Teaching Beginner Golfers


Written By Joe Saia

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Something I put a lot of emphasis on in my teaching is teaching players differently based on their skill level. This is essential for being able to improve every type of players game and keeping the instruction unique to the student. A large percentage of players who take lessons are beginners so as a teacher you need to be able to teach them effectively. I want to give you some insight into the way I teach beginner golfers and hopefully this will help you with your own golf game. 

When beginners take lessons it’s extremely easy for them to become overwhelmed. So as a teacher I try to keep the lesson pretty stress free and the expectations low. If the player becomes too overwhelmed during the lesson then they could be turned off to the sport from the start. If the player has never hit a golf shot before then I like to teach them 3 topics during their first lesson. The 3 topics are the grip, the stance/alignments, and contact training with irons. These 3 topics get the student started on a great track for improvement while not being too overwhelming during a 60 minute lesson. 

The Grip

I believe that it’s important for beginners to know how to grip the club properly from the start. It helps avoid having to break bad habits in the future. The quicker they can become comfortable with gripping the club properly the better. A proper grip allows for the club face and the wrists to move better throughout the golf swing without any manipulation. I want to get the player to understand that a good golf grip allows for the hands to work together in the golf swing rather than working against each other. Below are some points that I like to stress when teaching the grip to beginners:

  • The top hand greatly controls the club face. It should be placed on the club so that the V created by your thumb and index finger points to your right eye (left eye for a lefty player)
  • The bottom hand should wrap over the thumb of the top hand. The V created by the thumb and index finger should point at your left eye (right eye for a lefty player)
  • The connection between the index finger of the top hand and the little finger of the bottom hand is important for making the hands work together during the golf swing. A lot of players make the mistake of having their hands too far apart on the grip (similar to a baseball grip)
  • Gripping the club with the correct grip pressure is extremely important for reducing tension in the golf swing. You should grip the club at a 4 or 5 on a 1-10 grip pressure scale 


The image above shows an illustration from one of Ben Hogan's golf instruction books. You can clearly see how the index finger and thumb create a V shape that would be pointed towards the players left eye

Stance, Posture, & Alignments

You would be shocked at the amount of beginner golfers who don’t pay attention to where their club face and body are aimed before they hit the shot. A lot of times players won’t even choose a target in the distance when hitting shots. I like to stress to beginners that they need to be choosing targets when hitting shots and properly aiming to those targets. I also like to teach beginners about posture and stance from the start in order to avoid bad habits in the future. Below are some points I like to get across to beginners about stance and alignments: 

  • The feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and club face need to be aimed towards the target before starting your swing 
  • Get into your posture by slightly bending the knees and then pushing your hips back to let your chest fall forward. There should only be a slight bend in the knees, most of the bend comes from the hips 
  • Once you get into your posture let your arms hang down in order to determine how far you should stand from the ball. Too many times I see players standing way too far away from the ball and reaching with their arms. It can really mess up your swing and contact
  • The feet should be shoulder width apart and the ball should be positioned in the middle of your stance for a standard iron shot
  • For a standard iron shot your weight should sit in the balls of your feet and evenly distributed throughout both feet 

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Contact Training

One of the biggest learning curves for beginners is learning how to hit an iron shot when the ball is not on a tee. Often times you’ll see players struggle to get the ball airborne when hitting these shots. I like to teach iron shot fundamentals or “contact training” right from the beginning in order to avoid bad habits in the future. You only get to tee the ball up once per hole so its important to learn this topic from the beginning. After learning the grip and stance then the student is ready to do some contact training with some small iron shots. Below are some points that I like to stress when teaching students how to hit iron shots:

  • The club needs to attack the golf ball from a downward angle in order to get the ball airborne. So many beginners try to lift the ball with their irons and it leads to the ball struggling to get off the ground
  • The club will make contact with the ground when hitting iron shots but its important that the ground contact comes after contacting the ball
  • In order to make ball first contact you need to have shaft lean at impact. Shaft lean is when the hands are ahead of the golf ball at impact. Players struggle to hit good iron shots when their hands are behind the golf ball at impact  
  • Your hips, chest, shoulders, and club should continue to move in unison past impact. A lot of players will stop their body at impact while only moving their hands and arms. This can lead to very poor contact
  • Make sure to finish your swing with all of your weight on top of your front leg. If you finish with a lot of weight on your back leg then you will hit the ground behind the golf ball

Below is a video of PGA Tour player Tommy Fleetwood hitting an iron shot. You can clearly see the shaft lean at impact and his hands are ahead of the golf ball. The hands, arms, shoulders, and club continue to move in unison past impact. His weight is also finishing on his front leg.

Beginner golfers who take lessons are at an advantage because they are learning fundamentals right from the start. This helps them avoid bad habits and a lot more work in the future. Those three topics I just explained make for a very good start for a beginner golfer after a 60 minute session. If you are looking to take up the game of golf then I highly suggest taking lessons from a professional. They will save you a lot of frustration and confusion which will make learning the game a lot more enjoyable. 

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