New to Golf?

New to Golf?
Here are the things people expect you to know, but no-one tells you till after you do it wrong!

(NEW! Don't forget to read our advice on the best lessons for beginners in Surrey)

Before you start - what should you wear?
Firstly, always wear golf shoes. Some courses will let you wear trainers, but any rain and you'll be slipping about all over the place. You don't have to spend a fortune. Many reasonable shoes are available from about £35.00.
Next, don't think of wearing denim jeans! Not allowed! Just wear normal looking trousers, tee shirt with collar, and jumper etc if needed to suit the weather. No football shirts or round neck shirts.
In summer, you may want to wear shorts, which are okay, but they must be plain, tailored, not gaudy.
Why all the fuss? Well firstly if you don't, you may not be allowed to play. And secondly, you'll be taking the game seriously.

On the tee.
Never take your trolley onto the teeing area. Keep it to the side on the path.
First tee. You will be nervous. Don't worry, almost everyone is. Don't try to hit it hard - just go for a smooth swing.

Where did it go?
Watch your ball until it stops. Then keep staring at the spot until you have some identifying marker which will help you find it when you get there. Do this for your playing partners' balls too. If your partner can't find his ball, it's polite to offer to help look unless it's your shot next and you looking will slow things down too much.

Who plays next?
Once you've all played, the first player to play next is the one furthest from the flag. This principle continues throughout.

Speed of Play
No matter how experienced you are it is important to play at a reasonable pace for the sake of others on the course and also your partners. Try and decide on your next club and shot in advance. Don't stand thinking about your partner's problems and just focus on yours. Once you have played your shot, don't stand around but move on.
Experienced golfers will accept that your are learning the game, but one thing that drives them mad is ambling between shots. Play your shot and then walk purposefully to the next.
 If your group is slowing down, first of all speed up. If this doesn't help and the group behind is having to wait, it's polite to call them through at a suitable point. This may be because there are fewer of them, they are more proficient, or you just need the time and space.
 If it's just a single player behind who you are holding up, in theory he has no 'status' on the course and you don't have to let him through. But in the real world, be polite and invite him through because he's probably quite good and will be past in a flash and everyone can relax.
 Of course if you need to let several groups through, speed up!
Importantly if you're not playing too well, then if you've played quite a few shots and nowhere near the green, then it's polite to pick your ball up and move on, letting your playing partners complete the hole.

When your ball ends up in a bunker, take your club and the sand rake into the bunker with you. Enter the sand via the shortest route, but without coming between the flag and your ball. Remember a bunker is a 'hazard', which in short, means that you cannot touch the sand at all with your club before you actually make your shot.  So as you line up to play it, you have to 'hover' the club in the air without touching anything!
After your ball is out, carefully rake smooth the sand disturbed by your shot and your footprints, probably exiting backwards and leave the rake on the edge of the bunker to one side.

At the Green
Again, trolleys nowhere near the edge of the green. When you are about to get your putter out, it's good etiquette to check where the next tee is and park your trolley on the way there to save you leaving it completely on the opposite side of the green.
If your ball is off the green you will almost certainly want to leave the flag in the hole to play your shot and you are entitled too.

Once your ball is actually on the green, the flag must be removed before the ball goes in the hole. It is up to you whether the flag is removed completely or if you are quite a way away, ask someone to 'tend' the flag for you. This means they will wait by the flag while you putt, and remove it as the ball approaches.
Also once on the green, you may pick up your ball, clean and replace it. Before you pick it up, mark its position by placing a coin or similar just behind but not touching it. (It doesn't have to be behind, but it's easier to replace it later). Also mark your ball if it's in the way of someone else's putt. Or if it's disturbing their attention also mark it.
 If your marker is still on the line of someone else's putt, you may offer to move it. To do this, place one end of your putter head next to your marker and transfer the marker to the other end. After they have putted remember to move your marker back!
 Golden rule - never walk on the 'line' between someone's ball or marker and the hole. Take a detour or a giant step over instead!
Again, the furthest from the hole putts first.
In general friendly play, if you putt to within say a foot of the hole, your partners will generally 'give you' the next putt without you having to actually do it. It still scores a stroke! But you may choose to putt it anyway, specially if it's a par or a birdie.

Keeping your Score
Try to have a clear idea of how many strokes you have played during each hole. When you have putted out is not a great time to start thinking how many you have taken. And for the sake of everyone in the group behind, don't stand on the green pointing backwards trying to recall all your shots! Mark your score down only when you are on the next tee.

If you can do all the above you can be proud of yourself and all you then have to think about is doing your best and enjoying golf.

Etiquette advice for new golfers