Golf is a game. It’s supposed to be fun, even for someone who is playing for the first time.
That’s why Ravenwood Golf Club Head Pro Bob Gilbert wants a beginner to only feel one thing.
“First thing we’re doing is we’re moving to get them comfortable,” Gilbert says. “The biggest thing is to have them comfortable.”
As you’d expect, Gilbert wants a new player to begin by learning four basic parts of a swing: grip, posture, balance and stance. There’s a ton of logic behind starting a beginner at the beginning.
“If you start out wrong, there are so many other factors that could go wrong from that,” Gilbert says. “Might as well start with a good base and work from there.”
While most players of all skill levels will often have the ball dead center between their feet, Gilbert prefers a new player to have the ball more towards the front foot. That makes it easier for a novice to catch the ball on the upswing.
When addressing the ball for the first time, Gilbert suggests a new player should reach out and place the club behind the ball with the bottom of the club completely on the ground. “That’s the way the club is made,” Gilbert said. Then, the player should step in and take a normal stance without tipping the toe or the heel of the club off the ground.
Gilbert will allow some variance on the grip based on hand size. Many new players with a baseball background will grip a club like a baseball bat. While Gilbert wants the hands to be interlocked (forefinger of top hand inside pinky of bottom hand), he is ok with the first time golfer wrapping their thumb around the club. The traditional grip has the thumbs resting on the grip pointing at the ball.
“People with smaller hands feel like they can grip it better (with the baseball grip),” Gilbert says. “They feel more comfortable. I don’t want anyone to think (at the top of the swing), they’re going to lose the club on the swing.”
The goal with the grip is to have the thumbs finish a “V” shape that includes the arms. The tip of the thumb, generally, ends up in a straight line going all the way to the shoulder.
A player should have about a 45-degree spine angle and not be too stooped over or too upright. The swing should be, mainly, a rotation of the hips. At the end, a player should be facing the target.
“You want to be square to the target. If you get your belt buckle through there (and pointed at the target), you will be,” Gilbert says.
A new player should at least practice a bit before hitting the course, but it doesn’t have to be too long. Gilbert emphasizes playing from a tee or a distance that’s comfortable. That includes dropping a ball 100 or 150 yard away and “teeing” off from there.
Any concern for holding other players up on a course or feeling uneasy about a lack of ability can be erased by playing in a timely matter. Be ready to go when it’s your turn. Replace head covers while riding in the cart. Make club selections while others in the group are playing. A ready player can often move faster than an experienced player.
The best thing Gilbert can do for a new player is make them enjoy playing. He wants them to want to be there.
“Biggest thing is to have them comfortable. We don’t want them over the ball thinking about how uncomfortable they are,” Gilbert says.
It’s supposed to be recreation. It’s supposed to be fun.