Golf is a great game: sometimes rewarding, often frustrating but highly addictive. Getting started in it is actually not so difficult, and hopefully this article can help you avoid some of the pitfalls and point you in the direction of a lifetime of fun (and frustration). Of course, this article can only cover so much. If you really want to get a head start you should consider getting our Golf Beginner Guide, a 270-page publication developed by the owners of LearnAboutGolf.com. It's a great resource (but of course we're a bit biased...).
The biggest mistake by people wanting to start in golf is to rush out and buy a brand new set of shiny and expensive golf clubs. While they are nice to look at you should keep in mind that today's golf equipment comes in great varieties to cater for different golfing types and abilities. Since you're just starting out you do not know which set fits you best. Just imagine the envious looks you get at the driving range when you come with your $2000 set, and the subsequent laughter when you try and just 'hack away' - not worth the embarrassment! Once you spend a few hundred or even thousand $$ on a set that doesn't suit your style you're stuck with it or you have to sell it to somebody else at a loss.
If you feel you want your own clubs you may want to read our editorial on 'How to choose the best Clubs for Beginner Golfers' elsewhere on this site.
Some alternatives are: most Driving Ranges will have clubs for hire, so you can try out a few different ones. You can also borrow one or two clubs from a friend. The shortest iron (nine iron) or a wedge are the best clubs to start, practicing with it will give you the feeling of hitting the ball in the air and should be fairly straight forward.
Most Pro shops and driving ranges sell second hand clubs. They will also be able to offer you advice and let you try some clubs out. Just make sure that you don't pay more for a used 'branded' set than you would for a brand new 'clone glub set' (see below).
Alternatively, nearly all driving ranges will have clubs for hire if you want to have a go without committing to a set until you get the hang of it.
Or ask other people at the driving range, you will soon find out that many have another set of clubs at home because they made the exact same mistakes I mentioned above. Make sure you try before you buy, if they fit (and only if they fit!) you can often get them for a steal. Or try advertising in some classified sites for second hand clubs. Alternatively, you can also check some online auctions. One of our readers, CJ Matthews, suggests that swap meets and garage sales are always good places to get cheap gear. Also, his favorites are Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Make use of these opportunities, and also take a look our editorial on how to choose a golf club.
Having said that, the advantage of a brand new set is that it provides a great boost in confidence and committment, compared to playing with a used, second hand set. So, if you prefer to have your own brand new set of clubs I suggest that you take a look at the selections at golf clone manufacturers like Pinemeadow Golf and GigaGolf, arguably the two best clone club merchants on the web. There you can get a complete golf sets from some US$150, including custom fitting. The quality of their clubs is comparable to well known brands, but their prices are way more 'realistic' (however, if you have to have the big brand name clubs than take a look at the selection on the Austads Golf website where they offer the name brands for less).
Getting custom fitted is easy and painless with web-based fitting tools like the 'club fitting wizard' at Pinemeadow Golf or the 'e-fit System' at GigaGolf. It helps to have a partner who assists with some of the measurements required.
I again stress that you need to have a basic understanding on which club suits you reasonably well before you buy. DO NOT buy expensive brands at this stage.
You will also need golf balls. As a beginner you will lose quite a few due to stray shots into the woods, water hazards etc. To save some money on balls don't buy the expensive ones that the guys on TV use, instead get golf balls that are on sale, they play just as well but cost only a fraction - I guarantee that you will NOT see a difference in your game compared to using expensive balls! A comprehensive listing is here, check out what's on sale: HERE.