You may have heard that the word “golf” is really an acronym for the phrase “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.” That widely told tale isn’t true, but for most of its history golf has been a strongly male-dominated sport. In the 21st century, however, women golfers are well accepted almost everywhere the game is played. Indeed, roughly one-quarter of American golfers are women, according to the National Golf Foundation. Women just taking up the game may find it easier to begin with a smaller set of clubs than the standard 14. You’ll have fewer things to learn, and you can avoid some of the more challenging clubs to help you get off to a good start.
Talk to the Pros
Ideally, you’ll begin playing by taking lessons from a pro at a course or club that has a pro shop. Your teaching pro, and the shop’s club fitter, can help pick out the right clubs to suit your body and your swing. The pro can help recommend exactly which clubs you should begin with. If you’re buying on your own, find a shop that lets you try out the clubs on a driving range to see which feel comfortable. In general, you’ll likely want a club with a more flexible shaft -- don’t choose any shaft stiffer than “regular” flex -- and look for clubs labeled as “game improvement” clubs, which are more forgiving on poorly struck shots.
If you’re buying your first clubs on your own, focus on clubs that contain a reasonable amount of loft. Each golf clubhead -- except for some putters -- is angled relative to the club’s shaft. The greater the angle, the more loft a club contains. Hitting a more lofted club makes it easier to lift the ball in the air. Additionally, lofted clubs apply less sidespin to the ball, so it won’t travel as far off course if you hit a hook or a slice. The amount of loft increases with the number of the club. For example, a 7-iron contains more loft than a 3-iron.
A standard set of golf clubs will almost always include a driver. If used correctly, the driver will hit the ball farther than any other club. However, it’s also the longest club, and its clubface features less loft than any other wood or iron. So, a beginner will likely be better off using a more-lofted wood, such as a 3-wood, for tee shots on longer holes. For longer fairway shots, try an even more lofted wood, such as a 7 or a 9. Alternatively, try a mid-range hybrid, which combines the best traits of woods and irons.
Stay away from the longer irons, such as the 2- through 4-irons. These clubs contain little loft and are the most difficult to hit for most players. Instead, begin your set with a 5-iron, then add a couple more irons for shorter shots, such as the 7 and 9. All else being equal, a more lofted club won’t hit the ball as far, but it will hit the ball higher than less-lofted clubs. Additionally, add at least two wedges to your bag. A sand wedge is a must. This club is specially designed to hit from a bunker. The most common second wedge is a pitching wedge, which contains more loft than a 9-iron but less than other wedges, making it a versatile club that can be used from a variety of distances.
The putter is another must-have club, as it’s the only club designed to hit on the green. Certain putters are designed for players with specific types of strokes. As a new player, your putting style is likely a work in progress. Your best bet is to go to a pro shop or retail store that allows you to try out putters on a green. Sample different types of clubs and choose the one that feels the most comfortable.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.