The 12 Most Common Beginner Golf Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

The golf swing is one of the most complex movements in all of sports. If you’re a beginner golfer, you’re going to make mistakes. That’s a given. 

Even Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and all of the other golfing legends have made hundreds of mistakes on their path to greatness.

However, while trial and error is one of the best ways to learn, not all mistakes are necessary for you to succeed in golf.

I’ve been involved in the sport for more than 15 years as a player, junior golf instructor, and fan. 

Below is a list of the 12 most common beginner golf mistakes I’ve observed over the years and how they can be avoided. 

12 Most Common Beginner Golf Mistakes

1. Choosing the Wrong Clubs

When you’re first starting out, it can be difficult to understand the different types of golf clubs available and when to use them. 

One of the biggest mistakes beginner golfers will make is they will buy a certain type of golf club just because they’ve seen the pros using it. After all, the pros only play the best, right?

Unfortunately, professional golfers have already dialed in their swings by hitting thousands of balls on the range. 

So, although they hit fantastic shots with the clubs they are using, it’s not a result of the type of club itself, but rather, the player swinging it. 

In fact, in most cases, beginners will struggle to make contact with the clubs used by pros because they’re designed for precise players. 

For example, many pros use blade irons, where the weight is concentrated in the center of the clubface. These irons require them to hit the golf ball with the sweet spot of the club in order to hit a good shot.

Beginners would be better off using cavity back irons. These irons have weight distributed around the perimeter of the clubhead, helping to provide more forgiveness on off-center strikes.

You’ll also want to make sure that you choose the right club shafts for your game. Shafts vary by material, flex, kick point, torque, and a number of other factors that can have a significant impact on your game.

If you want to make sure your golf clubs are the perfect match for your golf swing, I would recommend visiting a certified club fitter. 

They’ll walk you through a number of tests and fit you with the perfect set of clubs for your unique game!

2. Forgetting to Warm Up

From a physical perspective, for some reason, golf is viewed differently than other sports. 

For example, you’d never play a game of basketball without taking some time to warm up and stretch. 

But golf?

You’ll get out of your car and head straight to the first tee box.

Just because you’re not running and jumping doesn’t mean there isn’t still a high physical demand on your body. In fact, the split-second downswing in golf can put immense strain on your muscles and joints.

That’s why it’s important to build the habit of getting in a good warmup before every round you play.

Not only will this protect you from injury, but it will also improve your performance.

A good golf warmup should include stretching to target specific muscle groups and hitting balls on the driving range to familiarize your body with the motion of the golf swing.

3. Swinging Too Hard

If you’re like most beginner golfers, there’s one thing you’re most interested in getting out of your golf game – more distance.

Unfortunately, this causes many players to tense up and swing too hard. 

This sets off a chain reaction.

When your muscles tense up, you lose flexibility. When you lose flexibility, you lose the ability to make a full backswing. When you make a short backswing, your club has less time to generate speed on the downswing. If your club has less speed at the point of impact, you lose distance. 

Also, swinging out of your shoes makes it much more difficult to make consistent contact with the center of the clubface. If you don’t hit the sweet spot, you have no chance of maximizing distance. 

So, what should you do instead?

Before you even start your backswing, make sure you don’t have any excess tension in your arms and shoulders. A great way to do this is by simply gripping the club a little lighter. This automatically tells your brain to relax the rest of your body.

Then, focus on making a slow backswing with a full shoulder turn. As you start your downswing, instead of trying to “hit” the golf ball, focus on simply making a smooth swing and letting the ball get in the way of your clubface.

You’ll begin to notice that when you make a point of slowing down your swing, you can actually hit the ball farther

And the best part? This new-found power feels nearly effortless!

4. Sweeping Irons

The more you play, the more you’ll notice golf is a game of contradictions. As mentioned before, you need to swing lighter to hit the ball further.

You also need to hit down on the ball to get it up into the air.

Let me explain.

Many beginner golfers are guilty of trying to “sweep” or “scoop” the golf ball to help get it airborne – I know I was!

However, you actually want to hit down on the ball. Doing so allows the natural loft of the club to do its thing. The ball will climb up the grooves of the clubface and get launched into the air.

5. Failing to Understand Basic Golf Etiquette

The sport of golf involves a lot of rules, both written and unwritten. One of the most difficult things for beginner golfers to get used to is following the proper etiquette.

Here’s a list of a few of the basics in golf etiquette for beginners:

  • Stay quiet when others are shooting.
  • Always replace divots, fix ball marks on greens, and rake bunkers.
  • The person farthest away from the hole goes first.
  • Be sure to maintain a reasonable pace of play.
  • Follow the course dress code wherever you are playing.
  • Don’t step on other players’ putting line.
  • Mark your ball on the green if it’s in another player’s putting line.
  • The first person to putt their ball in the hole is responsible for replacing the flagstick.

6. Ignoring Golf Swing Basics

It’s easy to get distracted by the thousands of “experts” out there, each with their own philosophy on how to achieve the perfect golf swing.

I’ll save you some time – the perfect golf swing doesn’t exist. Just take a look at Jim Furyk or Matthew Wolff. Their swings are extremely unconventional, yet they still manage to have success. 

However, while it’s okay to have a unique swing, there are three things in golf that are non-negotiable. 

  • Posture
  • Grip
  • Alignment

Many beginners get distracted by the technical aspects of the golf swing itself. However, the most important things happen before you even take the club back.

For example, you could have the nicest golf swing in the world, but if you’re aimed in the wrong direction, you’re not going to be happy with the result of the shot. 

Spend some time working on your posture, grip, and alignment, and you’ll save yourself countless hours on the range and improve your golf game quickly. 

7. Not Carrying the Right Wedges

Some golfers do not carry the right wedges, causing them to have uneven gaps in yardages. For example, you might have a pitching wedge, but not a sand wedge. Or you might have a lob wedge, but not a gap wedge. 

It’s generally accepted that you should have a maximum of 4-5 degrees difference in loft between each of your wedges.

For example, here’s a look at the wedges I play and their associated loft:

Pitching wedge – 48 degrees

Gap wedge – 52 degrees

Sand wedge – 56 degrees

Lob wedge – 60 degrees

As you can see, there’s an even gap in loft between each of these wedges. This means I won’t have any pesky gaps in yardages between these clubs. 

8. Taking Forever to Hit the Ball

I get it. The golf swing is complicated and there are dozens of thoughts racing through your brain as you stand over the ball. 

But if you take too long to pull the trigger, your playing partners are soon going to regret asking you to come along.

Here are some ways you can speed up your play:

Create a Pre Shot Routine

Not only will a pre shot routine help you play faster, but it can also improve your game. 

Doing the same thing before every shot trains your brain to be ready for the upcoming shot and prevents you from second-guessing yourself.

There are no hard and fast rules for creating a pre shot routine, however, it’s always good to visualize the shot and pick a target.

Here’s what I do before every shot:

  1. Visualize the type of shot I want to hit.
  2. Take two light, smooth practice swings while keeping my intended shot in mind.
  3. Step back behind the ball and pick my target.
  4. Line up to the ball and hit the shot.

Only Take One or Two Practice Swings

I was once paired up with a guy who took not one, not two, not even three, but six practice swings before each shot. It was as though he needed to have the perfect swing before he would even think about hitting the ball. 

And did all these practice swings pay off? Nope, more often than not he topped or chunked the ball.

Taking too many practice swings causes you to overthink. And with each added practice swing, you place more pressure on yourself to hit a good shot.

It also slows down the pace of play and ruins the flow of the round for others.

Try only taking one or two practice swings before each shot. You’ll probably notice you’ll play better golf and your playing partners will be relieved.

Save the Swing Thoughts for The Range

It’s nearly impossible to play good golf while thinking of technical changes you want to make in your golf swing. Despite this, we’ve all been guilty of standing over the ball for far too long while thoughts race around our brain.

Save these thoughts for the range and just focus on making a smooth, confident swing on each shot.

9. Neglecting the Short Game

More than half of shots take place within 100 yards of the green. And of those, the majority are putts. 

Even so, most beginner golfers would rather spend time hitting drivers on the driving range

I don’t blame you. There’s something oddly therapeutic about taking a big swing and trying to hit a little tiny ball as hard as humanly possible. 

However, on the average golf course, you’ll only hit your driver on about 10-14 of the 18 holes. 

Your putter on the other hand? Every hole. 

So if you want to see results, it’s important to spend the majority of your practice time on the putting/chipping green dialing in your short game. 

I find practicing putting a little boring so what I’ll often do is incorporate games into my practice. For example, if I’m with a friend, we’ll have a competition to see who can get closer to the hole. 

Or, I’ll provide myself with incentives for practicing. For instance, for every 30 minutes of putting, I’ll reward myself with 15 minutes of hitting drives on the range.

This way you’ll have something to look forward to!

10. Not Practicing

You’d be surprised at the number of beginner golfers who are frustrated that they’re not improving but spend zero time practicing. Golf is like any other sport, job, hobby, or skill.

In order to get better, you need to practice. 

Unfortunately, if you only play golf, you simply don’t get enough repetitions to improve your game. That’s why it’s important to spend at least an hour every week on the putting green and driving range working on your game.

11. Not Playing With Better Golfers

Whether in an attempt not to embarrass themselves or just because they don’t know any good golfers, many beginners avoid playing with better golfers. 

This is a huge mistake.

In order to become a decent golfer, you need to develop a pretty solid understanding of the golf swing. You need to be able to diagnose what is causing your problems and figure out a way to fix them.

If you (a beginner) play with better golfers, they’ll probably be happy to share their knowledge and teach you how to improve your swing. 

Also, you’ve probably heard the quote “you are the sum of the people you surround yourself with.”

Usually, this quote is directed at life but it’s also relevant to golf.

If you’re constantly playing with people who are better than you, you will automatically (both consciously and subconsciously) elevate your game to get on their level and take the steps necessary to improve your game.

12. Expecting Instant Results

The last of the most common mistakes made by beginner golfers is having unrealistic expectations.

We live in a world where instant gratification is abundant. Social media, Netflix, fast food – all these things deliver an immediate feeling of pleasure to our brains. 

They make us expect that things will come easy to us. And when they don’t, we quickly become frustrated. 

That is one of the reasons many beginners quit playing golf. It’s hard. There’s no button you can press or food you can eat to shoot lower scores.

The only way to do so is by consistently practicing and working to improve your game.

If you’re just starting out, understand that it will take time to get better. But when you start to see improvements, it can be one of the most rewarding feelings out there and it might just get you hooked on the sport!

The Takeaway…

Golf is a sport that requires dedication, patience – and above all – time. 

If you’re just getting started with the game, just know that there will be some bumps along the road as you try and make improvements. 

Steer clear of the 12 most common beginner golf mistakes mentioned in this post and you’ll be well on your way to shooting better scores!

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