5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Playing Golf

A Letter to My Younger Self

Hi, Matt.  Congratulations on deciding to play golf.  You’re going to meet wonderful people and go to amazing places because of this game.  It’s going to be a fantastic journey, but I know that you’d like to speed up the progress a bit.  To help you, I’ve compiled a list of five things you know now that would have been great to know when you started.  I hope it helps.

Oh, and enjoy your hair, it’s not going to last.

New Gear Won’t Change Your Game

You are going to lust after new golf clubs.  It’s part of the fun, and I wouldn’t hope to take that away from you.  But I want to let you in on a harsh truth: changing clubs is not going to make you a better player.

Getting fit for golf clubs matters.  In fact, it matters a lot, and it can make the game much easier.  But once you’re fit, the only thing that will help you is practice.  Switching from cavity backs to blades (or vice versa) or sticking a new putter in the bag is not going to magically drop your handicap.  Your current driver is not what’s keeping you from the Tour.

Ball Flight Laws

Matt, there is A LOT of bad information out there.  Please, please, please ignore the golf magazines and TV shows that want to “fix” your game.  If someone on the range offers you advice, smile and politely decline.

Everything you need to know is right HERE.  If you understand these simple laws of physics, you will be ahead of 99.9 of golfers and the majority of instructors, too.  On a similar note…

Swing Your Swing

Remember when I said that swapping clubs isn’t going to make you a pro?  The same is true for hitting a draw instead of a fade, hitting it higher or lower, or getting your hands even further in front of the ball at impact.

The King had it right, Matt.  “Swing your swing.”  That’s not to say you shouldn’t take lessons with good instructors or work hard to improve.  It simply means you shouldn’t try to be someone else.  Don’t chase a swing change because it looks good on camera.

Keep it simple.  Control the club face, and hit the ball flush.  Develop your skills.  Learn to get around the course.  Experiment.  Play.

No Ones Cares About Your Game

You are going to be nervous when you play with strangers.  Don’t be.  Everyone is obsessed with their own game; no one gives a rip about yours.

Here’s the short list of what people do care about: your attitude, your regard for the rules, your manners, your pace of play.  These are all things you can control, and, if you do, no one will ever have a bad thing to say about playing with you.

Picking up the flag stick, cheering for someone else’s birdie, and repairing a couple extra ball marks matter much more than the score you write down.

Play How You Want

Golf does not have to be any particular thing.  You don’t have to play stroke play.  You don’t have to keep score at all.  Carry however many clubs makes you happy.  Wear what you want (within reason).  Try crazy shots.

Golf can be whatever you want it to be.  And it can be something different every day.  Make the game your own.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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16 Comments

  1. Christopher Shively

    Amen to every statement listed in Point #4. Great advice.

  2. Mike McCabe

    Once again, the reason why PIG is my first stop every morning. This is perfection. Thank you, Matt

  3. Martin Eschbach

    Wonderful, so true. #4 is the best, it’s all about vanity, isn’t it (longer drives, stiffer shafts, stronger lofts)? Meaningless if you want to enjoy the game. Matt, you’re knowledgeable, impartial and say how it is (for you). That’s all you can ask for. Keep it up!

  4. I’m sending this article to a couple people I play with. Thanks Matt.

  5. Great tips as always. Game is supposed to be fun and you have to have patience. Not all of your shots are going where you want them to go and like anything, you have to learn/practice and find what works for you. New clubs are nice, but putting a “learner permit”driver in a formula 1 car won’t make the learner permit driver a better driver.

  6. Steve Pitts

    Matt, I really enjoyed this article. You nailed the key “truths” that many (hopefully, all) of us eventually realize.
    I always look forward to receiving your newsletter.

  7. Great advice I am sending this to my grand son who is just starting to play

  8. Jerry Payne

    Brilliant! An absolutely brilliant observation that could apply to virtually ever golfer who has ever played. A wise look at what really should matter in the game!

  9. Really enjoyed this piece Matt. Great perspective. I think I will take your model and write a few letters to my younger self! Possible subjects: marriage, fatherhood, friendships, career….great exercise!

  10. Dan Shepherd

    Terrifically creative Everyone is obsessed with their own game; no one gives a rip about yours. content and compelling, Matt. Funny (oh, and enjoy your hair; it won’t last). Truths shared: “No one gives a rip about how you play; they only care about how they play”; and changing equipment frequently isn’t the solution. Nice synopsis.

  11. Laurie Thomas

    Thanks Matt well said.I am back playing golf at 72 years of age after a forty year layoff!And loving it.Oh how the equipment has changed,I think I hit the ball just as far now as I did 40 years ago,thanks to modern golf clubs and golf balls.I am still trying to get that perfect ball strike,that perfect putting stroke,it doesn’t exsist!Ones body doesn’t perform the same everyday,nor does the weather stay the same each day!It is a fascinating game even in older age we still strive to hit that magic shot that comes right out of the middle and just flys toward the target.Love the game love getting out with a few Buddies,

  12. John Covell

    I’m one of those guys John H sent these comments to. (Ending a sentence with a preposition is like my putting; okay when it needs to be.) Thanks for the tips. I’ll continue to play MY game — and not expect to play on TV on Sundays.

  13. Matt,
    Really enjoy your articles. This one hit it 310 down the middle! I wanted to thank you also. I believe it was you that wrote an article about how the shaft being the REAL engine driving the golf ball, not the clubheads. I took that to heart and went in search of “The SHAFT”. After some trial and error, I stumbled upon a Matrix Black Tie 6M3 regular flex. For my swing, it made an unbelievable distance and control gain. Don’t get me wrong, nobody is going to mistake me for Brooks Koepka on the tee box, but what a difference! Thanks and keep up the good writing.

  14. Neil Cook

    Matt;
    Wonderful points as always !!

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