Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Craig Norman, left, shows Randy Cuff how to improve his swing while Lynsie Cuff gets set to hit the ball during their lessons with Norman.

The Utah Golf Association, with its "Every member a mentor" program, is looking to bring new golfers to the game and keep the sport growing.

But for those on the outside looking in, taking up golf can be a little intimidating. It can sound fun and scary at the same time.

First, it's a very difficult sport to master or even become average at, and no one likes to look bad at anything. Also, golf is not just a game of skill. It's a game of knowledge, a game of customs, a game of tradition, a game of rules and a game of etiquette.

In golf, there's usually a proper way and an improper way to do everything. Knowing and becoming familiar with these ways can be challenging for many. With a little education and preparation, however, these barriers are easy for golfer-wannabes to overcome. Just like the game itself, there really is a proper way to take up golf.

"People are not going to play golf unless it's something they feel comfortable doing," said Scott Whittaker, executive director of the Utah Section of the PGA. "It's up to those of us who already play golf to make sure everyone feels welcome."

Education: The first thing any potential golfer should do is learn more about the game by reading magazines, news articles, surfing the Web, watching golf and golf shows on television, and by reading books on golf-related topics.

There's plenty of information available from a variety of sources on equipment, techniques and swing tips, rules and etiquette. If you're looking for an "Idiot's Guide" to anything golf-related, it's out there — just Google it. Digesting a little of this information can go a long way in making someone new to golf feel much less out of place on a golf course.

Perhaps the best resource is simply another golfer or your local club professional.

Equipment: Obviously, golf requires clubs and golf balls. But with so many options available and with such an advance in golf technology, knowing which clubs and balls are best for someone at the beginning skill level can be confusing.

And there are more places than ever before where quality equipment is available. Most who are just getting into golf, however, will go to a golf discount store or a local golf course pro shop to get their hardware. The most important factor for beginners is to not get in over their heads with equipment designed for the more advanced players. Most golf salesmen, club fitters and golf professionals can advise you, and will, regarding what is best for you.

"We want to get people into a set of clubs that are going to work for them," said Steve Seare, manager of the Sandy Uinta Golf store. "You really need to know that you're going to like golf and want to stay with it before you make too big of an investment in it."

Instruction: Having proper equipment guarantees nothing when it comes to playing good golf. All beginners should start by knowing the basic grip, address and swing techniques. Some of this can be learned from a friend or relative who golfs. But the best source for guaranteeing proper instruction is to take a lesson or two from the many golf professionals teaching in Utah. Every club pro offers private lessons. Most, for those who feel more comfortable in a group setting, over beginner group lessons for men, women and juniors.

Hitting the links: Once a beginner, after lessons and some work on the range and practice green, is comfortable with striking the ball it's time to venture out to a golf course. It's probably best to first play a par-three course or a course that is classified as a beginner or executive course — and there are a handful that meet this need in Utah. A beginner doesn't want to get frustrated or chased away early by playing a course that is too difficult for his or her ability.

As your game progresses, take on a more challenging course at a less-busy time. Also, play from the proper tees and don't try to bite off more than you can chew. Again, club professionals will tell you where their course ranks on a level of difficulty.

Etiquette: The No. 1 thing that causes conflict with veteran golfers and beginning golfers is a lack of golf etiquette. Anyone who steps on a course should be familiar with pace-of-play guidelines and the basic etiquette issues such as replacing divots, repairing ball marks and raking sand traps. Again, there are many resources available to educate a beginner on proper golf etiquette. Or, it's another topic that a local club pro will be more than willing to discuss.

"Please remember to leave the golf course in the same condition you found it," Riverside pro Robert McArthur likes to tell players before they tee off.

Join an association: The most rewarding part of golf is its social aspects. So once you can complete a round from the first tee shot to the final putt, it's time to get a handicap and join the camaraderie that golf provides. Every course in Utah has a men's or women's golf association that is loaded with competition and many other social events. They all welcome your participation.

"Most golfers really get most of their enjoyment from two sources n the course they are playing and the people with which they are playing. That's really why they play golf," said Joe Watts, executive director of the Utah Golf Association.

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