8 Beginner Golfer Mistakes... And How To Fix Them!

8 beginner golfer mistakes and how to fix them
(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

In this video and article, the head professional at JCB Golf and Country Club John Howells sets out 8 Beginner Golfer Mistakes... And How To Fix Them!

8 Beginner Golfer Mistakes... And How To Fix Them!

In this video and article, the head professional at JCB Golf and Country Club John Howells sets out 8 Beginner Golfer Mistakes... And How To Fix Them!

8 Knowing Your Distances

Every golfer needs to develop a clear understanding for how far they hit each club in the bag. The mistake that often gets made is that people base their club selection on their longest shot with each club. This will often lead you to come up short. You need to establish more realistic distances for your average shot. One way to do that is, if you have access to a practice ground, to hit a series of 10 shots on a calm day with your 9-iron and then walk out onto the practice ground and place your bag roughly in the middle of the bunch of shots. You can then walk back to where you hit from and laser the yardage. Repeat that for each club. If you don’t have access to a practice ground, you can try and do something similar on the course. The key is to take your yardages not from your best shot or worst shot but somewhere in the middle.

8 beginner golfer mistakes backswing sway

(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

7 Backswing Stability

The biggest mistake to avoid in the backswing is excessive sway. This is an unnecessary movement that requires a compensation in the downswing otherwise a poor strike is the likely outcome.  A great drill is to place an alignment stick next to your right hip at address (there should be about an inch of separation between your hip and the stick). You should be able to swing to the top without bumping into the stick (picture above, right). This drill provides a clear visual aid to stop you swaying.

RELATED: How To Compress The Ball

6 Play the percentages

Golf is often a game of managing mistakes. If you can minimise the damage when you don’t hit the ball exactly where you are aiming, your handicap will quickly improve. A great way to approach this is when you pick your target, imagine the centre circle of a football pitch around that target. If that circle comes into contact with any trouble (sand, water, thick rough), move your aim until it doesn’t. This means that often you are aiming slightly away from the flag or the perfect spot on the fairway. That’s fine - this is the smart way to build a score and to avoid one of the key beginner golfer mistakes.

impact position

Notice in this posed impact position how John's shoulders and hips are both slightly open, his hands are ahead of the ball and his weight is moving towards target
(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

5 Mastering impact

When you first start playing golf, one of the big mistakes to avoid is helping the ball into the air by leaning back through impact. This movement causes fat and thin strikes. Instead, what creates the trajectory is a combination of clubhead speed and loft on the clubface. This creates the backspin needed to get the ball into the air. As such, your impact position should look different to your address position - ideally your shoulders will be slightly open to the target, your hands will be a fraction ahead of the ball and your weight will be moving towards the target. The image above illustrate the point. You can practice this by setting your impact position and then making a half swing from there, looking to recreate your pre-set impact as you strike the ball (the video with this article illustrates exactly how to do it).

RELATED: How To Stop Cutting Across The Ball

4 Clubface control

Hitting the golf ball straight is perhaps the hardest element of the game to master. The key is to have control of the clubface. That means taking care to set the correct grip. A great checkpoint is the two ‘v’s between your thumb and forefinger on both hands. They should point towards your right shoulder. If you feel like your grip is good and you are still hitting a slice, try this drill. Swing to the top, pause and point the logo on your glove away from the target. Then carry on the swing. This will help you develop an understanding for the adjustments you might need to make to control the clubface during the swing.

RELATED: Step By Step Guide To The Perfect Golf Grip

3 Chipping strikes

When you are playing delicate chip shots, finding a consistently good strike is essential. Often, as golfers start playing, they set the ball too far back in the stance and the club digs through impact causing fat and thin contacts. You can avoid this by moving the ball into the middle of your stance and setting your weight move evenly at address (ie not favouring your lead foot). This will help you find a shallower angle of attack using the bounce of the club through impact for a greater margin of error with the strike. Hit some balls off a tee in practice to develop the technique and your confidence.

Beginner golfer mistakes bunker strikes

(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

2 Bunker strikes

The reason why many golfers struggle from sand is because they fail to open the clubface correctly before hitting the shot. To do this, you need to turn the club to open the face before you establish your grip. This will set the loft and crucially the bounce you need to play the shot correctly. A great drill to use that trains you to take the right amount of sand is to take a clump of sand from the bunker and put it on the grass. Just make a swing and practice splashing that sand towards the green. Now do the same thing but put a ball on top and hit it towards the green. This illustrates how much sand to take but also it should help you develop a shallow angle of attack - ideal for bunker play! 

picking the break

(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

1 Picking The Break

Reading greens well is something you’ll need to develop if you are looking to shoot lower scores. The beginner golfer mistakes to avoid here are not allowing for enough break. Golfers often get caught up either aiming at the hole or at the apex of the curve and this leads them to under-borrow. Try to visualise the roll the putt as a whole and you should be able to pick better start lines (above the apex of the curve) allowing for the right amount of break.

Neil Tappin
Neil Tappin

Neil has worked for Golf Monthly for over 15-years. Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. Neil is currently a 2-handicap golfer who has played the game for as long as he can remember. In his role at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: Titleist TSi3 Fairway Wood: Titleist TSi2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X