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Everything you need to know about taking up golf from the editors of Golf Digest We get it. Golf can seem terribly complicated to the uninitiated. So many rules, so many different kinds of clubs. And then there's the lingo: birdies, bogeys, bump-and-runs. At Golf Digest, this may be the language we speak every day, but we also know it's a language that can scare prospective golfers off before they ever pick up a club. That's where this online beginner's guide comes in. To those who know nothing about golf, our goal is to shepherd you through this uncertainty. What kind of clubs do you need?

How do you practice? When do you know that you're ready for the golf course? The way we see it, the only dumb questions about getting started in golf are the ones you're afraid to ask, or worse, the ones for which you can't find an answer. The whole point of this guide is to make sure that last part is no longer a problem. Full Leaderboard. By golfdigest. April 30, Share this story Facebook Twitter LinkedIn. Part 1: What you need to know about clubs No doubt, the right equipment always helps, but it's not as if you'll need to empty your savings to get started.

Instead, focus on finding the sort of equipment that will allow you to develop your imperfect skills with minimal expense. There'll be plenty of time to go after the latest, hot products on the market and when you do, make sure you start your search with one of our top clubfitters , but at the beginning, make learning -- and not buying -- your priority. You only need a few clubs: You're allowed to carry as many as 14 clubs in your bag, but you won't need nearly that many when you're first learning.

Instead, start with a driver, a putter, a sand wedge it's the club that has an "S" on the sole or a loft of 54 to 56 degrees and supplement those with a 6-iron, an 8-iron, a pitching wedge, and a fairway wood or hybrid with degrees of loft. These are the clubs that are the most forgiving and easiest to get airborne. Don't guess -- try before you buy: If you're an absolute beginner looking to buy clubs, go to a larger golf shop or driving range and ask to try a 6-iron with a regular-flex and a stiff-flex shaft.

Generally, the faster and more aggressive the swing, the more you will prefer a shaft that is labeled "S" for stiff. One of the two should feel easier to control. That's the shaft flex you should start with for all your clubs. Once you get serious about the game and are able to make consistent contact, a clubfitting will enable you to get the most out of your equipment. The more loft, the better: Unless you're a strong and well-coordinated athlete experienced with stick and ball sports baseball, softball, hockey, tennis, for example , opt for woods that have more loft.

The extra loft generally means it will be easier to get the ball in the air and also can reduce sidespin so shots fly straighter. So go for drivers with at least 10 degrees of loft and fairway woods that start at 17 degrees, not 15 degrees. Take advantage of clubs made for beginners: Some types of clubs are easier to hit than others. For one thing, you're better off with hybrids instead of 3-, 4-, and 5-irons. And irons with wider soles the bottom part of an iron will alleviate the tendency for the club to stick in the ground when you hit too far behind the ball.

Also, with more weight concentrated in the sole, the iron's center of gravity will be lower and this will help shots launch on a higher trajectory. Generally, a more forgiving iron will feature a sole that measures about the width of two fingers from front edge to back. If an iron's sole measures less than one finger width, you only should be playing it if you're paid to do so. To find the right iron for you, browse through the super game improvement irons on our Hot List. Choose the right ball Buy balls on a sliding scale based on how many you lose in a round.

For a complete rundown of golf balls, see our ball Hot List. Part 2: Learning To Play The hardest part about golf can be getting started. Ask yourself a few questions. First, why do you want to play? Is it for work or social reasons? Maybe then you need only some basic instruction and patient friends. Perhaps you're looking to jump in headfirst in hopes of getting better fast. If so, there's plenty of top-level instruction out there. Next, how much are you willing to put into it? That goes for time and the money. Point is, there's a huge difference between wanting to ride around and have some laughs and being a serious player.

Do some soul-searching, and start to develop your plan. Take lessons right away: The bad news when you're just starting out is you don't know much about golf. The good news? You don't know much about golf. You probably haven't ingrained many bad habits, and you have tons of questions about what to do. Nothing beats starting out with some positive direction.

And don't just seek instruction when you're struggling. It's just as important to know what you're doing right as what you're doing wrong. Your golf buddies might sometimes have a good tip for you, but it's better to seek out a PGA professional since they're the ones trained to teach the game to someone like yourself. Have a range routine: Everyone wants to see how far they can hit a golf ball, but when you go to the driving range, resist the temptation to immediately start ripping drivers.

Yes, you might crank a couple, but swinging for maximum distance will throw you out of sync -- and fast. Start out by hitting one of your wedges or short irons, warming up your golf muscles with half-swings. Then increase the length and speed of your swings, and move on to your middle irons. Work your way up to the driver, and after you hit some balls with it, go back to a short iron or wedge. This will help you keep your tempo and tension level in check.

Read David Leadbetter's advice on warming up before you play. Learn the short shots: Roughly half of your strokes come within 50 yards of the green. That means you probably should spend half of your practice time with your wedges and putter. This might sound boring, but the good news is, you can practice your short game in your own back yard -- even in your TV room. Put out some buckets in your yard at various distances and try to pitch balls into them. Give yourself good lies and bad lies, just like you get on the course. As for putting, your carpet might not play as fast as the greens, but you can still practice aiming and rolling balls through doorways and into furniture legs.

Here are some more bright ideas on practice. When in doubt, go back to basics: Golf can really get you thinking too much. There's a lot of information out there, and the most mind-numbing part can be the instruction. When you're a new golfer, you can't help but read it and watch it, but too much can be, well, too much. When you find yourself getting burned out from too much swing thinking, go back to basics.

Try to get yourself into a good setup -- check your ball position and posture -- then make a relaxed swing all the way to a full finish. Over-thinking creates tension, so be aware of your stress level: Waggle the club a little at address and try to make a smooth move off the ball. Nothing ruins your chances faster than snatching the club back. Check out some more quick tips from No. Find the right teacher: Finding an instructor you trust can really speed your improvement.

Of course you want your teacher to be knowledgeable and committed to helping you, but just as important is finding a good personality fit. If you're laid back, you might like a teacher with a low-key approach. If you're a creative type, you might work best with someone who teaches with feels and images instead of angles and positions. The point is, you want to be comfortable and enjoy the experience.

You'll learn best when you feel free to ask what you think are stupid questions and when you're not afraid to fall down a few times. Part 3: Basic Shots You Should Know There are parts of golf that will elude you your entire life, but certain fundamentals are essential. You have to be able to hit a driver off the tee with a fair amount of confidence. You have to be able to hit an iron off the ground, and get out of a greenside bunker.

You have to know a few basic short shots around the green, and be able to keep your cool when things get ugly. It's easy to use, packed with great information, and it's free. Know when to chip and when to pitch: When you have a short shot to the green, you're going to hit either a chip or a pitch.

What's the difference between the two? A chip shot stays low and runs along the ground, and a pitch flies higher and doesn't roll as much. Use a chip when you don't have to carry the ball over an obstacle, like deep rough or a bunker, and you have a lot of green between you and the hole. Use a pitch when you have to carry over something or need to stop the ball faster. The extra height on a pitch shot causes the ball to land softer and stop faster.

For more on these shots, check out this video on greenside fundamentals. Get out of a bunker every time: The greenside bunker shot is the one shot in golf where you don't actually hit the ball: You swing the clubhead into the sand behind the ball, and the sand pushes it out. For that reason, you have to swing quite a bit harder than you might expect; the sand really slows down the clubhead.

Here's the basic technique: Using your sand wedge, stand so the ball is even with your front instep, twist your feet in for stability, and focus on a spot about two inches behind the ball. Swing the club back about halfway then down and through that spot behind the ball. Keep turning your body so your chest faces the target at the finish.

Use your athleticism: Beginning golfers often get so tied up in the instructions for making the swing that they lose their athletic instincts. Golf might be more mental than other sports, but the swing is still a dynamic, athletic movement. Here are a few sports images that will help you: At address, stand like a defender in basketball, with your legs lively and your weight balanced left to right and front to back.

On the backswing, think of a quarterback rearing back to make a pass: Arm stretched back and body coiled from top to bottom. And on the downswing, be like a hockey player hitting a slap shot, with your wrists staying firm and your hands leading the clubhead into the ball. Don't fear the big dog: You might think the driver is more than you can handle right now: It's the longest club in your bag, and the head is gigantic. The truth is, built into that big clubhead is more forgiveness for mis-hits than you get with any other club. Have a few driver keys to rely on.

First, tee the ball nice and high. Second, take the club back smoothly and make a full body turn, getting your back to face the target. Third, swing through the ball; just let it get in the way of the clubhead through impact. Last, hold your finish. If you can finish in balance, you've swung at a speed you can control.

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