10 things I wish I had known when I started golf

Kid with green polo practicing his putting

My golf addiction started in July 2020. I have been able to play a lot during the first 2 years since I was living in Singapore, and it was one of the only activities we could do during Covid. Since then, I've moved to South Korea, where it's much more complex and expensive to play due to the country's limited space for golf courses (too many mountains), and a large portion of the population is into golf. However, South Korea is full of resources, and they have developed the largest indoor golf ecosystem in the world, with GolfZon and KakaoGolf dominating the space.

In four years, I've gotten my handicap down to 16 with some room to progress further. Unfortunately, in Korea, you can't practice your short game (since our practice is only indoors or in a driving range in the middle of Seoul with nets all around), and therefore, it's hard to go to a single-digit road without a solid short game.

I've experienced every type of feeling along my golf journey. Here are the 10 things I wish I had known when I started golf.

Stop thinking about technique

This is true both when you practice and when you play on the golf course. The first time I've had a club in my hands, I had no clue how this would work. My muscle memory wasn't used to such a posture. It was almost impossible for me to generate power. I quickly took lessons, but unfortunately, those coaches were all talking about technical things like:

  • Put your hands in front at impact,
  • Don't go too far in the backswing,
  • Throw your ends to the ground in the downswing,
  • Break your wrists,
  • Don't break your wrists,
  • Use your body weight transfer,
  • Hit the ground at impact,
  • Don't hit the ground too much,
  • Etc.

All this advice got me stuck for almost two years. I had weeks of playing tremendous, and suddenly, the next day, I lost my swing because I was focusing on too many things simultaneously. But when I went golfing on holidays with a friend who's been playing for years, he made me realize that I should think about swinging and nothing else. It's hard to translate, but I wasn't thinking much when swinging; I was thinking about an image.

For me, that image is straightforward: Try to throw your club just like you'd throw a rock on a lake to make it skip. It will be something else for you, but this helps me not think of anything else, especially when training, and I'm much more confident when on the course.

Visualise your shot

Following that first, advice, I wish I'd realized earlier that if I'm able to visualize my shot before hitting the ball, I'm naturally going to swing the club the right way. I'm a natural drawer (it may be due to my years of tennis when I was young), so I use my draw 90% of the time. I always visualize my shot with a draw. Obviously, it doesn't always draw, but it doesn't matter because I'm focused on the shot and not on the technical anymore. When my swing is off at the range, I visualize doing a high draw with a tennis racket instead of my club. And after a few tries, I usually get it right.

Short game is key

I'm lucky that short game is what interests me the most and what used to be my strength. As stated before, I'm losing it in Korea due to a lack of practice. But I know how much it's to focus on doing a Bryson Challenge at the range with your pals but practicing under 100m all the way to putting is what will bring your handicap lower the fastest. Both long and short games are important, but we naturally tend to work on our long game the most. Can't blame us, as there's nothing more satisfying than hitting a driver with a carry of 250 meters…

Work up your game slowly

You won't compress the ball after 2 months. Even after 2 to 3 years, if you can practice a lot (considering you're starting late in your golf life like me), everything takes time. Golf is a process, and I was really impatient at first. It was a mini competition between all my friends (about 10 of us started simultaneously in Singapore..). This forced us to try new stuff every time we would go to the range instead of capitalizing on working and being good at one thing at a time.

Stop watching too many YouTube videos

I mean, do I even need to write more about this? We're all alike; we watch Rick Shiels, GoodGood, Peter Finch, and Co. They always have those great YouTube videos (and podcasts) of golf coaching. And most of these videos actually have great content. We can learn a lot by watching them, but if you are going to discover online/by yourself, do it step by step (which is possible; my friend is now a single digit and started at the same time as me and never took a single lesson…I'm slightly jealous…).

Don't focus on too many videos at once, and maybe stick to one YouTuber instead of bouncing from one to another.

Stop listening to everybody's advice... like me :)

We're not golf coaches (unlike our partner and CMO Adrien); we need to know how's your natural capabilities. Especially at the beginning, stick to your game, stick to one swing at a time, and stick to what you know how to do. 

I have a friend who was coaching the French national golf team. He now lives in Asia, and he first asked me: Have you ever been injured? Based on that question, he can start helping you. Because he is a professional. But if you listen to your friend Cameron, who's telling you that you should shorten your stance when sitting on the tee box, I can guarantee your shot will go OB. That advice may be good, but there is a time (at practice only, never on the golf course) and a place to use it.

Don't invest too fast in club fitting

I DID THAT MISTAKE, and my golf coach (I'm blaming him and myself) told me to go for the Taylormade P770 irons with stiff 105g shafts when I was a 24 handicap. I STRUGGLED for such a long time with those clubs, but I bought them; it would have been stupid of me to change them. 

I should have bought a more forgiving set of irons (like game improvement ones) with a regular shaft. This would have allowed me more forgiveness and allowed me to have a slower swing speed. Instead, I almost returned to square one when I got them. It took me about 1 year to figure them out.

It was too heavy at first, and I've injured myself many times because of that. I went backward in my handicap, and I believe I'd be closer to a 12 handicap or even single digit today if I had more forgiving clubs. Know yourself, have a steady swing, and THEN go for a fitting.

If you're looking for a new set of golf clubs without breaking the bank, check out our article on Direct-To-Consumer golf brands.

Have fun on the golf course.

It's not a competition, and even when it is, when I have fun, that's when I play the best. Initially, I took it too seriously and spent most of my rounds frustrated. That frustration has been turned into determination to get better, but it should have been a better mix of fun and focus rather than frustration.

I can guarantee you that you will lose golf balls; you will top a ball and then chunk it. You will have quintuple bogeys during your rounds. It will take time to break 100. Actually, only a few golfers break 100. If you do, it's already an outstanding achievement; if you don't, it's not a problem as long as you enjoy your time on the golf course. Enjoy the beauty and serenity of walking in nature with friends, strangers, or yourself. Have your own little challenge. Set your own realistic goals if you need to, but never forget that you pay to play, and the outcome should be that you feel better after your round ;)

Stop always counting your shots

I did it every round until I played with a more experienced golfer who told me the score didn't matter initially. Take mulligans as much as you need at the beginning (no problme as long as you respect the pace of play). The first round will take forever, but it's fun to count to remember where you come from. But in the first few months, you shouldn't always count your shots; you should go out and try to enjoy the moment.

Play fun golf game formats with your friends

Golf has many different game formats! Go and play a scramble. It's good for the ego because you will shoot lower than usual, have much less pressure, and end up playing better. Play from the front tee as well. Please don't follow the crowd playing from the back or champions tee, as it will make your round way less enjoyable. Play a mini Ryder Cup format with your friend if you like or join a golf league! Whatever formula you want (might involve drinking games…), I guarantee that the more you play casually, the faster you master your game.