How to Become a Golfer

June14 NC web banner-2By Marianne Reid Anderson

Almost 20 years ago, when my husband and I moved back to Pittsburgh from the Pacific Northwest, I quickly realized that one of the most popular past times here is the game of golf. We also realized that quite a bit of business and deals are done here on the golf course. Well, I learned all about camping in the Pacific Northwest, so now, obviously, I needed to learn how to play golf in Western Pennsylvania.

What I learned was a lot more than just the rules and how to hit a ball. Instead, I learned that it is a sport for all ages and all skill levels, that while I’m concentrating on that little white ball, I don’t think about anything else, and I’m out and about getting exercise and plenty of fresh air. I also meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life and from all over the world.

I began my goal of learning how to golf by taking lessons. The best part is that golf is a game you can pick up at any point in your life and still get to a very acceptable skill level. I took up the sport in my thirty’s but my uncles did not take up golf until after they retired in their late sixties. My Uncle Mike even had a hole-in-one to his credit.

You can take lessons through continuing education classes, at a driving range or even through the pro shop at your local country club without having to be a member of the club. I took lessons through a continuing education class and then did my follow-up practices at a driving range.

You can get started playing golf without making a huge investment in equipment and accessories. Most driving ranges, especially at country clubs, have demo clubs to use or rent to see what brand of golf club you like best. Also, you don’t need a full set of 14 clubs to get started. You can start with just four clubs: a 3 wood, a 5 iron, a pitcher, a putter and then fill in from there, getting a driver, more irons and more woods. If you start with only 4 clubs, you can get what’s called a “Sunday” bag which is a small, inexpensive bag to carry your clubs, tees, balls and a glove and that’s all you need. I started by getting a second-hand, gently-used set online.

Eventually, you need to move off the driving range and actually start to play a round of golf. Begin by going to “Pitch ‘n Putt” courses, these are shorter courses where each hole is a “par 3” or where, ideally, you take only 3 hits to get the ball in the hole. It will take a while to get there. But, when you begin, give yourself “double-par” which means you get 6 hits to get the ball there. You will find that this is much more reasonable and you will enjoy the game infinitely more.

Once you get use to the Pitch ‘n Putt format, then you want to start playing 9-hole courses such as Clover Hill Golf Course (www.cloverhillgolf.com on Reis Run Road. This is where I began and it is the perfect course to get started, everyone is welcoming and every hole is unique and interesting. By this time, you will want to have a driver, another wood, a few more irons and a bigger bag but by now you should also know if you have any enjoyment playing golf whatsoever before purchasing more clubs.

This is also a good time to start signing up for charity golf outings. These are no pressure events that are usually played in what is called a “scramble” format. In this format, there is a team of four players, each of you hit a tee shot but then you decide which the best shot is and then you pick up your ball and drop at the decided best location and then each person hits his or her next shot from there and this keeps going for each shot. In other words, no stress, you’ve got three other people playing the hole with you. Be sure and check out our Happenings section here in Northern Connection and Like our Facebook page to learn about upcoming golf outings.

Personally, I feel the real key to becoming a golfer is to not record your score for the first several rounds at least. Just keep track of playing “double-par”, if a hole is a par 3, hit 6 times and pick up and move on to the next hole whether you made it to the cup or not, if it is a par 4, hit 8 times and then pick up and move on and so forth, particularly with a par 5. This way, you won’t get frustrated and even the best of golfers will be encouraging (and probably give you more advice than you want or need). Before you know it, you will be making it into the cup and be a true golfer. The point is to keep up with the group in front of you, not get the ball in the hole and it is perfectly acceptable to pick up and move on to the next hole when you are first starting out. This shows very good etiquette and consideration for your fellow golfers. Which is the main reason to play golf in the first place.

I hope this information gives you a basic understanding of how to get started in, what I believe, is one of the truly great sports of all time, the game of golf. Hope to see you on the links!