterproofs.
At a driving range you can wear jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of trainers but before heading to a course check the dress code as many will not allow jeans or trainers.
A pair of non denim trousers and a t-shirt, layered with a knitted sweater, fleece or lightweight jacket are ideal. Or if it’s a nice summer’s day then throw on a pair of tailored shorts or a skirt.
You might like to add a baseball hat or a visor to your outfit to protect yourself from the sun, and perhaps some sunglasses too.
Golf shoes are a good investment as they have spikes that help to keep a good grip and prevent you slipping if the ground is wet. However, a good pair of trainers is ok to start with at the driving range.
Joining a club
Initially, you might want to just pay for each round you play. You have to find a public course to do this, or if you have a friend who is a member of a club, you could ask them to take you for a game on their course.
If you find you are enjoying golf and want to take it a bit further then there’s never been a better time to join a golf club. There is a big push within clubs to attract more members so look around and find what deals are on – you might find in some cases that they have abolished their joining fee.
Memberships can be expensive and prices vary from club to club, but if you do join a club then there are lots of benefits: you can play as much golf as you want, you can hold an official handicap which lets you play in club competitions, with the added bonus of having access to a clubhouse which usually has a bar, restaurant and social events. In some cases, there is even a gym too!
Get inspired by watching some of the UK’s best golfers this year:
July 29 – August 1: Ricoh Women’s British Open - Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport
August 6 – 8: AIB Irish Ladies Open - Killeen Castle, County Meath
August 12 – 15: S4C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe - Venue To Be Confirmed
August 18 – 20: Scottish Ladies Open presented by Event Scotland - Archerfield Links, East Lothian
ALBATROSS – 3 shots lower than the par of the hole (eg. a 2 at a par 5!)
EAGLE – 2 shots lower than the par of the hole (eg. a 3 at a par 5!)
BIRDIE – 1 shot lower than the par of the hole (eg. a 4 at a par 5)
PAR – the number of shots that the length of the hole determines
BOGEY – 1 shot over the par of the hole (eg. a 6 at a par 5)
DOUBLE BOGEY – 2 shots over the par of the hole (eg. a 7 at a par 5)
STANDARD SCRATCH – the total number of shots the course is designed for (ie. the total of all the par’s added together)
TEEBOX – the starting point on every hole
FAIRWAY – the best place to be! It is the short grass going up the middle of the hole
ROUGH – not the best place to be! Either side of the fairway is lined with thicker grass called the rough
GREEN – where the flag and the hole are. It’s usually a big circle of very short grass, and you use your putter on the green to hit the ball into the hole
BUNKER – these are big sand pits on the golf course and you have to try to avoid them! There are usually one or two on the fairways, and then quite a few surrounding the green. You would use your sand wedge to hit a shot out of a bunker.
WATER HAZARD – as well as bunkers, some golf courses have streams, ponds or even lakes! You have to avoid these too!
OUT OF BOUNDS – the boundary of the golf course, defined by white stakes or a white line. If you hit your ball beyond the line, you have to play the shot again and add a penalty shot to your score!
Lynn Kenny, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Emirates airline is proud to sponsor LET golfer Lynn Kenny. For more information on Emirates’ sports sponsorship portfolio, please visit www.emirates.com