17 Quick and Easy Tips for Beginning Golfers and High-Handicappers

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Gary Gilchrist's Simple Advice to Help Golf Beginners, High-Handicappers

Yani Tseng of Taiwan (L) walks with her coach Gary Gilchrist during a practice round prior to the start of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open
Gary Gilchrist (right) talks with one of his past pro clients,Yani Tseng. On these pages, though, Gilchrist has advice for beginning golfers. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Golf instructor Gary Gilchrist has worked with some of the top names in the pro game: Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen, Yani Tseng to name a few. But on the following pages, he's going to help you with 17 quick and simple golf tips aimed at beginning golfers and high-handicap players.

Gilchrist doesn't just work with the pros; he also has one of the best-known junior golf academies in the U.S. And over the years of his career he's seen many golfers just getting started in the game.

If you're a beginner and don't want to get bogged down in golf tips aimed at better players or more advanced golfers - you're just looking to find a few simple ideas that might help - take a look through the Gilchrist's tips below.

You'll find quick, easy golf tips for beginners within the following subject areas:

  • Preparing for the round
  • Hitting it farther
  • Making good club choices
  • Swing flaws and fixes
  • Shots around the green
  • The mental game

There are multiple tips within each subject, 17 in all, and if you do want to dive in deeper, most sections come with links to help you explore further.

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Practice and Prep

golfer on practice range with yellow golf balls
Kelly Funk/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Remember: These are quick-hit bits of advice for beginning golfers and higher-handicappers from noted instructor Gary Gilchrist. And you can click on the links to go more in-depth on a topic.

How Can I Get Better Results from My Practice?

The old saying "practice smarter, not harder," is the key to seeing improvement from your practice time.

Quality practice means having a specific purpose to your practice. And that's only possible if you have a clear understanding and awareness of your strengths and limitations. Don't show up at the driving range and just randomly knock balls around. Have a plan, pick targets, execute shots.

Don't practice in the dark - it's hard to see the way to improvement.

How Should I Warm Up Before a Round of Golf?

To prepare well for a round of golf you should arrive at the golf course at least an hour before your tee time.

Start on the practice green where you can establish a smooth, deliberate tempo. Don't putt at the cup, but at tees, or coins, or just a spot on the green. Focus on speed control and tempo. Then spent a few minutes chipping to a tee on the practice green.

Walk to the practice range and stretch; once you feel loose, start hitting balls. Use your wedges first, then move to the middle irons, then the long irons and finally the woods.

Finish your warmup with the club you intend to use on the first tee, making slow, rhythmic swings. And time your warmup to end so that you can stroll to the first tee and tee off within a few minutes.

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Hitting It Farther

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, hits a tee shot from the roof of the 10-story Lone Star Tower condominium at Texas Motor Speedway on October 13, 2010
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

How Can I Add Yards to My Drives?

More distance - every golfer's dream.

Adding yards to your drives comes from using different parts of your body to create speed in the clubhead:

  1. The grip must be in your fingers, not the palm.
  2. Your stance should be wide with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. The plane of your swing must be around your body, with the club coming from the inside for impact.

An around-the-body swing is helped by a right-to-left (for right-handed players) weight shift, which in turn creates the release from the inside. And the club coming from the inside to impact creates maximum speed and distance.

How Can I Improve My Clubhead Speed?

Improving your clubhead speed starts with the fundamentals - a good grip and an athletic posture.

Once you are set up for success, it is easier for your body motion to move freely behind the ball in the backswing, and into the ball on the way through.

A great drill is to swing a golf club three feet off the ground (sort of a baseball-type swing, but using your golf grip and posture).

This will help you feel the right swing plane and release through impact.

More in-depth:

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Making Good Club Choices

view from the tee box on a desert golf course
The view from the tee box on a desert golf course. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

When Should I Use a 3-Wood Off the Tee Rather than a Driver?

Driver is one of the most difficult clubs for beginning golfers to master - or even become decent with. So using "less club" (a fairway wood, hybrid or even an iron) is often a good choice off the tee for beginners.

Two factors influence my decision on whether to use a driver or a 3-wood off the tee:

  1. The length of the hole;
  2. The level of difficulty of the tee shot, which might be determined by the hazards or the narrowness of the fairway.

The one question you need to ask yourself on every tee is this: "Is this a high-risk or low-risk shot?" If the answer is high-risk, take the 3-wood or other shorter club, which you should be better able to control.

I'm Often Short on My Approach Shots - How Can I Improve My Club Selection?

It's very important to have your yardages written down.

Most amateur golfers have no idea how far they actually hit the ball, because most believe they hit their shots farther than they really do.

When we play golf, we are half player and half caddie. Take the time to prepare for every shot.

Confidence comes from knowing our abilities and limitiations, so take the time to figure out your real distances.

More in-depth:

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Swing Flaws and Fixes

Scott Hoch of the USA calls fore right on the 5th tee during the third round of The Senior Open Championship 2007
Fore right! Don't let mis-hits get you down, they happen to the best golfers. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

How Can I Get Rid of My Slice and Learn to Hit a Controlled Draw?

Most slices are caused by an "over the top" swing; that is, a swing that approaches the ball on an outside-to-inside swing path. Open clubfaces at impact are another common cause.

Drawing the ball comes from your setup position. The main keys are:

  1. Keep your alignment closed.
  2. Put the ball back in your stance.
  3. Take a strong grip (your leading hand - the top hand on the club - should be turned a little more to the inside).
  4. Swing from the inside-out; that is, the club should approach the ball from an inside-to-outside swing path.

These fundamentals should help you produce a shot that goes right to left (for righthanders).

More in-depth:

How Can I Improve My Balance through the Finish of My Swing?

Losing your balance during the swing can be caused by basic swing faults. The first is swinging too hard, and another is having too narrow a stance.

The key to a balanced swing is to keep a good rhythm. Swing within yourself and, remember, the longer the club, the wider your stance should be.

More in-depth:

  • Balance and rhythm in the golf swing

I Hit the Ball Very Low - How Can I Get a Higher Trajectory on My Shots?

Take a close look at your clubface. A shut or closed clubface will cause the trajectory of your shots to be low.

To play a high fade, place the ball forward in your stance and open the clubface slightly. Take a long follow-through and make sure your finish is high.

More in-depth:

I Hit the Ball Very High - How Can I Lower the Trajectory of My Shots?

Two reasons for hitting the ball too high are having the ball too far forward in your stance, and having a backswing and follow-through that are too long.

To produce a lower ball flight, put the ball farther back in your stance. And remember that the shorter the follow through, the lower the flight of the ball.

More in-depth:

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Around the Green

golfer hitting to green out of bunker
Barrett&MacKay/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

How Can I Stop Lifting My Head While Putting?

The main reason golfers lift their heads when putting is because they focus too much on results - you want to look at that golf ball as soon as it comes off your putter and see if it goes into the hole. But that desire often causes golfers to come up out of their putting posture too soon, leading to bad putts.

To counteract the impulse to lift your head and watch the ball, the key is to listen for the ball to enter the hole, rather than looking for it to do so.

More in-depth:

How Can I Stop Taking Too Much Sand on Bunker Shots?

Great players all understand the importance of the sand wedge. If you're digging too deep into the sand, here's a key.

When setting up for your shot, open the clubface of the wedge first, and then take your grip. This will help you take shallow divots, which will help your consistency in the sand.

More in-depth:

How Can I Stop Hitting Fat or Thin Pitch Shots?

The setup is vital for you to hit your pitch shots solid, and for the ball to travel the right distances.

Your clubface and body alignment need to be open, while the ball should be in the middle of your stance. Make sure your weight is on your left side, and that during the swing your legs stay quiet. Your legs should move only with the momentum of the swing.

More in-depth:

  • Improve your pitch shot distances with the 7-8-9 drill

How Can I Avoid Hitting the Ball Thin on Soft Lob Shots?

For the lob shot, you have to trust the design of your lob wedge or sand wedge. That is, you must trust that by swinging through the grass, the club will lift the ball into the air and land it softly on the green.

Hitting thin shots with a lob wedge is often caused because the golfer thinks he or she has to "help" the ball into the air, rather than trusting the club to do the job.

Don't try to help the ball into the air (hitting up on the ball). This only causes you to lose your body angles and creates inconsistent shots around the green.

Related article:

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The Mental Game

golfer swinging iron
Ron Dahlquist/Perspectives/Getty Images

How Can I Get My Nerves Under Control on the First Tee Shot of the Day?

Taking time to warm up properly will help you prepare mentally before a round. For the first tee shot, take the club that you have the most confidence with, regardless of distance. Distance off the tee is not always an advantage.

And learn from the pros. Take a practice swing, focus on the target and stick to your routine.

How Can I Avoid the Back Nine Collapses that are Common in My Rounds?

Many recreational golfers have this problem: falling apart on the back nine after you've played a great front nine.

Every golfer knows his or her expectations and comfort zone. When you are playing well, the key is to keep your mind off the score. Focus on playing one shot at a time.

Keep your score to yourself.

The more you verbalize your round, the harder it is to keep focusing on the process. Focus and stick to your pre-shot routine.

How Can I Improve My Concentration Throughout My Round of Golf?

Loss of concentration costs every golfer strokes. Most golfers loose their concentration when they start to focus on their score - whether good or bad.

Focusing on score can make a golfer self-conscious, either technically or emotionally.

You must stay in the present to maintain your concentration, and the most effective way of doing that is to develop a reliable pre-shot routine.

More for Beginning Golfers and High-Handicappers

The most fundamental parts of your setup are your grip and your stance. So explore more on these topics with this piece:

Another good article for beginners/high-handicappers is the Faults and Fixes Tip Sheet.

You can mind many more terrific tips on golf basics and other areas of the game in our free golf tips section.

Of course, beginning golfers have many questions about golf that have to do with topics other than how to actually swing the club. So check out Golf for Beginners.

For more about instructor Gary Gilchrist, visit the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy.