This article is about the game of golf. For other meanings, see Golf (disambiguation).

Golf is a outdoor game where each player has to play his own small ball into a hole using various types of clubs. The game is defined in the Rules of Golf: "The Game of Golf consists in playing a ball from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules."

Table of contents
1 Elements of a golf course
2 Play of the game
3 Handicap systems
4 Rules of golf and etiquette
5 History
6 Clubs
7 Other equipment
8 Environmental impact
9 Professional Golf
10 Golf terminology
11 See also
12 External links

Elements of a golf course

Golf is played by holes. It should be noted that "hole" can mean either the actual hole in the ground into which the ball is played, or the whole area from the teeing ground (an area of specially prepared grass from where a ball is first hit) to the putting green (the area around the actual hole in the ground). Most golf courses consist of 9 or 18 holes. (The "19th hole" is the bar at the club house.)

For the shortest holes a good player requires only one stroke to hit the ball to the green. On longer holes the green is too far away to reach it with the first stroke, so that one or more strokes are played from the fairway (where the grass is cut so low that most balls can be easily played) or from the rough (uncut grass or ground not prepared at all).

Many holes include hazards, namely bunkers (or sand traps), from which the ball is more difficult to play than from grass, and water hazards (lakes, ponds, rivers, etc). Special rules apply to playing balls that come to rest in a hazard which make it highly undesirable to play a ball into one. For example, a player must not touch the ground in a hazard with a club prior to playing a ball, not even for a practice swing. A ball in a water hazard may be played as it lies or may be replaced by dropping another ball outside the water, but a penalty is incurred in the latter case.

The grass of the putting green is cut very short so that balls can roll over distances of several meters, and "to putt" indeed means to play a stroke on the green where the ball does not leave the ground. The hole must have a diameter of 4 1/4 inches (108 mm) and a depth of at least 4 inches (101.6 mm). Its position on the green is not static and may be changed from day to day.

The borders of a course are marked as such, and beyond them is out of bounds, that is, ground from which a ball must not be played. Special rules apply to certain man-made things on the course (obstructions) and to ground in abnormal condition.

Every hole is classified by its par. The par of a hole is defined by the distance from tee to green. Typical values for a par three hole range from 130 to 230 yards (120-210 m), a par four hole from 300 to 475 yards (275-435 m), and a par five hole from 450 to 600 yards (410-550 m). Par is also the theoretical number of strokes that an expert golfer should require for playing the ball into any given hole. The expert golfer will reach the green in two strokes under par (in regulation) and then use two putts to get the ball into the hole. Many 18-hole courses have approximately four par-three, ten par-four, and four par-five holes. The total par of a 18-hole course is usually around 72.

At most golf courses there are additional facilities that are not part of the course itself. Often there is a practice range, usually with practice greens, bunkers, and a driving area (where long shots can be practiced). There may even be a practice course (which is often easier to play or shorter than other golf courses). A golf school is often associated to a course or club.

Play of the game

Every game of golf is based on playing a number of holes in a given order. A round typically consists of 18 holes that are played in the order determined by the course layout. On a nine-hole course, a standard round consists of two successive nine-hole rounds.

Players usually walk (or sometimes drive) over the course in groups of two, three, or four, sometimes accompanied by caddies who carry the players' equipment and assist in playing. Each player has to play one ball from the tee to the hole. Once every player has brought a ball into play, it is always he or she whose ball is the farthest from the hole who is to play next. When all players of a group have completed the hole, that player who scored best on that hole has the honor, i.e. the right and duty to tee off first on the next.

To hit the ball, the club is swung at the motionless ball on the ground (or wherever it has come to rest) from a side-stance. Many golf shots make the ball travel through the air (carry) and roll out for some more distance (roll). This is typically the case with tee shots (drives) and fairway shots. When playing over shorter distances around the green, high approach shots (pitches) may be used where the ball rolls very little, stopping more or less where it hits the ground, or low approach shots (chips) where the ball makes a shallow flight and then rolls out on the green. On the green itself, putts are played where the ball does not leave the ground at all.

Each player acts as markerfor one other player in the group, that is, he or she records the score on a score card. In stroke play (see below), the score consists of the number of strokes played plus any penalty strokes incurred.

The two basic forms of playing golf are match play and stroke play. In match play, two golfers (or two teams) play every hole as a separate contest against each other. The party with the lower score wins that hole, or if the scores of both players or teams are equal the hole is "halved" (drawn). The game is won by that party that wins more holes than the other. In stroke play, every player (or team) counts the total number of strokes for a set number of holes and the party with the lower total score wins. There are many variations of these basic principles, some of which are explicitly described in the "Rules of Golf" and are therefore regarded "official".

Handicap systems

Golf scores for amateurs are usually calculated using a handicap system. Such a system allows players of different proficiency to play against each other on equal terms. While there are many variations in detail, all handicap system are based on calculating an individual player's playing ability from his or her recent history of golf rounds. A player's handicap is (very roughly) equal to the average number of strokes that he or she plays above the par of a course. Thus, a player who constantly plays a 100 on a par-72 course will have a handicap of 100 - 72 = 28. An expert golfer who plays a course in par (scratch golfer) will have a handicap of 0.

Handicaps are administrated by golf clubs or national golf associations. In most countries, official handicaps will start from between 28 and 36. Handicap systems are not used for professional golfers.

Rules of golf and etiquette

The rules of golf [1] are internationally standardised and are jointly governed by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA). The "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" are based on formal case decisions by the R&A and USGA and are regularly published. The etiquette of golf, although not formally equivalent to the rules, are included in the publications on golf rules and are considered binding for every player. They cover matters such as safety, fairness, easiness and pace of play, and players' obligation to contribute to the care of the course. There are also strict regulations regarding the amateur status of golfers [1]. Essentially, everybody who teaches or plays golf for money (with the exception of trophies of a modest monetary value) is not considered an amateur and must not participate in amateur competitions.

One of the most basic rules (Rule 13-1) states that the ball must be played as it lies (i.e. from the position where it has come to rest after a stroke) unless a rule allows or demands otherwise.


Golf is usually regarded to be a Scottish invention, as the game was mentioned in two 15th century laws prohibiting the playing of the game of "golf". Some scholars however suggest that this refers to another game which is actually much akin to the modern field hockey. The same scholars also point out that a game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground played with "golf clubs" was played in the 17th century Netherlands.

What we think of as the modern game really came into being in the second half of the 19th century in Scotland. The basic rules of the game and the design of equipment and courses strongly resemble those of today. The major changes in equipment since then were better mowers, especially for the greens, better golf ball designs using rubber and man-made materials beginning around 1900 and the introduction of the metal shaft beginning in the 1930s. In the 1970s the use of metal to replace wood heads began, and shafts made of graphite composite materials were introduced in the 1980s.


There are three major types of clubs, known as woods, irons, and putters. A golfer usually carries a couple of woods, perhaps 10 irons, and a putter. The rules forbid the golfer to carry more than 14 clubs during the game.

The parts of a club are the shaft and the head. The shaft is a tapered tube made of metal or fiberglass or graphite. The shaft is roughly 1/2 inch in diameter (12 mm) near the grip and about 35 to 45 inches (89-115 cm) in length depending on the club. The head is the part that hits the ball. Each head has a face which contacts the ball during the stroke. Various clubs are designed with the face having differing "loft", the angle the face makes with the ground when the club is at rest. Typically, the greater the loft, the higher and shorter the resulting shot. The end of the shaft opposite the head is covered with a rubber or leather grip for the player to hold. A complete club weighs about 14 ounces. The clubs are numbered for identification with the smallest numbered clubs used to hit the ball the longest distances.

Woods are long clubs (shaft length about 40-45 inches or 100-115 cm) for long shots. The have large heads that are somewhat spherical in shape with a slightly bulging clubface and a flattened bottom that slides over the ground without digging in during the stroke. Originally the "wood" heads were made of wood but modern club heads are made of hollow metal, sometimes filled with foam. The shaft enters the wood off-center, in such a way that the face of the wood is roughly at a right angle to one side of the shaft. Woods are used for the longest shots, ranging from 200 to 300 yards (180-275 m). The typical loft for wood faces ranges from 6 to 26 degrees.

Irons are used for shorter shots than woods, especially including shots approaching the greens. Irons typically range from 36 to 40 inches (90-100 cm) in length. Iron heads are typically solid with a flat clubface. The typical lofts for irons range from 16 to 60 degrees. "Long" and intermediate irons (i.e. those with a lower loft) are usually played from fairway or other easy ground. "Short" irons (with a higher loft) are played from difficult ground and especially for approach shots to the green.

Irons with lofts of more than approximately 50 degrees are called wedges. Pitching wedges are rather similar to other irons but have a higher loft than those. Some wedges have specially designed undersides that make them suitable for shots from bunkers (sand wedges) or from the rough. Lob wedges have a very high loft and are used for approach shots or from sand.

Traditionally, most metal golf club heads were made by forging, which involves the careful shaping of the club head through hammering and pressing of heated steel. Today, most modern golf club heads are cast, that is, molten metal is poured into inticate molds and allowed to cool. Forged clubs are still prized for feel while cast clubs often have modern game improvement characterists.

Putters come in a variety of head shapes; they have a very low loft and often a short shaft. They are used to roll the ball on the green to get the ball into the hole.

Other equipment

Sometimes transportation is by special golf carts. Clubs and other equipment are carried in golf bags. Golfers wear special shoes with exchangeable spikes (or little plastic claws termed soft spikes) attached to the soles. Tees are often made of wood or plastic and resemble nails with a flattened head. A tee is pushed into the ground to rest a ball on top of it for an easier shot; however this is only allowed for the first stroke (tee shot or drive) of each hole.

Environmental impact

The major results of the equipment changes is that today's players can hit the ball much further and more accurately. One consequence of the availability of more high-tech equipment to drive balls further, is that golf courses have tended to become larger. Also, many pesticides and lawn grooming aids, foreign grasses, and even in some cases genetically modified grasses, are used on golf courses. Golf courses have tended to become more controlled and their terrain more specifically changed and designed for the game - accordingly, they tend to have a quite high environmental impact although some designers have sought in recent years to minimize this.

The popularity and status appeal of golf in such crowded countries as Japan and Korea has led in some cases to eviction or murder of farmers (e.g. in the Philippines) to gain access to lands they didn't wish to sell, and damage to the local agricultural economy due to pesticides, which are poorly regulated in developing nations. Even in developed nations, golf runoff is sometimes identified as a factor in cancer and other environmental health hazards.

Finally, most golf courses are on land that used to be forests, as opposed to the moors of Scotland or grassy hills of Ireland. This leads to charges that golf courses contribute to deforestation. Similar charges have been laid against luge runs. Golf was removed from the Olympic Games in 1908 in part because of these issues, whereas luge was cut back also in recent years.

Although golf is a relatively minor issue compared to other land ethics questions, it has symbolic importance as it is a game normally associated with the wealthier Westernized population, and the culture of colonization and globalization of non-native land ethics. Resisting golf tourism and golf's expansion has become an objective of some land reform movements, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Professional Golf

Golf, like other sports, is played professionally in many different countries. Organizations usually called "tours" form tournaments, find sponsors, select participants, and set rules and standards. There are many different tours around the world, including the European Tour and the Canadian Tour, as well as the Champions Tour for pro golfers over 50 years old, and the LPGA tour for women golfers. The most widely known is the PGA TOUR (correctly rendered in all caps), which attracts the best golfers from all the other tours. This is due mostly to the fact that prizes for PGA TOUR events reach into the high six figures, and PGA TOUR wins can mean endorsement deals, automatically provide the winner a minimum two-year exemption to play in other tournaments, and supply the prestige earned by beating the best of the best.

The Majors

The four biggest tournaments in professional golf are called "majors" and they are played at roughly the same time every year. The four majors are:

  1. The Masters
  2. U.S. Open
  3. British Open (The Open Championship)
  4. PGA Championship

The Masters has been played at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA since its inception in 1934. The U.S. Open and PGA Championship are played at various courses around the United States, while the British Open is played in the U.K.

Winning a major is the crowning career achievement for many professional golfers. Most will never accomplish this very difficult feat. Jack Nicklaus, who is widely regarded as the best golfer of all time, has won 18 majors. Tiger Woods, who is possibly the only contender to Nicklaus' record has won 8 majors, all before the age of 27. Tiger has also come the closest to winning all four majors in one year (known as a "grand slam") when he won the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship in 2000, and then the Masters in 2001

The LPGA's list of majors has changed several times over the years, with the last change in 2001. Like the PGA TOUR, the LPGA currently has four majors:

  1. Kraft Nabisco Championship
  2. U.S. Women's Open
  3. LPGA Championship
  4. Women's British Open

Golf terminology

  • Tee can mean:
    • the area of specially prepared grass from which the first stroke for each hole is made (teeing ground in official terminology)
    • a piece of equipment (see there)
  • Green or putting green: the area of specially prepared prass around the hole, where putts are played
  • Drive: a tee shot of great length, usually done with a driver (a type of club)
  • Hole In One - The first stroke sends a ball into the hole.
  • Double Eagle (a/k/a Albatross) - Three stokes under par.
  • Eagle- Two strokes under par.
  • Birdie - One stroke under par.
  • Bogey - One stroke over par.
  • Double Bogey - Two strokes over par.

See also

External links