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Beginning Golf Know-Hows

Cassy is an avid golfer who plays multiple times a week and is actively involved in her Women's Group. She started golfing 6 years ago.

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What You Should Know

From new lingo to knowing how to calculate your handicap, learning the game of golf doesn't come easy. The game definitely has playing rules, but there is a whole other set of rules for knowing what you should do in every situation. But where do you find that information?

I love learning everything about golf, and get especially excited when new women golfers join my women's group. I remember how I felt six years ago when I was new. All the questions I had, all the questions I didn't even know to ask, and all there was to remember. I recently was around 'brand new' lady golfers, and it once again made me realize how much information is not readily available. It can be intimidating to learn this sport without a great deal of knowledge, and may feel uncomfortable if you end up in an awkward situation. And we definitely don't want that, because golf is fun!

Let's review a few know-hows to help a newer golfer be in-the-know.

HOW DO I ESTABLISH A HANDICAP?

A handicap is necessary if you want to play in a league, with a weekly group for pay outs or participate in tournaments. Your handicap is a number which represents your ability based on your previous scores, but you first have to know how to submit these scores to get one established.

You must join a club, a league or a golf organization that has a USGA Association affiliation. Ask the Golf Pro or Manager to set you up in the GHIN system, which can cost between $25-$50, and you will then be given a number. GHIN is a company affiliated with the USGA who handles all the handicapping and also has a free, user friendly mobile app. Once you download the free app on your phone, you will then be able to pull up your information to submit your scores hole by hole for each course you play, or submit the total score at the end. If you choose not to download the app, there is usually a computer available in the Pro Shop you can use to submit your scores. Either way, you are on your way to establishing your handicap after three, 18 hole rounds are submitted.

PIN PLACEMENT SHEETS

The pin placements at each course indicate where the flag is located on each hole. You may see these little sheets or cards sitting on the counter when you check in. A course may also tell you they have red, white & blue flags on each green. The usual placement is that red will be front, white in the center of the green and blue in the back.

Instead of colors, you may see a number posted at the course telling you the pin placement for the day is #3, or #2. Look at your Pin Sheet or Card and note where the number is located on the green. It could be front, middle or back, and left or right side of the green. When I was a new golfer I could have cared less where the flag was located because I was just hoping to get it to the green. You are always safe shooting for the middle and as your game progresses, you will come to appreciate knowing the pin placements.

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YARDAGE STAKES OR MARKERS

Not all courses are marked as well as they should be and once again, when you are new, you are just hoping to hit the ball. As you gain confidence in your abilities, you will want to know how far you are to the green, or to the bunker. Not all new golfers have range finders, but courses usually have basic markers to help you.

You may see a stake in the middle of the fairway, and not only is it guiding you to the best location to hit your shot, it is a marker for 200, 150 and 100 yards out from the green. Each course will have different colors or stripes for each yardage, but it will be the same for each hole and you will easily learn how far it is to your next destination. Also look in the fairway for markers in the ground to give you yardage to the hole as well.

BUNKERS

Of course the best tip regarding bunkers is to stay out of them! They are an inevitable part of the game and it's best to learn how to hit out of them. But a couple simple rules to remember are never to ground your club in the sand, and always rake the bunker after you are done. You cannot touch your club to the sand prior to hitting your shot, and it's a one stroke penalty if you do.

If your ball lands in the bunker on a leaf or a stick, you may try to move the item, but if your ball moves from it's original spot, that's a one stroke penalty as well. Always rake the sand after exiting the bunker and there is usually a rake or two lying around. For now, avoid the bunkers, but practice on getting out of them or take a bunker lesson.

COURSE AWARENESS

I could speak about pace of play all the time, but when you're new, it's sometimes difficult to judge how fast or slow you are moving. Or, to know what is going on in front or behind you. Newer golfers can be consumed with their own game and not realize that unnecessary multiple shots are not just slowing down the game, but frustrating for all to witness.

Let's face it, golf is a challenge and when new to the game, sometimes painful. I'm a big advocate of not frustrating yourself, but realizing your limitations. Be aware of what's happening on the course to keep up with your fellow players, and not slow down the groups behind you. You are new, so don't be too hard on yourself and focus on playing that hole better next time.

No one should expect to play perfectly all the time, or even play to their handicap. This is true for beginners or veteran golfers. In fact, the average golfer, according to the USGA only shoots their handicap 25% of the time. That's only one time, for every four to five of rounds played. Remembering this statistic may help limit your frustration and allow you to stay calm, move on from an endless bunker situation and keep moving forward to work on the next hole.

Golf is a never ending education and may appear to have 'too many' rules, but you don't have to learn them all, all at once. Do learn the basics, ask questions and be aware of your surrounding on the course. You are not expected to know everything, but you are expected to keep pace of play, know general rules and have fun!

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