I am wounding is worth the time and money to do a 4x4 courses for a newbie? Is it better to do tag along, go with friends, or join a club?
Could you tell me your pieces of advice and opinions on this matter?
I'd absolutely recommend doing a course, especially if you have a manual gearbox. You get on forums and always hear the question, whats the first mod you would do to your vehicle? You should be the first mod, no use owning it if you don't know how to use it safely. When I booked in for my one day course the thing that resonated with me the most was when he said "we will put you out of your comfort zone" and he did. I'm glad I didn't experience that on my own or with the family strapped in the back.
You'll learn basic things that could save you a ton of grief, like stall starts. The basics of what I learnt still come to mind when on the tracks, driving through the brakes, the ruts are your friend. Most modern 4WD's make it easy these days , I've only owned my 4WD for 3 years and no previous experience, so I'm still learning. I would liken it to when you first learnt to drive, you take some driving lessons and then you're prepared for learning the intricacies on the tracks. The one thing you will always hear is "pick the right line" after 3 years driving with others, it was only the other day on this forum where someone could give me an adequate explanation of what that is.
Then do some day trips with whoever you can tag along with, within reason, you need to find like mined people. My first step was joining a vehicle specific based forum, in my case the FJCC. This enabled me to learn the vehicle specifics, simple things like how to turn off Traction control. People will usually post trips aimed at all levels, I'm not into all the macho mud slinging billy goat based tracks that some people get into but.... my philosophy is, if it's between me and where I want to go I'll have a crack. I wanted to learn how to drive all different types of surfaces, armed with the basics these are all achievable to a degree with the exception of snow and sand, in my opinion the only two surfaces that don't provide a constant.
If you are in Melbourne you will find that Sand is offered as an additional course, I think we're the only state in Aus where it's not permitted to drive on the beach. It sounds weird but sand isn't sand, the approach to sand varies around Aus. Although I didn't do a sand course, during the info night I learnt some basics just through the discussion; course sand and steeply slopping beaches, not good, for example Beech Port in Sth Aus. The sand in WA is different to driving the sand on the East coast, from experience. Driving the dunes on the West of the Simpson are different to those on the East of the Simpson, cold sand vs hot sand, its all thing you learn as you go but the only constant on sand is tyre pressures. You need to understand them and what suits your vehicle, not what someone else is running their tyres at. I've just done the CSR and the Simpson and you constantly hear over the radio; "just having another crack at that one, got hung up on the top, I'll take a bigger run up
", most likely fixed with lower tyre pressure.
Bite the Bullet and do a course, then get amongst it and have fun! Some links to get you motivated, all have a different degree of difficulty but all just as rewarding.