The Game of golf as we know it today originated in the 1400s in Scotland, but the first relations of the Game go back as far as the first century B.C. In 1457 King James II of Scotland outlawed the Game as an unwelcome distraction, and no doubt many golf widows and widowers wish it had remained so.
As it’s regarded as the home of golf, the Old Course at St Andrew’s was established in 1552. Although Musselburgh Links is officially recognized as the world’s oldest course and dates from “just” 1672, there is no doubting golf is a sport with profound history and a seriously intimidating set of rules.
Golf is played on a course, and the green area of the course is known as the fairway. The typical class consists of 18 holes, although golfers can play a 9-hole course twice to play a full game of 18 holes.
Golfers begin a play by standing at the teeing green and aiming the ball towards the putting green, the area where the flagstick and hole are located.
The length from the teeing green to the hole varies depending on the course, and it may or may not be seen from the teeing green.
Most courses have holes seen from the teeing green, but some angles left or right making the invisible from the teeing green.
Golf courses use different lengths of turf or grass to increase the difficulty of the Game. The grass will be short and smooth to make it easier to put into the hold on the putting green, the area closest to the hole.
The course may also consist of intentional hazards such as dunes or lakes. If a ball is hit into a hazard area, a golfer can attempt to make the next swing from the hazard or hit a new ball in an area across from the hazard.
The object of the Game
The Game’s object is simple enough: to get your ball from the tee (the starting point of any hole) to the green and ultimately into the hole in as few shots as possible.
“The hole” refers both to the physical hole marked by a flag into which the ball must be sunk and also the entire area from the tee to the green.
This may be considered one unit of the course, with a standard course consisting of 18 separate holes played in turn.
The most common scoring method in golf is called stroke play, where the total number of shots a player takes to get the ball into each hole is added together. At an amateur level, this is usually over one round (set of 18 holes), whilst professionals normally play four rounds, starting on a Thursday and finishing a tournament on Sunday.
The score is expressed in terms of under or over par. Par is the number of shots a good golfer (someone playing off “scratch,” or a handicap of zero) would expect to complete a given hole in, with one always allowed for the tee shot and two putts (shots played on the smooth, prepared area around the hole called the green). Being under par is a good thing as you have completed the hole in fewer shots than expected.
Apart from stroke play, the other main scoring method is match play. Under this system, whoever completes each hole in the least number of shots wins that hole, or if it is level, the hole is “halved.”
The overall victor is the one who wins the most holes, with results usually expressed as “3 & 2,” for example, meaning one player was three holes in front with only two left to play.
In addition, there are also Stableford, skins, and other scoring methods but these are predominantly only used in amateur play.
Winning the Game
Most pro events, including all four of the Game’s Majors (the biggest, most valuable, prestigious tournaments each year), use the stroke play system.
Events are held over four days, and the winner is the player who completes 72 holes (four rounds of 18, almost always on the same course) in the fewest number of shots (also called strokes).
Rules of Golf
- The ball must be hit using standard clubs from the start of each hole to the green and ultimately into the hole, which is marked by a flag.
- Players strike the ball in turn with the furthest away from the hole going first. At the start of a new hole, whoever took the least shots on the preceding hole shall go first.
- The penalty for a lost ball in one stroke includes balls struck out of bounds (off that particular hole) or water hazards. You have five minutes to search for your ball, and the penalty is both strokes (one-shot) if the ball is lost and distance (you play again from your original starting point) if it goes out of bounds or into the water.
- Players can only use up to 14 clubs.
- Players cannot seek advice from anyone other than their partner or caddy.
- The ball should be played as it is found – you must not move, break or bend anything fixed or growing other than to assume your normal stance to improve the lie of the ball, your line of sight, or your area of swing.
- On the putting green, a player can mark, lift and clean his ball so long as it is replaced where it was. He or she may also repair ball marks or hole plugs but not spike marks on the putting line.