Answering all the beginner questions you were too scared to ask
June 7th is a special day for women in golf. In celebration of Women’s Golf Day, golf events are being held around the globe. If you’re looking for an event, here’s the list of locations, from retail stores to golf courses, that are hosting women for the day. The events are open to all abilities, from women who are looking to take their first swing to women who’ve been playing for years. We realize that it can be intimidating for first-time golfers to go to the course, so for this edition of the mailbag, we’re answering a collection of beginner questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We were all beginners at one point and had no idea where we were actually allowed to drive the cart.
How early should I be for my tee time?
You want to give yourself enough time to check in, hit a few putts and practice shots at the range. So plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before your tee time.
Where am I allowed to drive the cart?
You can always drive your cart on the cart path and often, you can drive your cart off the path to your ball. There are a few times when you aren’t able to do that:
- When you’re close to the green. There will usually be signage once you get about 50 yards from the green, pointing you back to the path.
- When it’s been raining. If the course gets too wet, they won’t want you to drive your cart off the cart paths for fear of damaging the course. When you check in to pay for your round, they’ll tell you if it’s "cart path only", meaning you should only drive your cart on the path, or if it’s the "90-degree rule." Imagine the cart path is a straight line to the green. You can only drive off of it in a direction that makes a 90-degree angle with that line. The purpose of this rule is to limit cart traffic on the course, and to keep carts from making too many turns on the course, which would cause damage to the turf.
- Never drive your cart into a sand trap, onto a green, onto a tee box, or through swampy areas.
How to hit the ball:
Where should I tee the ball up, and who goes first?
When you’re first starting out, make the course as short as possible: Tee off from the tee box that’s as far up as possible. There will be two tee markers, teer you ball up in between those markers so that if an invisible line was drawn between the markers, your ball would not be in front of that line.
For a casual round, you can make up your own order as to who goes first off the first hole. I usually have my group stand in a circle and have one person throw a tee in the air. Whomever the tee points to when it lands is the first person to tee off. Toss it again to see who goes second and third, and the last person left goes fourth.
Once you’re out on the course, technically the person who had the lowest score on the previous hole is supposed to tee off first on the next hole. But when you’re playing casually, it’s good to play “Ready Golf.” This means whoever’s ready should hit first. It helps keep things moving along. If you’re playing more forward tees than your playing partners, let them hit first and go to your tee once they’re done. It wastes time if you hit first and then have to go back and let them hit.
When you’re off the tee box and on the course, whomever if farthest away from the hole should play first. But again, if you’re both similar distances from the hole, don’t stress about who is actually farther: Play ready golf. (Another thing that helps keep pace of play quick is to only take one practice swing before every shot.)
Where should I stand while others are hitting?
While others are hitting, never stand in front of them or within range of their swing. Standing to the side of them, about eight feet away from them, is a good spot. It’s also good to not stand behind them, even if you’re a safe distance away, because it can be distracting to hit while someone’s standing behind you. Once you get onto the putting green, it’s OK to be closer: You’re not at risk of getting injured by a wayward putt in the same way you could be hurt by a mis-hit iron.
How to act like a golfer:
What should I do if my ball goes onto a different hole?
This happens to everyone, so don’t be embarrassed. You can hit from there, but if you have to venture onto another hole, just know that you do not have the right of way. If people are playing that hole, they get to hit first. Wait until they’re past you before you go out onto their hole. It’s best to play quickly and try to hit your ball directly back onto the hole you’re supposed to be playing. If it doesn’t work the first time, pick up your ball and go back to the hole you’re playing to help keep pace of play up.
What to do on the green:
If you’re on the green and realize you’ve forgotten a marker (this happens to me all the time), instead of going to your bag and rifling through to find one, you can use a tee. Honestly, in casual rounds, I’ve done things like grabbing a leaf off the green and using that as a marker in a pinch. Don't stress yourself out over it.
I’ve seen people mark the ball on the green, how are you supposed to do that?
Marking the ball on the green is helpful to your playing partners because you don’t want your ball to get in the way of their putt. You don’t need anything fancy, a quarter will work. (But there are a lot of cute ball marker options you can buy.) Stand behind the ball so it’s between you and the hole and place the mark down directly behind the ball. Pick the ball up and once it’s your turn to putt, place the ball back down in front of the mark and pick the mark up.
When you’re learning to play, it can feel like there are a lot of things to know. But really, no one cares if you know all the rules or not. The most important thing is to not be the slowest person in your group: Play ready golf, only take one practice swing, and if you’re having a bad hole, just pick up and join your group on the green for a few putts. As for learning how to play better, we recommend taking lessons. Here are some resources to help you find the right instructor for you: