While golf may be one of the most popular sports in the world played by millions of people of all different ages and physical attributes, it is by no means an easy sport to learn. So how long does it take to learn how to play golf?
Generally speaking, it will take a complete novice between four and six months to be proficient enough at golf that they can play a round of golf with friends with a level of competence that is both enjoyable and suited to the skill level/handicap of those they are playing with.
Although four to six months is the time needed to become competent enough to play a round of golf, this depends on individual qualities such as age and one’s athletic abilities.
What Must You Do To Learn How To Play Golf?
To learn how to play golf, one must understand;
- The nature of the sport.
- The rules of golf.
- The equipment needed to play golf.
- The time needed for ample practice and lessons.
It is important to bear in mind that “practice makes permanent.” Therefore, all precautionary steps in learning to play golf should be taken before one commits to on the course playtime. Let’s look at some of these now:
What Should I Know Before I Start Learning To Play Golf?
Before you start signing up for golf lessons or a golf membership, it is important to determine why you want to play golf, set your goals, and be aware of the sacrifices needed to achieve these goals (both financial and time sacrifices).
It is very important that when setting these goals, you are realistic about the level of achievement you want to succeed in and get advice on the time it will take to achieve these milestones.
For example, setting a target such as “I want to be a scratch golfer” would be unrealistic for a beginner or novice golfer. This is because becoming “scratch” takes years of practice, hard work, and a level of skill very few people achieve.
Subsequently, having clear, objective targets will allow you to set milestones that can then be linked to shorter time frames, which will give you a sense of direction, accomplishment, and purpose and mitigate the risk of becoming disheartened.
This can best be achieved by breaking up your holistic game into smaller chunks, something akin to the following checklist:
- Month 1 – learn to hit a fairway drive.
- Month 2 – get comfortable with sinking putts from a 5-meter distance.
- Month 3 – learn to judge distance and shot power to the green from the fairway.
- Month 4 – get comfortable with different shot types.
- Month 5 – learn to hit shots from a bad lie such as the rough or bunker.
- Month 6 – score 108 after a full round of golf.
What Equipment Do I Need To Begin Playing Golf?
Although it may be tempting to buy top-of-the-range equipment, this is not necessary for beginner golfers. However, you should also not rely on old or poor equipment, which can negatively affect your game.
Instead, you should spend time at a pro shop testing out different clubs and equipment to find the golf gear that best suits your build. Speaking to the club professional (who you will often find in the pro shop) can also help you find affordable, quality equipment for beginners.
A professional with genuine integrity may well direct you to either end-of-line stock or second-hand trade-in equipment that has been cleaned and serviced in-store. In both cases, this is usually sold at favorable discount prices. My favorite putter, which I still use today, was purchased this way.
When buying clubs, bear in mind that you will not need a full 14 club bag as a beginner. Rather, you should just buy the clubs needed to learn how to play a round of golf:
- A driver
- A fairway wood or hybrid
- A putter
- A sand wedge
- A pitching wedge
- A 6-iron
- An 8-iron
Must I Take Golf Lessons To Learn How To Play Golf?
While it is possible that you can teach yourself how to play golf with the assistance of friends, family, online videos, or pure trial and error, you should take professional golf lessons when you begin learning how to play golf.
The reason being is that early golf habits are likely to cement themselves in your playing style as you progress.
However, should you develop bad habits such as opening or closing the face of the club as you swing, this can be very difficult to correct at a later stage once it becomes a natural part of your game.
Professional coaches can help identify these issues as soon as you begin playing golf and thus help you implement correct techniques to your game to counterbalance any negative techniques from your natural swing or stance.
Professional coaches are also used to training a variety of people with different builds, stances, swings, and athletic abilities. This means that they are more likely to help you learn by improving your game, regardless of your style of play.
Finally, because you are hiring a professional coach, they are a reliant source of continuous practice and commitment, whereby relying on friends and family may not be sufficient in getting the continuous development needed.
Check out this post to learn more, 7 Reasons Why Golf Lessons Are Worth It.
How Much Should I Practice When I Start Playing Golf?
When you begin playing golf, you should practice at least twice a week and aim more if possible. Just bear in mind to not over-exert yourself, make sure you stretch before and after practice, and allow for rest days.
Where you practice and what you practice is also just as important as the time spent practicing. When learning how to play golf, you should spend more time focusing on specific shots and situations rather than trying to play entire rounds on a golf course.
When I first started to learn golf, I also found that I learned quicker in short sessions. I’d work on either driving, long irons, or approach play in each session. I’d rarely hit more than 50 balls at a time.
Splitting my sessions into five ball sets, swapping clubs after every set, and taking at least one practice swing before playing the shot, stopped me from “machine-gunning” the balls.
When you become confident enough to play on a golf course, try to choose a beginner-friendly course. A 9-hole course is ideal. If possible, walk the course with a club member, a coach, or a caddy that can give you advice with shots suited to the course. This will undoubtedly speed up your learning journey.
While it may be a commitment to learning how to play golf, one can consider a few factors to improve your learning and training that allow for expedient and fruitful results.
Make sure you have the time available. In my opinion, lessons with a qualified coach are a must.
Practice with a purpose, and don’t neglect certain aspects of the game. A 300-yard drive is wasted if you continually 3 putt.
And remember! Famously when he was barracked by a spectator who claimed he was ‘lucky’ the great South African 9-time major winner, Gary Player replied, “The more I practice the luckier I get!”