Golf Rules for Beginners – Simple Instructions to Remember on the Course

This article will quickly describe the most important golf rules for beginners as well as pointers on golf course etiquette.


When we first learn how to play golf our main focus is just to hit the ball cleanly and then learn the basic golf rules for how to properly play the game. Once we’ve succeeded in those tasks we then feel ready to challenge a real course — any course.

Unfortunately, once we take the plunge we then realize that there are many more things to fret over. There’s the written course rules, the unwritten rules of golf course etiquette, whether to hit where the ball lies, whether to take a drop, when to let others play through.

When a beginner finally gets down to playing a real course after spending lots of quality time learning to groove their swing at a driving range, the complexity of the numerous tasks, rules and etiquette can be overwhelming. This page distills it all down to a few easy golf rules for beginners to remember.

When we step onto that first golf course, the adrenaline and the sheer number of potential outcomes contained within that first tee box simply boggle the brain. Be sure to review the simple golf course etiquette items among the few easy to remember rules. This should help remove some of the ‘green-ness’ from you when making those first forays onto the course.

One of the things beginners should be aware of is a phenomenon I refer to as ‘experienced golfer snobbery’. Many golfers who have been playing for a long time tend to look down on those of us who are just learning the game.

You usually won’t see this within your golfing foursome since most people are pretty understanding in close quarters. It’s typically the people in the groups behind you who from whom you may sense negative energy emanating.

This is usually due to the fact that golfing beginners simply cannot control the flight path of the ball with any degree of accuracy or predictability. The ball invariably goes into the high rough, other fairways, heather, water and sand.

What usually occurs next is a vicious cycle of stress and increasingly bad play due to pressure from the following group of four.

The following list of rules is a distilled version of the many rules of play and golf course etiquette that have been explained to me by my fellow golfers that may help other beginners “blend in” better on the course. It follows then that there should be less stress and more enjoyment of a game that seems simple but is really difficult to master or even become reasonably proficient in.


10 Free Tips to Lower Your….Stress!

1. Hit the range at least an hour before your tee time. Spend 25 minutes focusing on smooth swinging, not killing the ball. Split the rest of the time between putting 3 to 6 footers and chipping or pitching to within 6 feet of the hole. 

If you didn’t know this already: You will lower your scores the quickest if you learn to putt, chip and pitch with keen accuracy.  Forget the long ball until you can do the most important things well first. 

2. Never hit a practice shot while playing on the course. This seems like it doesn’t need to be said, but I have seen it multiple times. Nothing gets people riled up faster.

3. If you actually see your ball land in the bad stuff, try very hard to immediately find or notice a nearby landmark you can use to locate the ball. If you can’t find your ball after a couple of minutes of searching, take the drop and keep moving. Your peers will appreciate it. By the way, your group can quickly tell you where to drop the ball. 

Also, remember that you must add an extra stroke to your score.

Corrollary: At first buy a bunch of cheap balls – you’ll lose far more than you find early in your golfing career. Later, when you figure out which club will keep you in or near the fairway, buy the most expensive highest spin ball you can find to lower your scores by becoming an expert short game player.

4. Don’t rush your shots but don’t take forever either. One or two practice swings is enough. Then you should line yourself up, breathe deeply and swing smoothly.

5. Official rules state that you can only carry 14 clubs. Beginners can’t efficiently make use of even 10. Lighten the bag and spend time training to become dangerous with one fairway wood or hybrid, a longer iron, a shorter iron and the putter. For instance, in crunch situations my longer iron is the 6-iron, and my shorter iron is the 60 degree wedge. With these two sticks I actually look like “I meant to do that…”

6. After putting make haste to put the flag back and go to the cart. Once there, it is then ok to tally the score. Lollying about on the green discussing that great approach shot you made may invite a golf ball to the noggin.

7. If your group is really feeling pressure from the group behind you AND there is no group directly in front of you, etiquette calls for you to let the faster group play through. This helps reduce tension all around and allows you to finish that beer in your cart before it gets warm.

8. Technically, one is not allowed to give or receive advice on any shot. This is clearly not the case in any foursomes I have ever played in. However, it is a real courtesy to the other players not to comment, advise or in any way try to “help” unless asked.

Uninvited tips are incredibly annoying. Also, if something is going wrong in a person’s swing, the middle of a golfing round ain’t the place to work on it. This will only cause worse play due to the inter-connectedness of each of the many variables.

In other words, the admonition by your friend to “keep your head down” won’t produce the desired effect 98% of the time. Trust me on this one.

9. The hitting order on holes 2 through 18 are determined by the lowest score on the previous hole. If you didn’t win the hole but you feel ready to hit first, ask the others before doing so. Most won’t mind if you ask. On the first hole (in a relaxed setting) any method may be used to determine the hitting order.

10. Many of the experienced golfers who have bad attitudes towards beginners on “their” golf course forget that they were once beginner golfers as well.

The really sad part is that they play but don’t seem to be having fun. Golf is a GAME and is meant to be FUN and RELAXING. So don’t forget to have fun!

(Please also remember that 90% of those same players have a 20+ handicap and have been playing for many years…perhaps that’s why they are angry!)