Golf is one of the most popular outdoor sports in the world. It is played on a golf course. Players try to hit a golf ball into a small hole with as few strokes as possible. Millions of men and women around the world play golf for fun, thousands play tournaments and millions around the world watch golf on TV.
A golf course
Golf courses have different sizes and shapes. Most of them have 18 holes that are between a hundred and 500 metres long. If you have finished playing all 18 holes you have played a round of golf.
Each hole has a starting place, called a tee. This is a small area from which the golfer takes the first stroke or drive. The grass between the tee and the green is called the fairway. Sometimes fairways can be very long and golf players need a few strokes to get to the green. The land on the left and right of the fairway is the rough. It is made up of tall grass, bushes and trees.
The green is the round area at the end of the fairway. It has special grass that is very short. In the middle of the green is a hole. It has a flag placed in it so that golfers can see where it is.
Almost all golf courses have hazards. These are small lakes, sandy areas and bunkers. They make it more difficult for players to hit the ball.
A golfer needs a ball and a set of golf clubs to play golf. A golf ball is made of rubber and has a plastic covering. It weighs about 1.62 ounces (46 grams).
In a tournament golf players can use up to 14 different types of golf clubs. Each club is used to play the ball in a different situation. Generally, there are two basic categories of clubs: woods and irons. They are numbered from 1 to 9.
Woods were originally clubs that had a wooden head. Today they have heads made of steel or titanium. Golfers use woods to hit the ball over long distances. A number one wood is also called a driver. Players use this club to start their game at the tee.
Irons have heads that are thinner and flatter. Instead of iron, the club has a head made of steel or another metal. Irons are used for shorter shots and shots where you must play the ball very accurately. The putter is a club that is used on the green for very short distances.
Rules of the game
The rules of a golf game are very simple. Starting from the tee a golfer must hit the ball towards the hole. You must not to touch or move it. It must be played from wherever it lands. If the ball lands in one of the hazards the golf player may take it out or use a new ball but then gets an extra stroke as a penalty.
Scoring and handicaps
In order to see how well you doing every hole on a golf course has a standard score known as par. Par is the number of strokes it would take a very good golfer to hit the ball into the hole. There are 3- , 4- and 5-par holes. Golfers have special names for the number of strokes they need compared to par.
• Eagle = two strokes under par.
• Birdie = one stroke under par.
• Bogie = one stroke over par.
In a few cases a golfer may hit the ball into the hole from the teeing ground. This is called a hole-in-one.
So if you finish a round of golf on par you can think of yourself as a very good player.
The handicap system allows weaker and better players to compete with each other. Based on a very complicated formula a weaker player is allowed more strokes to finish the round.
Golf can be played in two ways. In match play the player who hits the ball with the fewest number of strokes wins that hole. The player who wins the most holes wins.
Stroke or medal play is more common. In this competition the player with the fewest number of strokes for the whole 18-hole round wins.
History of golf
Although the Romans may have played golf with a bent stick and a ball filled with feathers golf, as we know it today, started in Scotland in the 14th century. Saint Andrews is called the birthplace of golf because its golf course is over 500 years old. The first rules of the game were also set there.
Golf spread from the British Isles to the overseas colonies. The oldest golf club outside of Britain was founded in Calcutta, India. Golf came to the USA and Canada towards the end of the 19th century. Although British golfers dominated the sport at first, great American golfers emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1916 they formed a professional organization, the PGA, in which they started to earn money through golf.
Players like Severiano Ballesteros of Spain, Bernhard Langer of Germany or Gary Player of South Africa made golf popular in Europe and other continents. In the last two decades the American Tiger Woods has dominated the game.
In the 1960s more and more companies, private sponsors and television networks started to pour money into golf. Today the best golfers in the world earn millions of dollars in prize money every year. Tiger Woods became the first athlete to become a billionaire.