Golf for Beginners FAQ

Male golfer preparing to hit tee shot
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Our Golf for Beginners FAQ is designed to answer some of the questions newcomers to the game are sure to have. If you're looking for the meaning of specific golf terms, try the golf glossary. And if you're looking for instructional articles and videos, see our Golf Tips section.

Scorekeeping and Scorecards

  • How do I keep score?
  • Birdies, bogeys, eagles, pars - what are those things?
  • How do I mark the scorecard?
  • What do "out" and "in" mean on the scorecard?
  • What do the numbers on the "Handicap" line of the scorecard represent? (Related: Handicap FAQ)

On the Course

  • How long does it take to play a round of golf?
  • How much does it cost to play a round of golf?
  • What are the different parts of a golf course?
  • What are the different types of golf courses?
  • Which set of tees on the tee box should I use?
  • How high should I tee the ball on the tee box?
  • When can I ask for the flag to be tended, and when should I do it for others?
  • What is the proper method for tending the flagstick?
  • What's the right way to mark a ball on the green?

Where can I drive the golf cart on the course?

Many courses, on most days, do allow golfers to driver riding carts onto the fairways. But every course has its own rules for golf carts. So a good general rule of thumb is this: Unless you know otherwise, only drive the golf cart on the designated cart paths.

A course usually has its golf cart rules on its scorecard or posted in the clubhouse or near the first tee, so be sure to check those out. If you learn that the "90-degree rule" is in effect, this means that you can take the cart onto the fairway, but only at 90-degree angles. If you are told that the cart path only rule is in effect, then keep your cart on the designated cart paths at all times. See Golf Cart Rules & Etiquette for more.

  • What is golf etiquette?
  • Do golf courses have dress codes?
  • What's the proper way to rake a sand bunker?
  • How do I fix a divot?
  • How do I repair a ballmark on the green?
  • Are yardages listed to the front or center of the greens?
  • Why are hole liners white?

Rules of Golf

  • Where can I get the basics of golf rules?
  • What are "winter rules" or "preferred lies"?

Practice and Lessons

  • Should I take lessons?
  • How much do golf lessons cost?

How long does it take to become good?

The answer to that question depends on many factors: Your aptitude for golf, your goals, your willingness to work on your game, your ability to learn and adjust. A good idea is to set goals in stages. If you're a golf beginner, don't go into it thinking, "I want to be shooting par in six months." You're almost certain to be very disappointed when that six-month mark arrives because only a minuscule percentage of players ever become par-shooters - much less that quickly.

Set an easier target. Break 100 first, then concentrate on breaking 90 and so on. Or just set a goal to reach a level of competence at which you can enjoy a round of golf with your friends. You'll know it when you reach it.

For those who really want to become great golfers the most important factor is a willingness to work hard on becoming better. Golf is learned through repetition (and the repetition of the right things). That means practice, practice and more practice. Taking lessons will greatly speed up the process.

Before and After the Round

  • Are tee times required to play golf? How do I get a tee time?
  • If I show up at a course without a tee time, will I get to play?
  • What happens if I'm late and miss my tee time?
  • Do I have to tip at the golf course?

Golf Clubs

  • How much do golf clubs cost?
  • How do I know which club to hit?
  • I want to buy name-brand golf clubs - how do I know which brand to buy?
  • How do you clean golf clubs?
  • How do you clean the grips on golf clubs?
  • How many clubs are in golf sets?
  • Do I have to have a full set of clubs to start playing?
  • What are "game improvement" clubs?
  • How do steel and graphite shafts compare, and how do I know which is right for me?

Why are they called "woods" when they aren't made of wood?

The woods are the longer golf clubs in a golfer's bag - the driver, the 3-wood, 5-wood, sometimes even 7- or 9-woods. But the clubheads are metal, not wood. So why are they called "woods"? Because for most of the history of golf clubs, those clubs did have wooden club heads. Persimmon, usually. It was only relatively recently that metal replaced wood as the material of choice for the "woods." But the woods had been, well, wood for so long that most golfers still call them that.

Golf Balls

  • What are X-Out golf balls?
  • What do the numbers on a golf ball mean?
  • How many dimples are on a golf ball?

Accessories (Shoes, Gloves, Etc.)

  • Do I need to wear a golf glove?
  • Are golf shoes required to play golf?
  • Do golf courses have dress codes?

Shopping and Buying

  • What should I look for when buying used clubs?
  • How much do golf clubs cost?
  • I want to buy name-brand golf clubs - how do I know which brand to buy?

Historical/Miscellaneous

  • Is "golf" an acronym for "gentleman only, ladies forbidden"?
  • Why are golf courses 18 holes in length?
  • Why do golfers yell "fore" to warn others of an errant shot?
  • The Answer Man: FAQs Full of Facts About Golf Courses

  • Golf Course - Overhead View

    Hello Golfers, I'm the Golf Course, Nice to Meet You!

  • Golfer Playing Golf, Near 14th Hole, Korschenbroich, Dusseldorf, Germany

    Etiquette for Your First Round of Golf

  • Golf carts traveling on cart paths at a golf course

    Things You Should Never Do in a Golf Cart, and the Rules of the Road

  • A golf ball is stuck on a tree during the second round of the Open Cala Millor Mallorca in Spain

    What's the Ruling? Sort Out Tricky Golf Rules Situations

  • Two golf carts on the path next to a golf hole

    What You Need to Know About the Cart Path Only Rule at Golf Courses

  • 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

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

  • The Masters - Preview Day 1

    Why Walking Golf Benefits You and the Course

  • A golfer laying down for a rest due to slow play

    25 Tips for Fighting Slow Play on the Golf Course

  • Male golfer preparing to hit tee shot

    You're On a Need-to-Know Basis for Golf Equipment

  • Learn the Key Golf Terms You'll Need on the Course

  • Simple Safety Guidelines for Golfers

  • Golf stand bag full of a set of golf clubs

    The Basics on Golf Club Sets

  • Golf Clubs

    Answers to Your Technical Questions about Golf Clubs

  • Golfers shading hands

    Learn the Basics of Good Golf Etiquette

  • Golf scorecard attached to the steering wheel of a cart.

    Anyone Can Mark a Golf Scorecard With 10 Simple Tips