The arrival of Tiger Woods has given golf a massive shot in the arm, but the expected rush of youngsters taking up the game has not quite materialised on this side of the Atlantic. Newcomers remain, by and large, male, middle-aged and middle-class. There are 2,500 golf clubs in the British Isles, with around one million members, no more than 20 per cent of whom are female. A further two million play on a casual basis. But you don't need to be old or rich to get started in this great sport – your local club pro will provide lessons, clubs and encouragement.
You need a lesson at a club or driving range? To identify your local pro, call the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) on 01675 470 333. Teaching fees start from £7-£10 a half-hour.
You would like to see how difficult golf can be. But how much will it cost? Pitch-and-putts charge about £3 a go. Municipal courses can cost £10 a round, but you won't pay much more if you play with a member at a private club. If not with a member, green fees will range from £25 up to £250, depending on the club.
You're a kid dreaming of becoming the next Tiger? Call the Golf Foundation, which looks after the junior game, on 01920 876 200.
For information about rules, equipment and local governing bodies, call the R&A on 01334 472 112 or Ladies' Golf Union on 01334 475 811.
Paul Trow is the editor of "Golf News" and "Greenside"
You are allowed a maximum of 14 in the bag. Clubs from US companies like Callaway, TaylorMade, Ping or Titleist can cost upwards of £2,000 for a full set, but a perfectly decent starter set of three woods and nine irons from Scottish company John Letters will set you back only £249 – and they throw a bag in. A set of Letters' Parbuster irons retails at £199.
An optional extra, worn on the top hand to stabilise grip. It is important there is no loss of feel with a glove; the ideal material is touch-sensitive leather. Gloves should last up to 20 rounds before wearing out. Wilson's range starts with the synthetic Flex, which retails for around £7; their heavier-duty leather waterproof Conform for rainy days is about £12.
If you want to take the strain out of a trolley, be prepared to part with a few hundred pounds for a battery-powered version. Brand leader Powerkaddy retail both their Freeway and Classic models at more than £400, but if all you're looking for is a manual, fold-up version, the Twinpack Two at £69 and Micra 6000 at £75 should fit the bill.
Another must-have, often thrown in with a set of clubs as part of an overall starter package. The options are either a standard or lightweight bag. The former usually has a fold-up stand, the latter is used most often during the winter months or by the elderly. Howson's range starts with the lightweight Tempest at £29.95 and goes up to £89.95.
Clothing and shoes
You will need shirts with collars, sweaters, slacks (not jeans), waterproof jacket and trousers, headgear, and shoes with either metal spikes or plastic cleats. A pair of synthetic shoes can cost as little as £30, but these are unlikely to be waterproof or breathable. Especially recommended are Etonic, who start their leather Stabilite range from £49.99.
The Holy Grail is one which flies straight and long yet stops, when required, on a sixpence. Brand leaders Titleist's Pro VI, which has a solid core and a hard surface, is gaining ground on the traditional two- and three-piece balls. Titleist retail the Pro VI at £10.95 for a sleeve of three; their popular HP Tour and PTS Wound balls are £7.95 and £7.25 a sleeve.Reuse content