The UNGC Beginners Guide to Golf
Last Updated Sep 2022
So, you have always thought about playing golf but didn’t know where to start? You have come to right place, because the UNGC is as welcoming to new players as it is to veterans of the game. We are the first to understand that golf can seem daunting to the uninitiated. Rules, etiquette and the sheer amount of equipment can feel overwhelming at first. But we promise, it is easier than you think. This is where our beginners guide will come in handy!
Even if you know nothing about golf, our club members are happy to guide you through this uncertainty. We will help understand your equipment, tell you where you can practice, and make you feel ready for the golf course. Never be afraid afraid to ask a question, we’ve all been there.
This guide will make sure you will feel at home playing golf in Austria, in a community of friends.
PART 1: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR EQUIPMENT
Getting started is not that hard. We are lucky to have some excellent Golf Shops in and around Vienna that can help you choose the right equipment for you. While you a honing your skills, you want to do it with as little expense as possible. Beginner sets are available from all major brands, and just like good skiing equipment, golf gear is built to last, so second hand options are always worth looking into. Check our forums to see if our club members are offering some good deals. Most golf shops also carry used gear and sell it a good price. Check out our specials section to see which shops offer an additional discount as a UNGC member!
By regulation, you're only allowed to carry as many as 14 clubs in your bag, but don’t worry, you don't need nearly that many in the beginning. If you’re not getting a beginner’s set (which are available in all good golf shops), make sure to get a driver, a putter, a sand wedge (it's the club that has an "S" on the sole or a loft of 54 to 56 degrees) a 6-iron, an 8-iron, a pitching wedge, and a fairway wood or hybrid with 18-21 degrees of loft. If you are buying equipment in a specialized golf shop, the staff there will be more than willing to help and explain.
Like with any sport, you need to feel good about your equipment. Don’t be shy to try before you buy. Make sure you like the weight and feel of the club. If you like your equipment you will enjoy the game more. Shops are happy to give you all the advice you need, especially if you are new. Our club members will also be happy to give you advice where they can!
PART 2: LEARNING THE GAME
There is a common misconception that golf is an incredibly hard sport to get into. Nothing could be further from the truth. But it does require two conditions. One, is a positive attitude, and two, is lessons. The positive attitude is easy if you join the UNGC because we are an incredibly social bunch, and during our events you will always play with friends. Just like with the attitude, nothing beats starting out with some positive direction. There are many golf professionals teaching in and around Vienna, offering their services not only in German, but most often in English. Learning Golf is a process, so find a PGA Professional that suits your style and attitude and take regular lesson, just like you would when learning an instrument. Don’t just resort to lessons when you are struggling. We have partnered with many clubs to offer discounts, often even for beginner courses and lessons. Check out our club specials section for more details.
Learning the game is particularly important if you want to join our tournament events. To be able to play on a golf course, even just for fun, you need what the Austrian Golf Federation calls the “Platzreife” (translated “Playing maturity”). It is a certificate that is required to play on public courses, ensuring you know the game, the rules, and will not be danger to you or anyone else on the course. It can be acquired from any PGA Professional teaching in Austria, after a few lessons. We usually have great membership deals on those too, feel free to browse our specials.
PART 4: READY FOR THE GOLF COURSE
If you have your gear and your “Platzreife” you want to, of course, test yourself on an actual golf course. The UNGC tours some of Austria’s nicest courses and offers an environment that is safe, friendly, and well-suited for beginners.
Please note however, to play our competitive events (tournaments) you do need an active playing licence from the Austrian Golf Federation (ÖGV Card). This can be acquired by joining any Austrian Golf Club. The club will charge you for membership in the Austrian Golf Federation every year (approx. EUR 50) on top of their own membership fees and issue your membership card. The cheapest and easiest way to your ÖGV licence is through our cooperation with Golf Club Marco Polo. Checkout our membership deal for more details.
Check out our events page to see what courses we play this year and check what might be interesting for you.
Even better, join a golf club through one of the many offers we have available to UNGC golf club members. That way you will have a home club on which you can regularly play, get training, and enjoy this great sport.
PART 5: ETIQUETTE
Congratulations! You've been invited out for a round of golf by a friend or a family member or maybe even your boss or an ambassador. Or more realistically, you've decided to participate on one of the many UNGC events. You're excited, but you're also petrified you might embarrass yourself because you're not quite sure of the protocol either on or off the course. Golf etiquette may seem complicated, and in truth, there's plenty you'll learn the more you play. Our club members will also help you out and are happy to explain anything you might not be sure about. Sometimes we even don't agree amongst ourselves and have an argument about it. It's all part of the game, and the most important thing is to keep the spirits high. But to start you off we can recommend to follow these five points, and you'll be absolutely fine. And remember, if you're still not sure of something, there's nothing wrong with asking.
- Don't lag behind: The easiest way to endear yourself to playing partners has nothing to do with how well you play, but rather, how fast. That doesn't mean you have to rush your shots or run to your ball. It simply means you should take just one or two practice swings and be ready to hit when it's your turn. That still leaves plenty of time to chat between shots (but never when someone is getting ready to hit). Additionally, on the green if it is a casual round of golf, very short putts (roughly two feet or less) are generally "given." If someone tells you "that's good" it means it is assumed you will make the next putt and you can pick the ball up. A good way to monitor your pace of play is to always remain a half hole behind the group in front of you.
- Wait your turn: If all golfers hit at the same time, it would be mass confusion, so knowing when to go is important. Traditionally, the person who had the best score on the previous hole has "the honor" and tees off first (and so on). From there, the general rule is the person furthest from the hole -- or "away" -- hits next. Bear in mind, however, that your group might decide it wants to play "ready golf," which means anyone who is ready to hit can go. Once you're on the green, another consideration is the flagstick. If you're the closest to the hole, you're in charge of removing the flagstick if everyone says they can see the cup clearly, tending the flagstick (which means pulling it from the hole as a putt tracks closer to the hole) if they can't, then putting the flagstick back in the hole when your group leaves the green.
- Don't kill anyone. Yell "Fore!": Chances are you'll need to say this quite often when starting out. Shouting "Fore!" is merely a way of saying, "Watch out!" and it is used when golfers hit shots astray that might possibly come close to another person on the golf course. A couple of things to know about using this term: First, don't wait. The moment you realize a ball has even a remote chance of hitting another person, shout it out. That brings up the second point, which is, SHOUT IT OUT. Using the term at anything less than full voice is a disservice. It is a warning to other golfers. Also helpful is to yell the direction the ball is headed in, as in "Fore right!" or "Fore left!" The more specific, the better. There is no harm in yelling "Fore!" even if the ball does not come close to someone.
- Take care of the course: It's hard work to make a golf course look as good as it does. Do your part to take care of it. For starters, if you're in a golf cart, find out if it is OK to take the carts on the grass or if they must remain on the cart path. Either way, never drive the cart near the putting green. On the course, if you take a divot (a piece of turf when hitting a shot), you should either replace it by carefully placing it in the spot and then firmly pressing down on it with your foot, or filling the hole with some seed mix. Shots hit to the green often leave a ball mark. If you don't know how to properly fix them, ask one of your playing partners to show you. And make sure you rake the bunker after you hit out of one. The sand is daunting enough without having to contend with someone's footprint.
- Know where to stand: Golf may seem like a genteel sport, but keep in mind it is played with blunt objects. If golfers seem obsessive about where people are standing, it's because they don't want anyone to get hurt. They also don't want anything interfering with their concentration on a shot. A good rule of thumb is to stand to the side and slightly behind the ball several yards away. If a player is in a bunker, stay alert and stand well off to the side. Those shots come out fast and can go anywhere. On the green, try to stay out of the line of sight of the person putting. Further, when walking on the green be aware of the line from other player's balls and the hole and don't step in those lines.
PART 6: ALL THESE RULES!
Yes, it's true, the Rules of Golf is 182 pages long and understanding many of the game's 34 rules is important. But don't worry. Most golfers, including those guys who turned their noses up at playing with a newcomer like you, have very little knowledge of how to play the game correctly. You'd be surprised by how many golfers just make rules up as they go, so don't fret if you're not sure about what's OK and what's a violation. Just remember these key points and you'll do fine for now.
- Don't move your ball: Unless you're on a putting green, don't move your ball under any circumstance. Play it as it lies unless it's interfered with by an obstruction (think man-made object -- yardage marker, beer can, etc.). And if you're not sure what an obstruction is, ask the head pro or an experienced golfer. On the putting green, you have to mark the ball's position before lifting it, usually with a coin or a small ball marker.
- Stick with your own ball: If you see a ball that's not your own, you may think, "Hey, free ball!" But what you should do is leave it. Believe it or not, you're not the only golfer on the course who is hitting his ball to unintended locations, so it could be another player's ball from another hole. And speaking of which ...
- It's (mostly) OK to play from another hole: If your shot lands in another fairway, you can play the ball as it lies as long as that fairway is not designated as out of bounds (white stakes or lines). If you don't see white stakes or lines, you can play back to the hole you're playing. Just don't interfere with players on that particular hole. Let them play through unless they give you permission to go first. If your ball is outside the out-of-bounds markers, take a one-stroke penalty and play another shot from the spot you just hit from.
- Only take three minutes to look for a ball: If you hit a shot and you can't find the ball after three minutes of searching, take a one-stroke penalty and play another shot from as close as possible to the last spot you played from. This might require you to drop a ball. If so, extend your hand to your knee, simply drop it from knee height, then play from there.
- Play within the golf course: If you ever hit a shot out-of-bounds (white stakes or lines), you have to replay a shot from as close as possible to where you just hit and add a stroke penalty to your score. So, for instance, if you teed off and hit a shot out of bounds, take a stroke penalty and play your third shot again from the tee.
PART 7: GETTING IN GOLF SHAPE
There's a reason why you can't accelerate through the ball like a touring pro and it's not because you weren't handed a golf club in your crib. A key component to making an efficient, powerful and correct golf swing is having a body that's able to do it. Strong hip muscles, flexible hamstrings and a stable back are just a few reasons why tour pros are tour pros and most of the rest of us are, well, not. If you want to play well, and play this game for the rest of your life, you have to exercise and pay specific attention to the muscles that will allow you to do it. Start with these areas and you'll be in great "golf shape" in no time.
- Walk, don't ride: Whenever you can, no matter how tiring it might seem, walk instead of riding in a golf cart. And carry your clubs when you can. A seven-mile walk with clubs on your back might seem daunting now, but it will get easier the more you do it. And if you're worried your golf bag is too heavy, our golf bag Hot List features several great lightweight bags with pop-up stands.
- Stretch the right way: Save long-hold stretches for after the round or at night. Before the round, do dynamic stretches that prep your muscles for the golf swing. For instance, swinging a leg back and forth like you're kicking a ball. Make this kicking motion 10 times for each leg trying to kick higher each time. There are many exercise routines available. Ask your Golf Pro or search the internet.
- Pack your own snacks and hydrate: Almost all food served at golf courses is trouble. Burgers, Schnitzels, granola bars, chips -- they may seem appealing at the moment, but they're not going to help your performance. The best foods to eat for a round of golf are lean protein (such as chicken or turkey) and complex carbohydrates (such as all-bran cereal or a banana). You should eat before the round and again at the turn, or on the back nine, to maintain energy and concentration. And drink lots and lots of water.
- Train the right muscles: The most important muscles in the golf swing are located from the top of your knees to under your chest. Focus on them when you weight train and you'll have a powerful swing and stay injury free. Squats, lunges, and planks should be staples in your exercise routine. Strong, flexible hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, abdomen and lat muscles are crucial to a functional/powerful swing.
PART 8: WHAT TO WEAR
Learning how to play may be the most important part of becoming a golfer, but not to be overlooked is knowing what to wear. Your attire matters for a variety of reasons: because most golf courses enforce some kind of dress code (some stricter than others); because you'll be spending at least four hours outdoors; and because, frankly, who doesn't want to look sharp? With that in mind, we provide five pointers to make sure you're outfitted right for the course.
- Pick the right collared shirt: Most courses, even public ones, require that men wear a collared polo (women are more often allowed to play without a collared top). There are two main types of collared shirts: those made of cotton, and others made of more technical fabrics. If you feel more comfortable in a traditionally-cut polo, stick with cotton. But if it'll be hot on the golf course, collared shirts made of technical fabrics, such as those made by Adidas, Nike and Callaway, will help keep you dry by wicking moisture away from your skin.
- Stick to khakis: Hands down, these are the most comfortable pants to play in, especially since khaki fabric is more breathable than ever before. And you won't find a golf course that doesn't allow you to wear khaki pants. Most courses, particularly in Austria, now allow shorts as well, although some are iffy on cargo shorts. As for jeans, best to leave those at home. Even if a course allows them, they're uncomfortable for golf.
- Prepare yourself for the elements: If all goes well, you won't be spending your entire round punching your ball out from under trees, so shielding yourself from the sun will be important. A basic baseball cap never fails, and when it's time to buy sunglasses for golf, make sure the lens blocks UVA and UVB rays, and that they wrap around your eyes to offer complete coverage. Of course, golf is played in all kinds of weather. You'll need a good rain jacket for wet conditions, and you should always carry a dry towel to keep your grips dry.
- Invest in golf shoes: These are made with stability in mind, with a reinforced soul and little cushioning. The will provide grip and help you avoid injury.
- Apply sunblock: A must-have accessory for all golfers. You'll need to apply sunblock 30 minutes before your round and again at the turn, since the SPF in sunblock wears off after a couple of hours. Look for a sunblock with an SPF of at least 30. Also, try spray sunblocks when you reapply during your round, since you can apply it without making your hands slippery, and don't forget to apply a lip balm with SPF.
PART 9: OUTINGS
The legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones once said, "There's golf and then there's tournament golf, and neither one resembles the other." If you're signed up to play in an organized golf event or outing for the first time, don't let those words unnerve you. All Jones meant is that standing over shots that matter is an experience far richer than just hacking around with buddies. It's fun to feel butterflies in your stomach, to feel your hands shake. Our UNGC tournaments are perfect for that. Here are five points to help you look like you've played tournament golf before:
- Know the format: Such as with darts and billiards, there are lots of different ways to score golf events. While the goal of getting the ball in the cup in the fewest strokes possible never varies, understanding how your group's round is being tabulated will help you maximize strategy and save time. For events in which the ability levels of participants are widespread. Our tournaments are all held in the stableford format, whereas our fun events and matchplay competition follow other sets of rules. When in doubt, you can ask any of our members for help, we are all very supportive of each other and happy to eplain the format and scoring in detail, even during a round.
- Use the right gear: Besides clubs, two essential items for tournament play are a Sharpie and a coin. Use the Sharpie to draw unique dots or lines on your ball. Simply knowing what brand and number you're playing (Titleist 1, Callaway 2, Nike 3, etc.) is not enough to reliably distinguish your ball from the balls of other competitors. Have a ball ready with a slightly different marking in case you need to hit a provisional. You'll use the coin, or a plastic ballmarker, to mark your ball on the greens. A tee will not do. Golfers are finicky when it comes to marking. Know that replacing your ball with anything less than full care signals that you're either a novice or a cheater.
- Announce when you're picking up: If you've topped consecutive shots or pumped two balls out-of-bounds, there's no shame in picking up. In fact, your playing partners will appreciate this effort to maintain pace of play. However, not clearly announcing your intention creates an awkward situation. Your playing partners will be uncertain if they should wait, help you look for your ball, or play on.
- Last but certainly not least, maintain a sense of humor: This is probably the most critical element of playing in a golf outing. Enjoy the pressure and challenge of hitting golf shots that are counted towards a prize, but remember, these are casual events and no one cares if you play poorly. Since you are not a professional golfer who practices daily, the only expectation others have is that you offer pleasant company. Sulking and cursing are unacceptable, and especially ridiculous if you're a beginning golfer.
Hope to see you soon on the course!