When you’ve spent a long winter practising on the range, it’s easy to forget that golf is actually meant to be played out on a course.

So with summer finally upon us, I approached my first lesson out on the course with Ryan Rastall with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Of course I was excited to enjoy a sunny evening outside at Howley Hall. But I knew that out on the course, things would suddenly get so much more difficult.

Sure enough, the bunkers, annoyingly-placed trees and constant hazards soon had me longing for the predictable, safe range with it’s flat surface and never-ending supply of balls.

So here are the most important things I learnt from my first time on a full-size course…

1) Some holes are just stupidly long

“So where on earth is the flag?” you might naively ask when faced with your first par-5 hole.

After all, the idea that you are expected to hit a ball into a tiny hole that’s hidden around a bend and at the top of a steep bank is laughable to most sensible people. You might think it’s some kind of hilarious joke, or an attempt at tricking the golfing newbie.

But of course the “fun” of some holes is that you can’t actually see the green from where you’re starting. This is the shocking reality of proper golf.

The distance of these holes means there are also so many, many opportunities for you to get stuck in long grass, lose your ball, give up completely etc. It’s unlikely that you’ll get through your first crazily long hole without cursing loadly and vowing never to attempt this stupid, pointless game ever again.

I now understand why it’s necessary to have a map of a hole. I always just thought they existed to give golf nerds something else to get excited about.

2) You need so many balls

Just so, so, many.

When you’re surrounded by trees, hedges, long grass and fields of grazing livestock, sending a ball the wrong way will almost certainly mean that you’ll never see it again.

Even if you’re pretty sure you know where the ball has landed, by the time you’ve stumbled over there, you’ll find it has magically disappeared. All the trees and blades of grass look exactly the same, and after wandering around aimlessly for a while, you’re eventually forced to give up.

3) There is a correct way to do everything, even drop a ball

If like me, you have a habit of losing your ball with startling regularity, there will be many times when you need to drop a ball back into play.

So I quickly learnt that as with everything in golf, there is a very particular way that you have to do this.

Just chucking it on the floor is not the done thing. You need to hold you arm out in front of you and drop it from shoulder height. Obviously…

4) Every shot is so much harder than when you’re on the range

Out of long grass, up a hill, over a tree, from practically inside a hedge, actual golf involves trying to hit your ball in so many difficult and frustrating scenarios.

In these situations everything you’ve learnt seems to go out of your head. You’re back to just whacking the ball in a desperate attempt to get it out of the latest dire situation you’ve managed to get yourself in.

5) There is actually a point to buggies

A full round of golf should take around four hours, however at my pace it would definitely take a lot longer.

Before now I’ve always loved driving a little golf buggie around. But I’ve also just viewed them as another novelty, funny thing that only really exists for golf. The same can be said for visors and skorts; the latter being a piece of clothing that I hadn’t come across since I was in Brownie Guides.

But on a big course I can see why a buggy would be practical. Walking just takes so much longer. Plus, after a few hours the fun of carrying a bag like a proper golfer starts to wear off and it just becomes heavy and annoying.

6) But when you complete a hole semi-successfully, it’s brilliant

Despite everything else I’ve rambled about, playing on the course was obviously lots of fun.  And way more satisfying than just hitting balls over and over again on the range.

Golfing outside is also a great way of getting a tan, plus it’s a much more enjoyable way of exercising than being stuck in a stuffy gym.

You’ll also get much better Instagram shots out of it than you will from a night in front of the TV.

Actually completing a hole before you’ve lost count of the number of shots you’ve had is a great feeling. It’s also one that you’ll desperately try to repeat, even if you spend most of the round moving from one bunker to another and getting completely covered in sand. #golfproblems

Follow Ryan Rastall and Howley Hall on Twitter @RRastall @HowleyGC

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