Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #42

Click play to listen to Greg’s Podcast, or read below.

Last week we talked about golf etiquette and I highlighted 14 points to take into consideration with regard to behaving on the golf course. Since then I have given a playing lesson to my cousin and her husband and I want to answer some of their questions because since they are beginners they may have the same concerns as you do.

One question I always get from a person that wants to learn the game is how much should I spend on a set of golf clubs? And yes, golf is an expensive sport, but a good set of golf clubs with the proper care will last for years.

First, I would need to know how often you play. Are you still working but may have time to play three or four times a year? In that case I would recommend starting with a new set from Walmart. Have you just joined a country club and plan to play every weekend? Then shop for the name brands, but they don’t have to be new. Callaway, Wilson, Taylor Made, and PING and Titleist all make good clubs that you could find at a garage sale. Don’t buy an old rusty set for 5 to 10 dollars. Look for a set for $100 and try to talk them down a little. You’ll probably want to replace the grips anyway. They’re not very expensive. $5 a club installed at Dick’s.

Another question I’m often asked is why do I need 14 clubs? The answer is you don’t. Unless you plan to take the game very seriously and play several games a week, a starter set is good enough. Fourteen is the maximum number of clubs allowed. A set with a 5 iron, 7 iron, 9 iron, wedge, putter, driver and utility wood like a 5 wood or 3 wood or 3 hybrid will work great. I just took it for granted that a beginning golfer would know what to use each club for. I realize that is not the case.

The driver or one wood should be used only off the tee on a par 4 or par 5 hole. If you carry a 3 wood, it’s used for maximum distance off the fairway. The 5 wood or hybrid is used for maximum distance out of the rough or from a poor lie in the fairway when you also need distance.

As you get closer to the green the clubs you hit will be shorter and have more loft. The higher the number the higher the shot should be with shorter overall distance. So the 5 iron goes a little lower but will fly farther than an 8 iron. The pitching wedge is one of the most useful clubs in the bag. A beginner can expect to hit it no farther than 100 yards, but it can be used to pitch or chip the ball from just off the edge of the green as well.

It’s not necessary to keep score the first few times you play but I had a question from a beginner on what to do if your ball goes in the water. By the way, golf balls are expensive too. I recommend using the cheapest new balls. Pick the color you like and buy a couple dozen.

Now back to the water question. As you play a round of golf you’ll notice three basic colors of stakes. The white stakes denote an out of bounds line. The yellow stakes stand for a regular water hazard. The red stakes mean it’s a lateral water hazard. Out of bounds should be self-explanatory.

If you are playing by the strict rules of golf, out of bounds or OB is a stroke and distance penalty. So if you believe you have hit your drive out of bounds, hit another ball from the tee. Count one for the first drive, one more for the penalty for being OB and a third for your second ball. So after hitting a drive OB, you are hitting three from the tee.

A regular water hazard is a one shot penalty. Drop the ball on the line the ball crossed the hazard two club lengths outside the hazard and add one shot. So if you slice your ball into the water, watch the flight of the ball and drop accordingly. You also have the option of playing another ball where you hit the first and count stroke and distance.

For a lateral water hazard, you can drop on either side of the hazard. If there is a ditch for example running parallel to the fairway up the left side, you can drop your ball on the right side or the left side of the ditch, two club lengths away from the stakes. Obviously you’ll want to choose the side that gives you the clearest shot. When I say drop, don’t throw the ball, measure two club lengths from the hazard, put a tee down to mark it and from a distance of six inches, drop the ball. If it rolls into the hazard or ends up farther than two club lengths from your spot, or closer to the hole, re-drop. If it still isn’t a legal drop, you are allowed to place the ball.

Now that whole procedure is following the strict rules of golf. If you are out of practice or aren’t keeping score penalties don’t really matter, but do your extra practice shots on the driving range so that you don’t hold up play.

If you have any questions about anything we talk about in the blogs or are curious about something I haven’t covered, feel free to email me at

Hit ’em straight!