The Hippo


Jun 27, 2019








Golf carts lined up at the Intervale Country Club in Manchester. Kelly Sennott photo.

Golf talk

Tee: That tiny, toothpick-like tool you use during your first golf stroke at the start of each hole.
Par: The number of strokes it would take an expert golfer to complete a hole.
Tee time: The time at which you’re scheduled to play. 
Driver, putter, iron, wood, wedge, hybrid: These are all golf clubs. 
Fore!: It means “ahead” and is meant to warn golfers there’s a ball coming their way.
Green: The very short green grass surrounding the hole.
Fairway: The space at a golf course that’s not the green or the tee.
Driving range: A large field that golfers practice chucking balls into. You’ll usually buy a bucket of balls before a driving range session.
Replace your divots: It’s proper etiquette to replace the piece of grass your club kicks up when teeing off
Executive golf course: Meant for golfers who don’t have the time to play a standard four-hour game of golf; these often consist of fewer holes (like an “executive nine”) or easier holes (hence it’s also called a Par 3 golf course)
PGA: Professional Golfers’ Association. PGA has a New England section, which is meant to promote enjoyment and involvement of the game of golf. There are 41 PGA chapters across the country.

Starting from scratch
For the beginner without a clue

By Kelly Sennott

One of the biggest hurdles facing the golf industry, many professionals will tell you, is attracting new golfers.
“There are stigmas that exist in golf,” said Matthew Schmidt, executive director of the New Hampshire Golf Association. “People think it’s an elitist sport that takes a lot of money to play. There’s the time aspect, and that the rules of golf are very complicated. It intimidates people.”
To an extent, these stigmas can be true; golf can be expensive — but it can also be relatively inexpensive, depending on where and when (and how) you play. Games don’t have to take four hours; easier and shorter-game courses exist. And as for the rules, they can be as simple or as complicated as you like. 
It’s not a bad hobby to take on, particularly because of its social and professional associations; Schmidt has known golfers to take up lessons after college for business reasons. 
“They like taking clients out to the golf course. … It’s also a big weekend activity for groups of guys who haven’t seen each other for a while,” Schmidt said.
Matthew Thibeault, PGA professional and director of golf at the Intervale Country Club in Manchester, agrees. He says there’s a reason for these associations.
“You get to see every side of a person when they’re on a golf course. You see how they deal with success. You see how they deal with failure. You see how they deal with frustration,” Thibeault said. “There’s a lot to learn about a person while you play golf with them.”
Course know-how
“There are basically four types of golf courses,” Thibeault said recently, sitting on the back porch of the Intervale Country Club in Manchester, where he’s worked since 1987.
“You have a private course, which is just for the members. A semi-private course is where you have membership and annual play at the same time. That’s where we fall. Then you have public golf courses, which [don’t] usually have members, per se. … And resort golf courses, which are usually attached to a vacation spot or hotel.”
Golf courses are typically 18 holes, and each hole is given a difficulty designation called a par, which is the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to make on that hole. 
Par 3 is usually 220 yards or less; par 4, between 230 and 480 yards; and par 5, 490 yards or longer. 
Par 3 courses are sometimes known as executive courses, which are designed to be easier and a bit shorter than the typical 18-hole game. The term ‘executive’ is said to come from the idea that a busy businessman could complete a game of golf within just a couple of hours, as opposed to the standard four. Most courses will also offer nine-hole options — a Par 3, nine-hole course might be called an “executive nine.”
Within the course, the tee box is where you hit the ball first (with shorter grass), the fairway is the space around it (and thus the majority of the golf course) and the green is the very short grass surrounding the hole, prominent due to its bright, standing flag.
Golf gear
During your first time out, be sure to bring with you: “A pair of tennis shoes,” Thibeault said. “Not a real aggressive sole. … Also a shirt with a collar, if you’re a man, and sunscreen.” 
Most golf courses and driving ranges will rent out golf clubs to new players relatively inexpensively (Thibeault estimated between $10 and $15, on average, but it could be more or less depending on location.) If you’re looking to play more than just one game of golf, there are also less pricy purchasing options.
“There are clubs you can pay $1,000-plus for, for a starter set; you could also buy a set for $100, or even cheaper than that on places like Craigslist or eBay,” Schmidt said.
Golfers are allowed up to 14 clubs in their bags (carried by hand or with a golf cart) but Thibeault says beginners can survive with as few as seven without a problem.
“Golf clubs are all built with different lengths and different lofts so that you’ll swing the same way with each club, yet get different results,” Thibeault said. “It’s just the club you change that will alter the flight and length of the ball.”
Thibeault advises beginners to test out each club at a driving range, simply to see what each club does. It’s much easier to learn by doing.
Woods vs. irons vs. hybrids
In general, a ball will travel higher and farther with a club that has a longer shaft (handle) and bigger head (the part that hits the ball). It will go higher and shorter with one of greater loft (head angle).
Fairway woods are designed to hit long shots. They’re named such because when the game of golf began, the clubs were made of wood, though that’s not the case anymore.
 The two most commonly-used clubs among the woods are the driver and the 3-wood. The driver is the club with the longest shaft. Normally if you’re to use the driver, you’ll use it first, right off the tee. However, some golfers might also use 3-woods off the tee; while they too have large heads, they also have a bit more loft (angle) and thus will provide a bit more height than the rest of the clubs in the bag. Golfers might also carry 5-woods or higher, but generally speaking, the higher the number, the greater the loft, and thus the less distance you’ll reach.
Irons are used when you’re closer to the green. They send the ball much higher and shorter than the woods. Because of the height they achieve with the irons, the balls rolls less when they land.
“The irons are all numbered. … A four iron will go low and far, while a nine iron will go high and short,” Thibeault said. 
The irons are named, three through nine; again, the higher the number, the greater the loft. At the end of the spectrum are the pitching wedge and sand wedge, which are the irons you’ll usually use when you’re closest to the hole, maybe 75 yards or less away (though this might vary from golfer to golfer).
Between irons and woods are hybrids — morphs of the two, with big heads (that thus send the ball far) and more loft (which thus can be more accurate). 
Last but not least is the putter, most familiar to mini-golfing extraordinaires. It’s the club you’ll use on the green to get your ball in the hole.
It’s best not to play an 18-hole golf course without ever having hit a golf ball. Beginners, Thibeault said, should start with lessons, at a driving range (where golfers can practice hitting a bucket of balls into a big, open field) or at an easy course.
“You don’t want to just go out and play a game of golf without knowing anything about the game. … People are expected to keep up with the group in front of them while they play, and a lot of times, first-time players don’t know the etiquette, and they’re slower. It’s a good idea to have some basic knowledge before you get out there,” Thibeault said. “The most serious golfers are going to start with lessons. The more casual golfer will take out a bucket of balls before trying it. … It’s a matter of practice and learning how far you can hit with each club.”
For newbies who simply haven’t the time for lessons, practice, or even a few swings at the driving range beforehand: “Watch the golf ball the entire time while you swing. Swing the club in balance; let the club do the work for you, and don’t try to help the ball in the air,”
Thibeault said. 
Beginners aren’t difficult to spot — Thibeault usually recognizes them just by how they hold their golf bags, or by the look of incredulity on their faces as they look around. There’s little use trying to blend in, but also, little reason. Everybody starts out somewhere.
“And the majority of people who play aren’t very good, anyway,” Thibeault said. “Ninety percent of people don’t break 100 [during an 18-hole game]. … Golf takes a long time to learn. … But if you’re playing a friendly game of golf, you really don’t have to worry about penalty strokes and keeping score so much as just trying to learn the game and enjoy yourself. … If you’re just out here to have fun, nobody’s going to strike you down for not playing by a rule you don’t know.”
He says most people play the 19th hole best.
“Do you know what the 19th hole is?” he asked. “The bar.” 


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