Golf is a fun and challenging sport that people of all ages and skill levels can enjoy. Golf Basics for Beginners: there are some important rules, scoring methods, and etiquette to learn before hitting the course.

Follow this guide to get up to speed on golf basics so you can start playing properly and confidently.

Golf Basics for Beginners : Golf Rules and Regulations

The official rules of golf are determined by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. While the full rules manual is over 300 pages long, recreational golfers only need to know some of the basic rules to get started:

Teeing Off

  • Tee shots are taken from inside the tee box, hitting the ball off a tee embedded in the ground or directly off the turf.
  • Players hit in turn according to the determined order. The player with the lowest score on the previous hole typically tees off first on the next hole.

Fairway and Rough Shots

  • After teeing off, you make your next shot from wherever the ball landed. If it’s in the fairway (the mowed grass between the tee box and green), you can place the ball directly on the ground. If it’s in the rough (longer grass around the fairway), you must drop and play the ball as it lies.
  • You cannot improve your lie by moving objects like stones or grass before playing your shot. Play it as it lies or take a one-stroke penalty.

Putting on the Green

  • On the putting green, players must use the putter club and cannot switch to another club. The ball must be struck, not scooped or pushed.
  • Do not step on another player’s putting line – the imaginary line their ball will travel towards the hole.
  • Players can mark the spot of their ball on the green by placing a coin or marker behind it, then replacing it before putting.
  • Players can repair marks made on greens by putting clubs or shoes. No other surface improvements can be made before putting.

Hazards and Penalties

  • Water hazards and bunkers are considered penalty areas. If your ball enters one, you can play it as it lies or take a one-stroke penalty to move the ball outside the hazard.
  • Out-of-bounds areas like private property and public roads incur a one-stroke penalty. You must play a new ball from where the previous stroke was made.
  • wayward shots into areas like forests or ponds are played as they lie or declared unplayable. You can take a one-stroke penalty to move the ball back on a line from the hole.

Finishing and Scoring the Hole

  • Once your ball is on the green, keep putting until the ball goes in the hole.
    Maximum score per hole is 10 strokes.
  • Players finish the hole and move on to the next tee box once all balls are holed out.
  • Beginners should also know the common golf penalties:
  • Two stroke penalty: hitting the wrong ball
  • One stroke penalty: out of bounds shots, moving loose impediments in a hazard
  • No penalty: identifying your ball in grass, repairing old hole plugs on the green

Following these basic rules and etiquette will help new golfers avoid penalties, improper shots, and confusion on the course.

Golf Basics for Beginners : Scoring and Handicaps

In golf, the goal is to complete each hole in the lowest number of strokes possible. But with courses varying in length and difficulty, handicaps are used so players of different abilities can compete fairly.

Stroke Play Scoring

The most common scoring method is stroke play:

  • Players count the total number of strokes taken to complete each hole.
  • The par for each hole is the expected number of strokes to complete it. Pars are typically 3, 4 or 5 strokes.
  • At the end of the round, players total their scores for all 18 holes. The lower the total the better!

Match Play Scoring

Match play is a head-to-head scoring method:

  • Players compete hole-by-hole, winning holes with lower scores than their opponent.
  • The player who wins the most holes win the match. If tied at the end, a playoff hole determines the winner.
  • Match play scoring is seen at high-level tournaments like the Ryder Cup. It adds exciting player vs player competition!


A handicap helps measure a player’s potential scoring ability based on their past rounds:

  • Handicaps are calculated from scores on at least 5 full rounds. The average differential to par is multiplied by .96 to determine the handicap.
  • Course and slope ratings factor into handicaps – playing a harder course can improve your handicap with the same score!
  • Handicaps allow players of different skill levels to compete fairly. The higher handicap player gets scoring advantages.
  • Handicaps are used in formats like handicap match play or handicap stroke play competitions. The lower handicap player gives strokes to higher handicap opponents.

Understanding these basic scoring methods and handicaps will help you keep score, measure your improvement, and play with others as you’re learning golf.

Golf Etiquette: Behavior and Tips for Beginners

Beyond knowing the rules and scoring, golf also comes with important etiquette standards. Following proper behavior helps keep the game moving efficiently and adds to the enjoyment for all players:

General Course Behavior

  • Play at a good pace – don’t delay play searching for lost balls too long. Allow faster groups to play through.
  • Limit practice swings to avoid damaging the course. Take practice swings in the rough or on the tee box.
  • Enter and exit bunkers towards the lowest point – don’t damage steep edges. Rake traps after use and place rakes outside bunkers.
  • Replace or fill in divots taken on tee boxes and fairways after shots.
  • Avoid distractions like loud conversations or music during play. Stay focused on your game and allow others to do the same.

Showing Consideration for Others

  • Remain still and quiet while others are preparing and making shots.
  • Don’t move or talk during another player’s swing – wait until their ball has come to rest before moving.
  • Don’t hit tee shots until the players ahead are safely out of range. Yell “fore!” if errant shots seem headed towards other players.
  • When sharing a golf cart, drop your playing partner off at their ball before driving to yours.
  • Tend the flagstick for others when putting and don’t stand directly behind their ball on the green.
  • Congratulate fellow players on good shots and thank them after the round. Golf should be friendly and social!

Dressing Appropriately

  • Wear collared shirts and avoid tank tops, jeans, or athletic shorts. Dress codes vary, so check with the course.
  • Wear soft spike golf shoes to avoid damaging greens and maintain traction in all conditions.
  • Tuck in shirts, wear visors facing forward, and remove hats when going inside club buildings.

By learning golf’s unique etiquette standards, you’ll become a thoughtful playing partner welcomed by all on the course. Start practising proper behaviour as soon as you start playing. As you familiarize yourself with golf rules and etiquette, you’ll be ready to invest in your first set of golf equipment. Opt for a beginner-friendly set of clubs that won’t break the bank, and be sure to get a proper fitting to ensure optimal performance.

Remember, even the most experienced golfers once started as beginners, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


The basics covered in this guide provide the foundation new golfers need to start playing by the rules and etiquette expected on the course. Focus first on limiting penalties, proper scoring, and maintaining pace of play. As your skills develop with practice, you can dive deeper into golf’s intricacies like advanced shot shaping, irregular terrain, and competition formats.

Golf’s appeal comes from the challenge of mastering a game that takes a lifetime to perfect. With the right mindset of continuous improvement, each round presents fun new tests. Play regularly, practice deliberately, and get involved socially with other golfers. Your skills will grow naturally as you gain experience. Most importantly, maintain golf’s sporting spirit by playing honestly, repairing damage, and showing consideration for others. By committing to the basics, golf will reward you with fair tests of skill, great competition, and lasting friendships.

The journey is there to be enjoyed. Now grab your clubs and get started the right way!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the most important rules for beginners?

Ans: The most important rules for beginners involve avoiding penalties, playing balls and hazards properly, and maintaining pace of play. Key guidelines include teeing off in order, not improving your lie, marking balls on the green, order of play, and limiting search time for lost balls.

Q2. How do I keep track of strokes and scores as a beginner?

Ans: Use a scorecard and mark strokes taken on each hole. At the end of the round, total your score and sign the card. Apps and electronic scorecards can also help beginners accurately track strokes and scores during rounds.

Q3. What are the most important etiquette guidelines in golf?

Ans: Key etiquette tips include playing at a brisk pace, dressing properly, fixing divots and ball marks, staying quiet during shots, letting faster groups play through, and congratulating fellow players on good shots. Following proper behavior shows consideration that makes the game enjoyable for everyone.

Q4. What is a golf handicap and why is it used?

Ans: A handicap represents a player’s potential scoring ability based on their past rounds. Handicaps allow players of different abilities to compete fairly in match play or handicap stroke play. Higher handicaps receive more strokes from lower handicaps to even out skill differences.

Q5. How long does it take to learn the basics as a beginner?

Ans: The basics of rules, scoring, etiquette, and swing fundamentals can be learned in 10-20 hours with a mix of lessons, reading, short-game practice, and par-3 course experience. But mastering even the basics takes continued practice and play. View golf as a lifelong pursuit!