Watch a few golf swings on your computer. Google “golf swing” and you should find some worthwhile video, as long as you don’t put “Charles Barkley” in the search. (And if you think this is an inside joke, Google “worst golf swings” and see who comes up!)
Go to the driving range and buy a small bucket of balls. These may be paid for and dispensed electronically, but you can figure it out – you use ATMs and Laundromats and eBay, how hard can this be? Do remember to put the bucket below the ball dispenser or things could get messy.
Borrow a club from the golf course shop or the shack at the range – they’ll be happy to lend you one or two, free of charge, in hopes of hooking you in. A favorite among newbies: 7-iron.
Now, try to hit some balls. See how hard it is? Don’t waste a lot of time before moving on to the 5th hole.
Look around the range for someone who seems to know what he’s doing – even better, what she’s doing. Go and watch admiringly for a few shots, and then ask if she knows of a good instructor. If you’re really lucky, maybe she is one!
Make some calls to find an instructor willing to book you for a series at a convenient time. These usually come in sets of six half-hours starting at as little as $200, depending on the instructor, the area code, the economy. If this doesn’t break your budget, advance to the 9th hole.
Whatever you do, don’t hire your spouse, boyfriend, partner or friend. The advice may be good, but your relationship may not stand the stress, cursing and name-calling.
Check out group programs – some courses gear these toward women, and the PGA of America’s “Get Golf Ready” program of a series of small-group lessons for as little as $99 has been an especially big hit with women. Your local recreation and parks department may offer bargain basement classes.
Practice your new knowledge at least once in between lessons or classes. You will not only get comfortable with the golf swing, you will begin making friends at the range and may find some who will not be too high-falutin’ to play with you.
Had a few lessons with that 7-iron? No matter what the sales people say, it is nottime for you to get fitted for brand new golf clubs — but do get fitted (free, up to $50) and then use the specs to start shopping for a gently used set. Yes, shopping, you’re good at this! You want irons of at least 6-iron down to SW (sand wedge), a driver, a few fairway woods and a putter.
Thinking it’s time to venture onto the course? Ask a good friend for an etiquette lesson that starts with not talking when someone’s hitting, proceeds to fixing divots, and concentrates on moving around the golf course efficiently so as not to slow play.
Get yourself an outfit and cute shoes! Leave the jeans at home – many courses don’t allow them. Cover up any low-cut tank tops – they get more revealing as you stand over the ball. Think light, trim layers.
Other items to stock before your round: tees, balls, glove (for your nondominant hand), ball markers, divot fixer, lip balm, sunscreen, water bottle. Ask your teacher for ball suggestions — no need to spring for Pro VIs unless your swing speed is super fast. Cheapos probably will do for now.
Stretch out. If you’re walking, you’re about to burn approximately 1,450 calories! It’s mostly a cardio workout, but you’ll be calling on muscles in your back, arms, glutes and thighs as your calves and feet propel you around.
If you’re driving, make sure you know how to accelerate, brake, steer, shift into reverse and go forward again. Carts do tend to make an annoying noise in reverse, so that’s best avoided. Also, find out course policy on when you can leave the path. Some are cart-path only throughout, most are cart-path only on par-3 holes, most post signs when you should stop going forward and return to the path.
OK, here we go: Step up to the first tee and hit it. Yes, you’ll have a million swing thoughts, but don’t let them paralyze you. Maybe focus on one or two things and HIT THE BALL. If a companion then says, “Take a mulligan” forget about that shot and tee up another. But just one and move on. If you need to, pick up and start playing courses from 100 or 150 yards in until that part is mastered.
Be the kind of companion you’d like to have – practice the words “nice shot,” “good miss” and “get legs.”
Save time for the 19th hole, golf’s celebratory and social ritual of enjoying a beverage while rehashing the round afterward. Then you, like your companions, can go home fantasizing about how much better you’ll be next time out.
This article first appeared in the premiere edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.