Golf is a club-and-ball sport in which players use various clubs to
hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as
Golf, unlike most ball games, cannot and does not utilize a
standardized playing area, and coping with the varied terrains
encountered on different courses is a key part of the game. The game
at the highest level is played on a course with an arranged
progression of 18 holes, though recreational courses can be smaller,
usually 9 holes. Each hole on the course must contain a tee box to
start from, and a putting green containing the actual hole or cup
(4.25 inches in diameter). There are other standard forms of terrain
in between, such as the fairway, rough (long grass), sand traps (or
"bunkers"), and various hazards (water, rocks, fescue) but each hole
on a course is unique in its specific layout and arrangement.
Golf is played for the lowest number of strokes by an individual,
known as stroke play, or the lowest score on the most individual holes
in a complete round by an individual or team, known as match play.
Stroke play is the most commonly seen format at all levels, but most
especially at the elite level.
The modern game of golf originated in 15th century Scotland. The
18-hole round was created at the
Old Course at St Andrews
Old Course at St Andrews in 1764.
Golf's first major, and the world's oldest tournament in existence, is
The Open Championship, also known as the British Open, which was first
played in 1860 in Ayrshire, Scotland. This is one of the four major
championships in men's professional golf, the other three being played
in the United States: The Masters, the U.S. Open, and the PGA
3 Play of the game
4 Rules and regulations
6 Stroke mechanics
6.2 Types of putting
7 Scoring and handicapping
7.2 Basic forms of golf
7.2.1 Match play
7.2.2 Stroke play
7.3 Other forms of play
7.3.1 Bogey competition
7.3.5 Team play
126.96.36.199 Unofficial team variations
7.4 Handicap systems
Golf courses worldwide
9 Professional golf
9.3 Men's major championships
9.4 Women's major championships
9.5 Senior major championships
9.6 Olympic Games
11 International events
12 See also
14 External links
Main article: History of golf
The MacDonald boys playing golf, attributed to William Mosman. 18th
century, National Galleries of Scotland.
While the modern game of golf originated in 15th-century Scotland, the
game's ancient origins are unclear and much debated. Some
historians trace the sport back to the Roman game of paganica, in
which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball.
One theory asserts that paganica spread throughout Europe as the
Romans conquered most of the continent, during the first century BC,
and eventually evolved into the modern game. Others cite chuiwan
("chui" means striking and "wan" means small ball) as the progenitor,
a Chinese game played between the eighth and fourteenth centuries.
A Ming Dynasty scroll dating back to 1368 entitled "The Autumn
Banquet" shows a member of the Chinese Imperial court swinging what
appears to be a golf club at a small ball with the aim of sinking it
into a hole. The game is thought to have been introduced into Europe
during the Middle Ages. Another early game that resembled modern golf
was known as cambuca in England and chambot in France. The Persian
game chaugán is another possible ancient origin. In addition, kolven
(a game involving a ball and curved bats) was played annually in
Loenen, Netherlands, beginning in 1297, to commemorate the capture of
the assassin of Floris V, a year earlier.
Four gentlemen golfers on the tee of a golf course, 1930s
The modern game originated in Scotland, where the first written record
of golf is James II's banning of the game in 1457, as an unwelcome
distraction to learning archery. James IV lifted the ban in 1502
when he became a golfer himself, with golf clubs first recorded in
1503-1504: "For golf clubbes and balles to the King that he playit
with". To many golfers, the Old Course at St Andrews, a links
course dating to before 1574, is considered to be a site of
pilgrimage. In 1764, the standard 18-hole golf course was created
St Andrews when members modified the course from 22 to 18
Golf is documented as being played on Musselburgh Links,
East Lothian, Scotland as early as 2 March 1672, which is certified as
the oldest golf course in the world by Guinness World Records.
The oldest surviving rules of golf were compiled in March 1744 for the
Company of Gentlemen Golfers, later renamed The Honourable Company of
Edinburgh Golfers, which was played at Leith, Scotland. The
world's oldest golf tournament in existence, and golf's first major,
is The Open Championship, which was first played on 17 October 1860 at
Golf Club, in Ayrshire, Scotland, with Scottish golfers
winning the earliest majors. Two Scotsmen from Dunfermline, John
Reid and Robert Lockhart, first demonstrated golf in the U.S. by
setting up a hole in an orchard in 1888, with Reid setting up
America's first golf club the same year,
Saint Andrew's Golf Club in
Yonkers, New York.
Aerial view of the Golfplatz
Wittenbeck in Mecklenburg, Germany
A golf course consists of either 9 or 18 holes, each with a teeing
ground that is set off by two markers showing the bounds of the legal
tee area, fairway, rough and other hazards, and the putting green
surrounded by the fringe with the pin (normally a flagstick) and cup.
The levels of grass are varied to increase difficulty, or to allow for
putting in the case of the green. While many holes are designed with a
direct line-of-sight from the teeing area to the green, some holes may
bend either to the left or to the right. This is commonly called a
"dogleg", in reference to a dog's knee. The hole is called a "dogleg
left" if the hole angles leftwards and "dogleg right" if it bends
right. Sometimes, a hole's direction may bend twice; this is called a
A regular golf course consists of 18 holes, but nine-hole courses are
common and can be played twice through for a full round of 18
Early Scottish golf courses were primarily laid out on links land,
soil-covered sand dunes directly inland from beaches. This gave
rise to the term "golf links", particularly applied to seaside courses
and those built on naturally sandy soil inland.
The first 18-hole golf course in the United States was on a sheep farm
in Downers Grove, Illinois, in 1892. The course is still there
Play of the game
1=teeing ground, 2=water hazard, 3=rough, 4=out of bounds, 5=sand
bunker, 6=water hazard, 7=fairway, 8=putting green, 9=flagstick,
Every round 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. Each hole is played once in the
round on a standard course of 18 holes. The game can be played by any
number of people. Though a typical group playing will have 1-4 people
playing the round. The typical amount of time required for pace of
play for a 9-hole round is two hours and four hours for an 18-hole
Playing a hole on a golf course is initiated by putting a ball into
play by striking it with a club on the teeing ground (also called the
tee box, or simply the tee). For this first shot on each hole, it is
allowed but not required for the golfer to place the ball on a tee
prior to striking it. A tee is a small peg that can be used to elevate
the ball slightly above the ground up to a few centimetres high. Tees
are commonly made of wood but may be constructed of any material,
including plastic. Traditionally, golfers used mounds of sand to
elevate the ball, and containers of sand were provided for the
purpose. A few courses still require sand to be used instead of peg
tees, to reduce litter and reduce damage to the teeing ground. Tees
help reduce the interference of the ground or grass on the movement of
the club making the ball easier to hit, and also places the ball in
the very centre of the striking face of the club (the "sweet spot")
for better distance.
When the initial shot on a hole is intended to move the ball a long
distance (typically more than 225 yards (210 m)), the shot is
commonly called a "drive" and is generally made with a long-shafted,
large-headed wood club called a "driver". Shorter holes may be
initiated with other clubs, such as higher-numbered woods or irons.
Once the ball comes to rest, the golfer strikes it again as many times
as necessary using shots that are variously known as a "lay-up", an
"approach", a "pitch", or a "chip", until the ball reaches the green,
where he or she then "putts" the ball into the hole (commonly called
"sinking the putt" or "holing out"). The goal of getting the ball into
the hole ("holing" the ball) in as few strokes as possible may be
impeded by obstacles such as areas of longer grass called "rough"
(usually found alongside fairways), which both slows any ball that
contacts it and makes it harder to advance a ball that has stopped on
it; "doglegs", which are changes in the direction of the fairway that
often require shorter shots to play around them; bunkers (or sand
traps); and water hazards such as ponds or streams.
In stroke play competitions played according to strict rules, each
player plays his or her ball until it is holed no matter how many
strokes that may take. In match play it is acceptable to simply pick
up one's ball and "surrender the hole" after enough strokes have been
made by a player that it is mathematically impossible for the player
to win the hole. It is also acceptable in informal stroke play to
surrender the hole after hitting three strokes more than the "par"
rating of the hole (a "triple bogey" - see below); while technically a
violation of Rule 3-2, this practice speeds play as a courtesy to
others, and avoids "runaway scores", excessive frustration and
injuries caused by overexertion.
The total distance from the first tee box to the 18th green can be
quite long; total yardages "through the green" can be in excess of
7,000 yards (6,400 m), and when adding in the travel distance
between the green of one hole and the tee of the next, even skilled
players may easily travel five miles or more during a round. At some
courses, electric golf carts are used to travel between shots, which
can speed-up play and allows participation by individuals unable to
walk a whole round. On other courses players generally walk the
course, either carrying their bag using a shoulder strap or using a
"golf trolley" for their bag. These trolleys may or may not be battery
assisted. At many amateur tournaments including U.S. high school and
college play, players are required to walk and to carry their own
bags, but at the professional and top amateur level, as well as at
high-level private clubs, players may be accompanied by caddies, who
carry and manage the players' equipment and who are allowed by the
rules to give advice on the play of the course. A caddie's advice
can only be given to the player or players for whom the caddie is
working, and not to other competing players.
Rules and regulations
Main article: Rules of golf
Arnold Palmer in 1953
The rules of golf are internationally standardised and are jointly
governed by The R&A, spun off in 2004 from The Royal and Ancient
Golf Club of
St Andrews (founded 1754), and the United States Golf
The underlying principle of the rules is fairness. As stated on the
back cover of the official rule book:
Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you
cannot do either, do what is fair.
There are strict regulations regarding the amateur status of
golfers. Essentially, anybody who has ever received payment or
compensation for giving instruction, or played golf for money, is not
considered an amateur and may not participate in competitions limited
solely to amateurs. However, amateur golfers may receive expenses that
comply with strict guidelines and they may accept non-cash prizes
within the limits established by the Rules of Amateur Status.
In addition to the officially printed rules, golfers also abide by a
set of guidelines called golf etiquette. Etiquette guidelines cover
matters such as safety, fairness, pace of play, and a player's
obligation to contribute to the care of the course. Though there are
no penalties for breach of etiquette rules, players generally follow
the rules of golf etiquette in an effort to improve everyone's playing
Main article: Penalty (golf)
Penalties are incurred in certain situations. They are counted towards
a player's score as if there were extra swing(s) at the ball. Strokes
are added for rule infractions or for hitting one's ball into an
A lost ball or a ball hit out of bounds result in a penalty of one
stroke and distance (Rule 27–1). A one-stroke penalty is assessed if
a player's equipment causes the ball to move or the removal of a loose
impediment causes the ball to move (Rule 18–2). A one-stroke penalty
is assessed if a player's ball results into a red or yellow staked
hazard (Rule 26). If a golfer makes a stroke at the wrong ball (Rule
19–2) or hits a fellow golfer's ball with a putt (Rule 19–5), the
player incurs a two-stroke penalty. Most rule infractions lead to
stroke penalties but also can lead to disqualification.
Disqualification could be from cheating, signing for a lower score, or
from rule infractions that lead to improper play.
A wood positioned ready to be swung and to strike a golf ball
Golf clubs are used to hit the golf ball. Each club is composed of a
shaft with a lance (or "grip") on the top end and a club head on the
bottom. Long clubs, which have a lower amount of degree loft, are
those meant to propel the ball a comparatively longer distance, and
short clubs a higher degree of loft and a comparatively shorter
distance. The actual physical length of each club is longer or
shorter, depending on the distance the club is intended to propel the
Golf clubs have traditionally been arranged into three basic types.
Woods are large-headed, long-shafted clubs meant to propel the ball a
long distance from relatively "open" lies, such as the tee box and
fairway. Of particular importance is the driver or "1-wood", which is
the lowest lofted wood club, and in modern times has become highly
specialized for making extremely long-distance tee shots, up to 300
yards (270 m), or more, in a professional golfer's hands.
Traditionally these clubs had heads made of a hardwood, hence the
name, but virtually all modern woods are now made of metal such as
titanium, or of composite materials. Irons are shorter-shafted clubs
with a metal head primarily consisting of a flat, angled striking
face. Traditionally the clubhead was forged from iron; modern iron
clubheads are investment-cast from a steel alloy. Irons of varying
loft are used for a variety of shots from virtually anywhere on the
course, but most often for shorter-distance shots approaching the
green, or to get the ball out of tricky lies such as sand traps. The
third class is the putter, which evolved from the irons to create a
low-lofted, balanced club designed to roll the ball along the green
and into the hole. Putters are virtually always used on the green or
in the surrounding rough/fringe. A fourth class, called hybrids,
evolved as a cross between woods and irons, and are typically seen
replacing the low-lofted irons with a club that provides similar
distance, but a higher launch angle and a more forgiving nature.
A maximum of 14 clubs is allowed in a player's bag at one time during
a stipulated round. The choice of clubs is at the golfer's discretion,
although every club must be constructed in accordance with parameters
outlined in the rules. (Clubs that meet these parameters are usually
called "conforming".) Violation of these rules can result in
The exact shot hit at any given time on a golf course, and which club
is used to accomplish the shot, are always completely at the
discretion of the golfer; in other words, there is no restriction
whatsoever on which club a golfer may or may not use at any time for
Golf balls are spherical, usually white (although other colours are
allowed), and minutely pock-marked by dimples that decrease
aerodynamic drag by increasing air turbulence around the ball in
motion, which delays "boundary layer" separation and reduces the
drag-inducing "wake" behind the ball, thereby allowing the ball to fly
farther. The combination of a soft "boundary layer" and a hard
"core" enables both distance and spin.
A tee is allowed only for the first stroke on each hole, unless the
player must hit a provisional tee shot or replay his or her first shot
from the tee.
Many golfers wear golf shoes with metal or plastic spikes designed to
increase traction, thus allowing for longer and more accurate shots.
A golf bag is used to transport golf clubs and the player's other or
Golf bags have several pockets designed for
carrying equipment and supplies such as tees, balls, and gloves. Golf
bags can be carried, pulled on a trolley or harnessed to a motorized
golf cart during play.
Golf bags have both a hand strap and shoulder
strap for carrying, and sometimes have retractable legs that allow the
bag to stand upright when at rest.
A golfer takes an approach shot on the fairway.
Golf stroke mechanics
The golf swing is outwardly similar to many other motions involving
swinging a tool or playing implement, such as an axe or a baseball
bat; however, unlike many of these motions, the result of the swing is
highly dependent on several sub-motions being properly aligned and
timed, to ensure that the club travels up to the ball in line with the
desired path, the clubface is in line with the swing path, and the
ball impacts the centre or "sweet spot" of the clubface. The ability
to do this consistently, across a complete set of clubs with a wide
range of shaft lengths and clubface areas, is a key skill for any
golfer, and takes a significant effort to achieve.
Golfers start with the non-dominant side of the body facing the target
(for a right-hander, the target is to their left). At address, the
player's body and the centerline of the club face are positioned
parallel to the desired line of travel, with the feet either
perpendicular to that line or slightly splayed outward. The feet are
commonly shoulder-width apart for middle irons and putters, narrower
for short irons and wider for long irons and woods. The ball is
typically positioned more to the "front" of the player's stance
(closer to the leading foot) for lower-lofted clubs, with the usual
ball position for a drive being just behind the arch of the leading
foot. The ball is placed further "back" in the player's stance (toward
the trailing foot) as the loft of the club to be used increases. Most
iron shots and putts are made with the ball roughly centered in the
stance, while a few mid- and short-iron shots are made with the ball
slightly behind the centre of the stance to ensure consistent contact
between the ball and clubface, so the ball is on its way before the
club continues down into the turf.
The golfer chooses a golf club, grip, and stroke appropriate to the
The "drive" or "full swing" is used on the teeing ground and fairway,
typically with a wood or long iron, to produce the maximum distance
capable with the club. In the extreme, the windup can end with the
shaft of the club parallel to the ground above the player's shoulders.
The "approach" or "3/4 swing" is used in medium- and long-distance
situations where an exact distance and good accuracy is preferable to
maximum possible distance, such as to place the ball on the green or
"lay up" in front of a hazard. The windup or "backswing" of such a
shot typically ends up with the shaft of the club pointing straight
upwards or slightly towards the player.
The "chip" or "half-swing" is used for relatively short-distance shots
near the green, with high-lofted irons and wedges. The goal of the
chip is to land the ball safely on the green, allowing it to roll out
towards the hole. It can also be used from other places to accurately
position the ball into a more advantageous lie. The backswing
typically ends with the head of the club between hip and head height.
The "putt" is used in short-distance shots on or near the green,
typically made with the eponymous "putter", although similar strokes
can be made with medium to high-numbered irons to carry a short
distance in the air and then roll (a "bump and run"). The backswing
and follow-through of the putt are both abbreviated compared to other
strokes, with the head of the club rarely rising above the knee. The
goal of the putt is usually to put the ball in the hole, although a
long-distance putt may be called a "lag" and is made with the primary
intention of simply closing distance to the hole or otherwise placing
the ball advantageously.
Having chosen a club and stroke to produce the desired distance, the
player addresses the ball by taking their stance to the side of it and
(except when the ball lies in a hazard) grounding the club behind the
ball. The golfer then takes their backswing, rotating the club, their
arms and their upper body away from the ball, and then begins their
swing, bringing the clubhead back down and around to hit the ball. A
proper golf swing is a complex combination of motions, and slight
variations in posture or positioning can make a great deal of
difference in how well the ball is hit and how straight it travels.
The general goal of a player making a full swing is to propel the
clubhead as fast as possible while maintaining a single "plane" of
motion of the club and clubhead, to send the clubhead into the ball
along the desired path of travel and with the clubhead also pointing
Accuracy and consistency are typically stressed over pure distance. A
player with a straight drive that travels only 220 yards (200 m)
will nevertheless be able to accurately place the ball into a
favourable lie on the fairway, and can make up for the lesser distance
of any given club by simply using "more club" (a lower loft) on their
tee shot or on subsequent fairway and approach shots. However, a
golfer with a drive that may go 280 yards (260 m) but often
doesn't fly straight will be less able to position their ball
advantageously; the ball may "hook", "pull", "draw", "fade", "push" or
"slice" off the intended line and land out of bounds or in the rough
or hazards, and thus the player will require many more strokes to hole
A golf stroke uses muscles on core (especially erector spinae muscles
and latissimus dorsi muscle when turning), hamstring, shoulder, and
wrist. Stronger muscles on wrist can prevent wrists from being twisted
at swings, while stronger shoulders increase the turning force. Weak
wrists can also deliver the impacts to elbows and even neck and lead
to injury of them. (When a muscle contracts, it pulls equally from
both ends and, to have movement at only one end of the muscle, other
muscles must come into play to stabilize the bone to which the other
end of the muscle is attached.)
Golf is a unilateral exercise that can
break body balances, requiring exercises to keep the balance in
Types of putting
Putting is considered to be the most important component of the game
of golf. As the game of golf has evolved, there have been many
different putting techniques and grips that have been devised to give
golfers the best chance to make putts. When the game originated,
golfers would putt with their dominate hand on the bottom of the grip
and their weak hand on top of the grip. This grip and putting style is
known as "conventional". There are many variations of conventional
including overlap, where the golfer overlaps the off hand index finger
onto off the dominant pinky; interlock, where the offhand index finger
interlocks with the dominant pinky and ring finger; double or triple
overlap and so on. Recently, "cross handed" putting has become a
popular trend amongst professional golfers and amateurs. Cross handed
putting is the idea that the dominant hand is on top of the grip where
the weak hand is on the bottom. This grip restricts the motion in your
dominant hand and eliminates the possibility of wrist breakdowns
through the putting stroke.
Other notable putting styles include "the claw", a style that has the
grip directly in between the thumb and index finger of the dominant
hand while the palm faces the target. The weak hand placed
normally on the putter. Anchored putting, a style that requires a
longer putter shaft that can be anchored into the players stomach or
below the chin; the idea is to stabilize one end of the putter thus
creating a more consistent pendulum stroke. This style will be banned
in 2016 on the profession circuits.
Scoring and handicapping
Main article: Par (score)
A par-3 hole in Phoenician
Golf Club, Scottsdale, Arizona
A marker stone indicating that this hole is a par-5 hole
A hole is classified by its par, meaning the number of strokes a
skilled golfer should require to complete play of the hole. The
minimum par of any hole is 3 because par always includes a stroke for
the tee shot and two putts. Pars of 4 and 5 strokes are ubiquitous on
golf courses; more rarely, a few courses feature par-6 and even par-7
holes. Strokes other than the tee shot and putts are expected to be
made from the fairway; for example, a skilled golfer expects to reach
the green on a par-4 hole in two strokes—one from the tee (the
"drive") and another, second, stroke to the green (the
"approach")—and then roll the ball into the hole in two putts for
par. Putting the ball on the green with two strokes remaining for
putts is called making "green in regulation" or GIR. Missing a GIR
does not necessarily mean a golfer will not make par, but it does make
doing so more difficult as it reduces the number of putts available;
conversely, making a GIR does not guarantee a par, as the player might
require three or more putts to "hole out". Professional golfers
typically make between 60% and 70% of greens in regulation.
The primary factor for classifying the par of a relatively straight,
hazard-free hole is the distance from the tee to the green. A typical
par-3 hole is less than 250 yards (225 m) in length, with a par-4 hole
ranging between 251 and 475 yards (225–434 m), and a par-5 hole
being longer than 475 yards (435 m). The rare par-6s can stretch well
over 650 yards (590 m). These distances are based on the typical
scratch golfer's drive distance of between 240 and 280 yards (220 and
260 m); a green further than the average player's drive will
require additional shots from the fairway. However, other
considerations must be taken into account; the key question is "how
many strokes would a scratch golfer take to make the green by playing
along the fairway?". The grade of the land from the tee to the hole
might increase or decrease the carry and rolling distance of shots as
measured linearly along the ground. Sharp turns or hazards may require
golfers to "lay up" on the fairway in order to change direction or hit
over the hazard with their next shot. These design considerations will
affect how even a scratch golfer would play the hole, irrespective of
total distance from tee to green, and must be included in a
determination of par. However, a par score never includes
"expected" penalty strokes, as a scratch player is never "expected" to
hit a ball into a water hazard or other unplayable situation. So, the
placement of hazards only affect par when considering how a scratch
golfer would avoid them.
Eighteen-hole courses typically total to an overall par score of 72
for a complete round; this is based on an average par of 4 for every
hole, and so is often arrived at by designing a course with an equal
number of par-5 and par-3 holes, the rest being par-4. Many
combinations exist that total to par-72, and other course pars exist
from 68 up to 76, and are not less worthy than courses of par-72.
Additionally, in some countries including the United States, courses
are classified according to their play difficulty, which may be used
to calculate a golfer's playing handicap for a given course.
The two primary difficulty ratings in the U.S. are the Course Rating,
which is effectively the expected score for a zero-handicap "scratch
golfer" playing the course (and may differ from the course par), and
the Slope Rating, which is a measure of how much worse a "bogey
golfer" (with an 18 handicap) would be expected to play than a
"scratch golfer". These two numbers are available for any
USGA-sanctioned course, and are used in a weighted system to calculate
handicaps (see below).
The goal is to play as few strokes per round as possible. A golfer's
score is usually expressed as the difference between the player's
number of strokes and the par score. A hole in one (or an "ace")
occurs when a golfer sinks their ball into the cup with their first
stroke from the tee. Common scores for a hole also have specific
four strokes under par
Albatross (Double Eagle)
three strokes under par
two strokes under par
one stroke under par
equal to par
one stroke over par
two strokes over par
three strokes over par
This scoring can summarise the total number of strokes in a round of
18 holes, or extend over multiple rounds, as is often the case in
In a typical professional tournament or among "scratch" amateur
players, "birdie-bogey" play is common; a player will "lose" a stroke
by bogeying a hole, then "gain" one by scoring a birdie. Eagles are
uncommon but not rare; however, only 18 players have scored an
albatross in a men's major championship.
Basic forms of golf
There are two basic forms of golf play, match play and stroke play.
Stroke play is more popular.
Two players (or two teams) play each hole as a separate contest
against each other in what is called match play. The party with the
lower score wins that hole, or if the scores of both players or teams
are equal the hole is "halved" (or tied). The game is won by the party
that wins more holes than the other. In the case that one team or
player has taken a lead that cannot be overcome in the number of holes
remaining to be played, the match is deemed to be won by the party in
the lead, and the remainder of the holes are not played. For example,
if one party already has a lead of six holes, and only five holes
remain to be played on the course, the match is over and the winning
party is deemed to have won "6 & 5". At any given point, if the
lead is equal to the number of holes remaining, the party leading the
match is said to be "dormie", and the match is continued until the
party increases the lead by one hole or ties any of the remaining
holes, thereby winning the match, or until the match ends in a tie
with the lead player's opponent winning all remaining holes. When the
game is tied after the predetermined number of holes have been played,
it may be continued until one side takes a one-hole lead.
The score achieved for each and every hole of the round or tournament
is added to produce the total score, and the player with the lowest
score wins in stroke play.
Stroke play is the game most commonly
played by professional golfers. If there is a tie after the regulation
number of holes in a professional tournament, a playoff takes place
between all tied players. Playoffs either are sudden death or employ a
pre-determined number of holes, anywhere from three to a full 18. In
sudden death, a player who scores lower on a hole than all of his
opponents wins the match. If at least two players remain tied after
such a playoff using a pre-determined number of holes, then play
continues in sudden death format, where the first player to win a hole
wins the tournament.
Other forms of play
The other forms of play in the game of golf are bogey competition,
skins, 9-points, stableford, team play, and unofficial team
A bogey competition is a scoring format sometimes seen in at informal
tournaments. Its scoring is similar to match play, except each player
compares their hole score to the hole's par rating instead of the
score of another player. The player "wins" the hole if they score a
birdie or better, they "lose" the hole if they score a bogey or worse,
and they "halve" the hole by scoring par. By recording only this
simple win-loss-halve score on the sheet, a player can shrug off a
very poorly-played hole with a simple "-" mark and move on. As used in
competitions, the player or pair with the best win-loss "differential"
wins the competition.
What's known as the skins game is a variation on the match play where
each hole has an amount of money (called "skin") attached to it. The
lump sum may be prize money at the professional level (the most famous
event to use these rules was the "LG Skins Game", played at Indian
Golf Resort in California until 2008), or an amount wagered for
each hole among amateur players. The player with the lowest score on
the hole wins the skin for that hole; if two or more players tie for
the lowest score, the skin carries over to the next hole. The game
continues until a player wins a hole outright, which may (and
evidently often does) result in a player receiving money for a
previous hole that they had not tied for.
If players tie the 18th hole, either all players or only the tying
players repeat the 18th hole until an outright winner is decided for
that hole - and all undecided skins.
A nine-point game is another variant of match play typically played
among threesomes, where each hole is worth a total of nine points. The
player with the lowest score on a hole receives five points, the
next-lowest score 3 and the next-lowest score 1. Ties are generally
resolved by summing the points contested and dividing them among the
tying players; a two-way tie for first is worth four points to both
players, a two-way tie for second is worth two points to both players,
and a three-way tie is worth three points to each player. The player
with the highest score after 18 holes (in which there are 162 points
to be awarded) wins the game. This format can be used to wager on the
game systematically; players each contribute the same amount of money
to the pot, and a dollar value is assigned to each point scored (or
each point after 18) based on the amount of money in the pot, with any
overage going to the overall winner.
Stableford system is a simplification of stroke play that awards
players points based on their score relative to the hole's par; the
score for a hole is calculated by taking the par score, adding 2, then
subtracting the player's hole score, making the result zero if
negative. Alternately stated, a double bogey or worse is zero points,
a bogey is worth one point, par is two, a birdie three, an eagle four,
and so on. The advantages of this system over stroke play are a more
natural "higher is better" scoring, the ability to compare Stableford
scores between plays on courses with different total par scores
(scoring an "even" in stroke play will always give a
of 36), discouraging the tendency to abandon the entire game after
playing a particularly bad hole (a novice playing by strict rules may
score as high as an 8 or 10 on a single difficult hole; their
Stableford score for the hole would be zero, which puts them only two
points behind par no matter how badly they played), and the ability to
simply pick up one's ball once it is impossible to score any points
for the hole, which speeds play.
USGA and R&A sanction a "Modified Stableford" system for
scratch players, which makes par worth zero, a birdie worth 2, eagle 5
and double-eagle 8, while a bogey is a penalty of -1 and a
double-bogey or worse -3. As with the original system, the highest
score wins the game, and terrible scores on one or two holes won't
wreck an entire game, but this system rewards "bogey-birdie" play more
than the original, encouraging golfers to try to make the riskier
birdie putt or eagle chipshot instead of simply parring each hole.
Golf Club, in Junín, Argentina
Foursome: defined in Rule 29, this is played between two teams of two
players each, in which each team has only one ball and players
alternate playing it. For example, if players "A" and "B" form a team,
"A" tees off on the first hole, "B" will play the second shot, "A" the
third, and so on until the hole is finished. On the second hole, "B"
will tee off (regardless who played the last putt on the first hole),
then "A" plays the second shot, and so on. Foursomes can be played as
match play or stroke play.
Fourball: defined in Rules 30 and 31, this is also played between two
teams of two players each, but every player plays their own ball and
for each team, the lower score on each hole counts. Fourballs can be
played as match play or stroke play.
Unofficial team variations
Scramble: also known as ambrose or best-shot; each player in a team
tees off on each hole, and the players decide which shot was best.
Every player then plays their second shot from within a clublength of
where the best shot has come to rest (and no closer to the hole), and
the procedure is repeated until the hole is finished. This system is
very common at informal tournaments such as for charity, as it speeds
play (due to the reduced number of shots taken from bad lies), allows
teams of varying sizes, and allows players of widely varying skill
levels to participate without a profoundly negative impact on team
Champagne scramble: a combination of a scramble and best-ball, only
the first shot of each hole is a scramble; all players tee off, decide
on the best tee shot, then each player plays their own ball starting
at that point until they hole out, without deciding any further "best
shots". The best score amongst the team's players is counted.
Better ball or best-ball: like fourball, each player plays the hole as
normal, but the lowest score of all the players on the team counts as
the team's score for the hole.
Greensome (also known as Scotch Foursomes): also called modified
alternate shot, this is played in pairs; both players tee off, and
then pick the best shot as in a scramble. The player who did not shoot
the best first shot plays the second shot. The play then alternates as
in a foursome. A variant of greensome is sometimes played where
the opposing team chooses which of their opponent's tee shots the
opponents should use. The player who did not shoot the chosen first
shot plays the second shot. Play then continues as a greensome.
Wolf (also known as Ship, Captain & Crew, Captain, Pig): a version
of match play; with a foursome an order of play for each player is
established for the duration of the round. The first player hits a
ball from the tee, then waits for each successive player to hit (2nd,
3rd and 4th). After each player hits the 1st player has the option of
choosing a partner for the hole (the 1st player is the Wolf for that
hole) usually by calling Wolf before the next player hits. Once a
partner is picked, each two-some (the Wolf and his or her partner vs
the remaining two players) scores their total strokes and the winning
two-some is awarded 1-point each for winning a hole and zero points
for tying. The next hole, the rotation moves forward (e.g. the 2nd
player is now hitting 1st and the Wolf and the previous Wolf hits
last). A Wolf can decide to go alone to win extra points, but they
must beat all other players in stroke play on that hole. If alone, the
Wolf is awarded 2-points for going alone after everyone has hit or 4
points for declaring Lone Wolf before anyone else hits. If the Lone
Wolf loses, to even one player, the 3 other players get 1-point each.
The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the round.
Strategically, care must be taken not to let a low-handicap player run
away with all the points by being constantly paired with the
Shotgun starts are mainly used for amateur tournament play. In this
variant, each of the groups playing starts their game on a different
hole, allowing for all players to start and end their round at roughly
the same time. All 18 holes are still played, but a player or foursome
may, for instance, start on hole 5, play through to the 18th hole,
then continue with hole 1 and end on hole 4. This speeds the
completion of the entire event as players are not kept waiting for
progressive tee times at the first hole. This form of play, as a minor
variation to stroke or match play, is neither defined nor disallowed
by strict rules and so is used according to local rules for an event.
Main article: Handicap (golf)
A handicap is a numerical measure of an amateur golfer's ability to
play golf over the course of 18 holes. A player's handicap generally
represents the number of strokes above par that the player will make
over the course of an above-average round of golf. The better the
player the lower their handicap is. Someone with a handicap of 0 or
less is often called a scratch golfer, and would typically score or
beat the course par on a round of play (depending on course
Calculating a handicap is often complicated, the general reason being
that golf courses are not uniformly challenging from course to course
or between skill levels. A player scoring even par on Course A might
average four over par on course B, while a player averaging 20 over
par on course A might average only 16 over on course B. So, to the
"scratch golfer", Course B is more difficult, but to the "bogey
golfer", Course A is more difficult. The reasons for this are inherent
in the types of challenges presented by the same course to both
golfers. Distance is often a problem for amateur "bogey" golfers with
slower swing speeds, who get less distance with each club, and so
typically require more shots to get to the green, raising their score
compared to a scratch golfer with a stronger swing. However, courses
are often designed with hazard placement to mitigate this advantage,
forcing the scratch player to "lay up" to avoid bunkers or water,
while the bogey golfer is more or less unaffected as the hazard lies
out of their range. Finally, terrain features and fairway maintenance
can affect golfers of all skill levels; narrowing the fairway by
adding obstacles or widening the rough on each side will typically
increase the percentage of shots made from disadvantageous lies,
increasing the challenge for all players.
USGA rules, handicap calculation first requires calculating a
"Handicap Differential" for each round of play the player has
completed by strict rules. That in itself is a function of the
player's "gross adjusted score" (adjustments can be made to mitigate
various deviations either from strict rules or from a player's normal
capabilities, for handicap purposes only) and two course-specific
difficulty ratings: the Course Rating, a calculated expected score for
a hypothetical "scratch golfer": and the Slope Rating, a number based
on how much worse a hypothetical 20-handicap "bogey golfer" would
score compared to the "scratch golfer". The average Slope Rating of
all USGA-rated courses as of 2012 is 113, which also factors into the
The most recent Differentials are logged, up to 20 of them, and then
the best of these (the number used depends on the number available)
are selected, averaged, multiplied by .96 (an "excellence factor" that
reduces the handicap of higher-scoring players, encouraging them to
play better and thus lower their handicap), and truncated to the
tenths place to produce the "Handicap Index". Additional calculations
can be used to place higher significance on a player's recent
tournament scores. A player's Handicap Index is then multiplied by the
Slope Rating of the course to be played, divided by the average Slope
Rating of 113, then rounded to the nearest integer to produce the
player's Course Handicap.
Once calculated, the Course Handicap is applied in stroke play by
simply reducing the player's gross score by the handicap, to produce a
net score. So, a gross score of 96 with a handicap of 22 would produce
a net score of 74. In match play, the lower handicap is subtracted
from the higher handicap, and the resulting handicap strokes are
awarded to the higher handicapper by distributing them among the holes
according to each hole's difficulty; holes are ranked on the scorecard
from 1 to 18 (or however many holes are available), and one stroke is
applied to each hole from the most difficult to the least difficult.
So, if one player has a 9 handicap and another has a 25 handicap, the
25-handicap player receives one handicap stroke on each of the most
difficult 16 holes (25-9). If the 25-handicapper were playing against
a "scratch golfer" (zero handicap), all 25 strokes would be
distributed, first by applying one stroke to each hole, then applying
the remaining strokes, one each, to the most difficult 7 holes; so,
the handicap player would subtract 2 strokes from each of the most
difficult 7 holes, and 1 each from the remaining 11.
Handicap systems have potential for abuse by players who may
intentionally play badly to increase their handicap ("throwing their
'cap") before playing to their potential at an important event with a
valuable prize. For this reason, professional golf associations do not
use them, but they can be calculated and used along with other
criteria to determine the relative strengths of various professional
players. Touring professionals, being the best of the best, often have
negative handicaps; they can be expected, on average, to score lower
than the Course Rating on any course.
Part of a golf course in western India
An aerial view of a golf course in Italy
Golf Digest calculated that the countries with most golf
courses per capita, in order, were: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia,
Ireland, Canada, Wales, United States, Sweden, and England (countries
with fewer than 500,000 people were excluded).
The number of courses in other territories has increased, an example
of this being the expansion of golf in China. The first golf course in
China opened in 1984, but by the end of 2009 there were roughly 600 in
the country. For much of the 21st century, development of new golf
courses in China has been officially banned (with the exception of the
island province of Hainan), but the number of courses had nonetheless
tripled from 2004 to 2009; the "ban" has been evaded with the
government's tacit approval simply by not mentioning golf in any
In the United States, the number of people who play golf twenty-five
times or more per year decreased from 6.9 million in 2000 to
4.6 million in 2005, according to the National Golf
Foundation. The NGF reported that the number who played golf at all
decreased from 30 to 26 million over the same period.
In February 1971, astronaut
Alan Shepard became the first person to
golf anywhere other than Earth. He smuggled a golf club and two golf
balls on board
Apollo 14 with the intent to golf on the Moon. He
attempted two drives. He shanked the first attempt, but it is
estimated his second went more than 200 yards.
Golf courses worldwide
Number of golf courses by country in 2015. Below are the top 18
countries that have the most golf courses.
Number of Courses
Rest of the world
Main article: Professional golfer
The majority of professional golfers work as club or teaching
professionals ("pros"), and only compete in local competitions. A
small elite of professional golfers are "tournament pros" who compete
full-time on international "tours". Many club and teaching
professionals working in the golf industry start as caddies or with a
general interest in the game, finding employment at golf courses and
eventually moving on to certifications in their chosen profession.
These programs include independent institutions and universities, and
those that eventually lead to a Class A golf professional
certification. Touring professionals typically start as amateur
players, who attain their "pro" status after success in major
tournaments that win them either prize money and/or notice from
corporate sponsors. Jack Nicklaus, for example, gained widespread
notice by finishing second in the 1960 U.S. Open to champion Arnold
Palmer, with a 72-hole score of 282 (the best score to date in that
tournament by an amateur). He played one more amateur year in 1961,
winning that year's U.S. Amateur Championship, before turning pro in
Indoor putting green for practice and instruction
Golf instruction involves the teaching and learning of the game of
golf. Proficiency in teaching golf instruction requires not only
technical and physical ability but also knowledge of the rules and
etiquette of the game. In some countries, golf instruction is best
performed by teachers certified by the Professional Golfers
Association. Some top instructors who work with professional golfers
have become quite well known in their own right. Professional golf
instructors can use physical conditioning, mental visualization,
classroom sessions, club fitting, driving range instruction, on-course
play under real conditions, and review of videotaped swings in slow
motion to teach golf to prepare the golfer for the course.
Main article: Professional golf tours
There are at least twenty professional golf tours, each run by a PGA
or an independent tour organization, which is responsible for
arranging events, finding sponsors, and regulating the tour. Typically
a tour has "members" who are entitled to compete in most of its
events, and also invites non-members to compete in some of them.
Gaining membership of an elite tour is highly competitive, and most
professional golfers never achieve it.
Gary Player is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the
history of golf.
Perhaps the most widely known tour is the PGA Tour, which tends to
attract the strongest fields, outside the four Majors and the four
Golf Championships events. This is due mostly to the fact that
PGA Tour events have a first prize of at least 800,000 USD. The
European Tour, which attracts a substantial number of top golfers from
outside North America, ranks second to the
PGA Tour in worldwide
prestige. Some top professionals from outside North America play
enough tournaments to maintain membership on both the
PGA Tour and
European Tour. Since 2010, both tours' money titles have been claimed
by the same individual three times, with
Luke Donald doing so in 2011
Rory McIlroy in 2012 and 2014. In 2013,
Henrik Stenson won the
FedEx Cup points race on the
PGA Tour and the European Tour money
title, but did not top the
PGA Tour money list (that honour going to
The other leading men's tours include the Japan
Golf Tour, the Asian
Tour (Asia outside Japan), the
PGA Tour of Australasia, and the
Sunshine Tour (for southern Africa, primarily South Africa). The
Japan, Australasian, Sunshine, PGA, and European Tours are the charter
members of the trade body of the world's main tours, the International
Federation of PGA Tours, founded in 1996. The
Asian Tour became a full
member in 1999. The Canadian Tour became an associate member of the
Federation in 2000, and the
Tour de las Américas (Latin America)
became an associate member of the Federation in 2007. The Federation
underwent a major expansion in 2009 that saw eleven new tours become
full members – the Canadian Tour, Tour de las Américas, China
Golf Association, the Korea Professional Golfers' Association,
Golf Tour of India, and the operators of all six major
women's tours worldwide. The OneAsia Tour, founded in 2009, is not a
member of the Federation, but was founded as a joint venture of the
Australasia, China, Japan, and Korean tours. In 2011, the Tour de las
Américas was effectively taken over by the PGA Tour, and in 2012 was
folded into the new
PGA Tour Latinoamérica. Also in 2012, the
Canadian Tour was renamed
PGA Tour Canada after it agreed to be taken
over by the PGA Tour. All men's tours that are Federation members,
except the India tour, offer points in the Official World
(OWGR) to players who place sufficiently high in their events. The
OneAsia Tour also offers ranking points.
Golf is unique in having lucrative competition for older players.
There are several senior tours for men aged fifty and over, arguably
the best known of which is the U.S.-based
PGA Tour Champions.
There are six principal tours for women, each based in a different
country or continent. The most prestigious of these is the United
LPGA Tour. All of the principal tours offer points in the
Women's World Golf Rankings for high finishers in their events.
All of the leading professional tours for under-50 players have an
official developmental tour, in which the leading players at the end
of the season will earn a tour card on the main tour for the following
season. Examples include the Web.com Tour, which feeds to the PGA
Tour, and the Challenge Tour, which is the developmental tour of the
European Tour. The Web.com and Challenge Tours also offer OWGR points.
Men's major championships
Lee Westwood pictured making a bunker shot at the 2008 Open
Main article: Men's major golf championships
The major championships are the four most prestigious men's
tournaments of the year. In chronological order they are: The Masters,
the U.S. Open,
The Open Championship
The Open Championship (referred to in North America as
the British Open) and the PGA Championship.
The fields for these events include the top several dozen golfers from
all over the world.
The Masters has been played at Augusta National
Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, since its inception in 1934. It is the
only major championship that is played at the same course each
year. The U.S. Open and
PGA Championship are played at courses
around the United States, while the Open Championship is played at
courses around the United Kingdom.
Prior to the advent of the
PGA Championship and The Masters, the four
Majors were the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur, the Open Championship,
and the British Amateur.
Women's major championships
Lorena Ochoa, a retired number one female golfer, pictured here in
Main article: Women's major golf championships
Women's golf does not have a globally agreed set of majors. The list
of majors recognised by the dominant women's tour, the L
PGA Tour in
the U.S., has changed several times over the years, with the most
recent changes occurring in 2001 and 2013. Like the PGA Tour, the
(U.S.) LPGA tour long had four majors, but now has five: the ANA
Inspiration (previously known by several other names, most recently
the Kraft Nabisco Championship), the Women's PGA Championship
(previously known as the
LPGA Championship), the U.S. Women's
Women's British Open
Women's British Open (which replaced the du Maurier Classic
as a major in 2001) and
The Evian Championship
The Evian Championship (added as the fifth
major in 2013). Only the last two are also recognised as majors by the
Ladies European Tour. However, the significance of this is limited, as
LPGA is far more dominant in women's golf than the
PGA Tour is in
mainstream men's golf. For example, the
BBC has been known to use the
U.S. definition of "women's majors" without qualifying it. Also, the
Golf Union, the governing body for women's golf in Great
Britain and Ireland, stated on its official website that the Women's
British Open was "the only Women's Major to be played outside the
U.S." (this was before the elevation of
The Evian Championship
The Evian Championship to
major status). For many years, the
Ladies European Tour tacitly
acknowledged the dominance of the L
PGA Tour by not scheduling any of
its own events to conflict with the three
LPGA majors played in the
U.S., but that changed beginning in 2008, when the LET scheduled an
event opposite the
LPGA Championship. The second-richest women's tour,
LPGA of Japan Tour, does not recognise any of the U.S.
European majors as it has its own set of majors (historically three,
since 2008 four). However, these events attract little notice outside
Senior major championships
Main article: Senior major golf championships
Senior (aged fifty and over) men's golf does not have a globally
agreed set of majors. The list of senior majors on the U.S.-based PGA
Tour Champions has changed over the years, but always by expansion.
PGA Tour Champions now recognises five majors: the Senior PGA
Championship, The Tradition, the Senior Players Championship, the
United States Senior Open, and The Senior (British) Open Championship.
Of the five events, the Senior PGA is by far the oldest, having been
founded in 1937. The other events all date from the 1980s, when senior
golf became a commercial success as the first golf stars of the
television era, such as
Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, reached the
relevant age. The
Senior Open Championship
Senior Open Championship was not recognised as a
PGA Tour Champions until 2003. The European Senior Tour
recognises only the Senior PGA and the two Senior Opens as majors.
PGA Tour Champions is arguably more dominant in global senior
golf than the U.S.
LPGA is in global women's golf.
Golf at the 2016 Summer Olympics
After a 112-year absence from the Olympics games, golf returned for
the 2016 Rio Games. 41 different countries were represented by 120
It wasn't until 1552 that the first woman golfer played the game. Mary
Queen of Scots commissioned St. Andrew's Links. However, it wasn't
until the 20th century that woman were taken seriously and eventually
broke the "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden" rule. Many men saw women
as unfit to play the sport due to their lack of strength and ability.
In the United States, 1891 was a pivotal year for ladies golf because
the Shinnecock Hills nine-hole course was built in Southampton, New
York, for women and was the first club to offer membership to women
golfers. Four years later, in 1895, The U.S.
Golf Association help the
first Women’s Amateur Championship tournament.
Just like professional golfer Bobby Jones,
Joyce Wethered was
considered to be a star in the 1920s. Jones praised Wethered in
1930 after they had played an exhibition against each other. He
doubted that there had ever been a better golfer, man or woman.
However, Bobby Jones' comment wasn't enough for others to changer
their views on women golfers.
The Royal Liverpool's club refused entry of Sir Henry Cotton's wife
into the clubhouse in the late 1940s. The secretary of the club
released a statement saying, "No woman ever has entered the clubhouse
and, praise God, no woman ever will." However, American golfer and
all-around athlete, Babe Zaharias didn’t have to enter the
clubhouse. She was able to prove herself on the course, going on to
become the first American to win the British Women’s Amateur title
in 1947. The following year she became the first woman to attempt to
qualify for the U.S. Open, but her application was rejected by the
USGA. They stated that the event was intended to be open to men
The Ladies Professional
Golf Association was formed in 1950 as a way
to popularize the sport and provide competitive opportunities for
golfers. The competitions were not the same for the men and women.
It wasn't until 1972 that U.S. Congress passed the
Title IX of the
Education Amendments. "No person in the United States shall, on the
basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the
benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education
program or activities receiving Federal financial assistance."
Today, women golfers are still fighting and working hard to have the
same opportunities as men golfers. There is still a big pay gap in the
USGA has a long history of writing bigger checks to winners
of the men's U.S. Open than the U.S. Women's Open. The next step
to equality is a female Master's Tournament since there is currently
only a tournament for men.
Golf at the Asian Games
Golf at the Pan American Games
Golf at the Summer Olympics
Golf at the Summer Universiade
Glossary of golf
Outline of golf
Lists of golfers
List of golf courses in the United Kingdom
Professional Golfers' Association of America
Variations of golf
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^ Kelley, Brent. "
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