Do you have someone in your life who has recently taken up the game of golf? Do you want to help them with their new sport? Are you wondering what you can do to keep them engaged and interested in golf?
So many new golfers came from the pandemic of 2020 and began a journey in a game that involves 14 different length clubs (that all have different lofts), some of which are designed to move a ball forward off the ground, some off a tee and some along the ground, and they all have different numbers and letters on them that mean different things. And that’s just the equipment!
When you put it that way, this game really isn’t all that straightforward for a newcomer! And then there’s the intimidation factor of being embarrassed by a seeming lack of skill at the driving range. No wonder it can be tough to make the game stick!
As a professional instructor, it’s my job to help my students enjoy the game in every possible way, but there’s a lot that you can do as a friend or family member to encourage new golfers in your life too.
Here are a few helpful ways you can support your new golfer at the range.
1. Use a tee for every shot
It’s okay to relax the rules for a true beginner. Let them use a tee any time they are struggling. If they try taking three swings at the ball and it’s either still there or has moved only 10 feet, hand them a tee and show them how to tee it up. They don’t need to “dig it out of the dirt” at this point in their golf journey.
2. Give them some privacy
Accompany your new player to an unpopulated area of the driving range — ideally, somewhere that is quiet or away from people. Putting your new player on stage is terrifying! And let them stop when they are frustrated or overwhelmed. Encourage them to watch the other golfers on the range to observe what they are doing while practicing.
3. Encourage divots
Explain to them that hitting the ground is A-OK! They need to do it to get the ball in the air and they are probably uneasy about making a mess or taking up a chunk of the ground. You may need to demonstrate — here’s a quick refresher on how it’s done!
4. Choose the right practice club
Choose a club that will be easier for them to hit. The rusted, 1940s-era iron from the garage is not the best tool for them to learn on. Find a club that fits their strength as well as their height.
And if you’re lacking in options, check online! You can find an 8-iron in most flexes and lengths. Make sure to err on the lighter side when it comes to weight, depending on their ability to swing. If they’ve never played a sport or are still building strength, a light and more flexible shaft is a great option.
5. Resist the urge to coach
This is a biggie! Get your player hooked up with a lesson from a golf professional or a coach that works with new golfers. There’s so much information out there for all levels, it can be overwhelming for a beginner. Do your best to find someone who specializes in breaking the game down for entry-level players.
If you can’t find a teacher in your area, you can find an online program dedicated to helping new players and sign them up for that instead. Then, enjoy the journey together!
Sarah Stone, PGA, is one of GOLF’s 2021-22 Teachers to Watch, and is the Director of Instruction at Chevy Chase Club in Bethesda, Md.