Even if you’re new to golf, you can still look and act like you know what you’re doing. Making sure you have the right equipment in your bag and making intelligent decisions about which club to use can get you off to a great start. Offer to keep score and propose a couple of fun bets, and you can really impress your fellow golfers, no matter how long they’ve been playing the game.

Knowing which club to use for which shot

The sheer variety of golf clubs you need can be overwhelming. After you have all the clubs you need and you’re on the golf course, how do you know which club to use for each shot? The following table gives you a quick guide to the kinds of clubs in your bag and the shots you take with them.

Club What It’s For
Driver Teeing off — and very occasionally hitting from a
good lie in the fairway
Hybrid club Getting shots of 150+ yards airborne
2- to 9-irons Hitting toward the green, usually from 120–190 yards away
— use low-numbered irons for longer shots, high-numbered
irons for shorter shots
Wedges Hitting short, high shots from near the green or from sand
Putter Rolling the ball into the hole after it’s on the green
(or occasionally from just off the green)

Essential items you need in your golf bag

Golf bags aren’t just for holding clubs. Like any sport, golf requires other essential equipment and helpful items that make your game a little easier. Here are the essentials for stocking your golf bag:

  • At least six balls

  • A few wooden tees

  • A couple of gloves

  • A rain suit

  • A pitch-mark repair tool

  • A few small coins to mark your ball on the green

  • Two or three pencils

  • Sunscreen

  • A small pouch for your wallet, money clip, loose change, car keys, rings, and cell phone (which is turned off)

  • A spare towel

Understanding golf scoring language

Golf has its own language, and its scoring lingo can be especially puzzling to understand. If understanding golf scores seems like a foreign language, the following table of golf scoring terms can help you feel right at home on the course.

Scoring Term What It Means
Ace Hole in one
Albatross/double eagle Three strokes under par on a hole
Eagle Two strokes under par on a hole
Birdie One stroke under par on a hole
Par Score a good player would expect to make on a hole or
Bogey One stroke over par on a hole
Double bogey Two strokes over par on a hole

How to score gold penalty shots

Penalty shots (and their effects on the score) are an unfortunate part of golf for most golfers. Scoring golf penalty shots can be confusing, so the following table helps you adjust your score and shoot on.

Penalty How to Score and Continue Play
Out-of-bounds Two-stroke penalty (the stroke you hit plus one penalty
stroke). Drop a ball where you last shot from and continue
Whiff Count each time you swing in an effort to hit the ball.
Unplayable lies One-stroke penalty. Drop the ball (no nearer the hole) within
two club lengths of the original spot; drop the ball as far back as
you want, keeping the original spot between you and the hole; or
return to the point from which you hit the previous shot.
Water hazard (yellow stakes) One-stroke penalty. Play a ball from its original position.
Play from as close as possible to the spot from which you played
the previous shot. Or drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping
the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the
hazard between the hole and the spot where you drop the ball, with
no limit to how far behind the water hazard you drop it.
Alternately, play the ball as it lies without grounding the club
for no penalty.
Lateral water hazard (red stakes) One-stroke penalty. Play a ball from its original position.
Drop a ball outside the hazard within two club lengths of where the
ball last crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard (but no
nearer the hole), or within two club lengths from a point on the
opposite edge of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.
Alternately, play the ball as it lies without grounding the club
for no penalty.

Making typical golf bets

Betting is a part of most golfers’ typical outings. The extra competitive spirit can make golf that much more fun. Here are some bets you typically see on the course.

Remember: Never bet more than you can afford to lose.

  • A Nassau is a three-part bet with the same stake wagered on the first nine holes, the second nine, and the total for the round. If you’re playing a $5 Nassau and you win all three parts, you’re up $15.

  • Skins is the format in which each hole is worth a certain amount — but if two players tie, all tie, and the money goes into the pot for the next hole (and sometimes the next and the next).

  • To play wolf, one player takes on everyone else in the group. For a set price, the lone wolf can choose one of the others as his or her partner.

  • Snake is a side bet: The first player to three-putt a hole gets stuck with a “snake” that costs a predetermined sum each hole until someone else three-putts.

  • In Bingo Bango Bongo, the first player on the green earns a point (bingo), as does the one closest to the hole when everybody’s safely on (bango) and the first to hole a putt (bongo).

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Gary McCord is a PGA Champions Tour player and celebrity golf instructor. He’s best known for the knowledgeable perspective, refreshing humor, and irreverent wit he has shown as a golf commentator for CBS for nearly 25 years.

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