How to Play Golf: Beginners Overview

So, you have decided to take up golf. Whether it is for the networking opportunities, or to play with friends, it can be difficult to know where to begin. But don’t worry. We have put together a cheat sheet containing all you need to know to get started.

The Rules of Golf 

There are many rules and regulations associated with golf. There is a lot to learn before you even step onto the course, so let’s start with an overview;

How to play golf: the basics 

The overarching goal of golf is to get your ball from the tee to the hole in as few shots/strokes as possible while avoiding obstacles like rough terrain, sand bunkers and water features.

In an official golf course, each hole will have a par which is an indication of the number of shots it should take a 0-handicap golfer to complete.

Beginner courses are usually par 3 while championship courses have holes of varying pars up to 5.

Make sure to mark your ball before you begin playing so you can clearly differentiate it from that of other players in your group or on the course.

Check your golf bag contains 14 clubs or less, any more and you may be penalised.

Tee off within a club’s length of the tee markers.

Don’t distract or talk to your team mate or opponent while they are teeing off.

Play the ball as it lies. If it lands in the rough, don’t try to improve the area by moving or knocking objects that may be impeding it.

If your ball lands in the water or a bunker and is unplayable you can’t remove it. You can however drop it within two club lengths of where the ball lies as long as the drop is away from the hole. A dropped ball will incur a penalty of one stroke.

On the putting green, you must repair any damage or marks made.

If you’re on the green and your ball impedes that of another player, then you must mark and lift your ball.

These really are the very basics of golf, there are a plethora of additional rules you should familiarise yourself with before getting seriously involved so you don’t leave yourself at risk of penalties.

TipsHow to Improve My Golf Swing?

What is a golf handicap and how do I get one? 

Golf handicaps were developed to open the game up to more than just professionals. They allow golfers of differing ability to play against each other fairly.

golf handicap is extra strokes you may be granted on certain holes so you can more evenly compete with players of better ability.

To get a handicap in Ireland you must:

1) Be a member of an official golf club in Ireland

2) Submit scorecards for 54 holes of golf played in rounds of 9 or 18 on your home course

3) Each card must be signed by another member of the club and submitted to The Council of National Golf Unions within a 6-month period

4) They will compare your score to the course rating and use a standard formula to establish your initial handicap

Terms You Should Know


  • Tee box: the starting point for each hole on a golf course.
  • Fairway: the area between the starting point and putting green on a golf course. It is usually well maintained compared to the surrounding areas, although not as manicured as the putting greens.
  • Rough: area of wilder grass and shrubbery surrounding each hole of a golf course.
  • Bunker: often filled with sand, these are hazards on a golf course that should be avoided.
  • Green: the area of the course closest to the hole. Greens are very well maintained which very short grass to make putting the ball easier.
  • Handicap: additional scores that are assigned to golfers based on ability
  • Scratch golfer: a good player who does not have a handicap and plays off the par of each hole. All professional golfers are scratch golfers.


  • Tee: wooden or plastic peg used to hit the first shot on each hole
  • Driver: is the name of the club designed to hit the ball farthest. Drivers are usually used from the tee.
  • Irons: are a selection of clubs with varying sizes and club head gradients. These are usually used on the fairway and in the rough as you move closer to the green.
  • Putter: a special club only used on the green to move the ball into the hole.


  • Bogey: one shot over par e.g. a scratch golfer on a par 5 gets the ball in the hole in 6 shots then they bogeyed that hole
  • Par: reaching the hole in the allotted number of shots.
  • Birdie: putting the ball in the hole one less than the allotted par e.g. putting the ball in a par 5 in 4 shots.
  • Eagle: reaching the hole in two under the allotted par.
  • Albatross: this is extremely rare in golf but if a golfer reaches the hole 3 under the allotted par it is known as an albatross.

Golf tips for beginners

  • Get some lessons: golf is a relatively specialist sport, getting some lessons early on will pay dividends when you are practicing and playing. Lessons will help you reduce the chances of developing bad habits. It will also help you find a swing that feels natural and won’t cause pain or discomfort in the longer term.

  • Start at the driving range: once you have had a few lessons, the driving range should be your next port of call. Located all over the country they offer you the opportunity to perfect your long game. Use a range of clubs at the driving range to get used to the different distances they can move the ball. Focus on your stanceand swing. With enough practice accuracy and distance should follow.

  • Don’t forget your short game: for many beginner golfers, the trickiest element can be putting the ball. Every time you visit the driving range allocate some time to the putting greens to improve your short game.

  • Don’t buy too much equipment: although it is tempting, don’t buy too much equipment until you are sure you are committed to the game. If you can, borrow clubs initially or buy a driver, putter and small selection of irons. Check out online auction sites or second hand stores for a bargain initially.

  • Dress for the occasion: when it comes to golf courses, jeans are a no, no. Fortunately appropriate golf clothing is becoming less expensive. You can now pick up quality ranges in Irish department stores.

If you are enjoying it, consider joining a course to get a handicap, it is getting much more affordable than it once was.

As a member of the GUI or ILGU, you could make savings on car, home and travel insurance with AIG.

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