Golf is a non-contact outdoor sport. Athletes can play as individuals or as part of teams. They use various clubs to make a ball get into a hole. The one who can do this with the least number of strokes wins. The sport is usually played on a golf course which come in different designs and terrain. The need for continuous adaptations is part of the challenge. The same is true for the selection of equipment given the regulated limits and the number of options. The US leads the world in the number of golf courses with almost half of the existing facilities.
The History of Golf
On a per capita basis, Scotland is one of the countries at the forefront of the sport. This should come as no surprise since golf originated here way back in the 15th century. Sports with a stick and a ball have been around since the ancient civilizations with the Romans and Chinese having their own versions. However, the Scottish game most closely resembles golf as we know it today. It is a rather amusing tale with the first record being the king’s decree in 1457 that golf should be banned. It was only in 1502 when this was lifted as one of the successors to the throne became a golfer himself.
The oldest golf course in the world can be found at the Musselburgh Links in the East Lothian region of Scotland with games being enjoyed here since at least 1672. It was also Scotsmen who brought the sport to the US in 1888, although there is some evidence of activities as early as the 17th century. The 1920s saw great strides in the popularity of golf in America with over a thousand clubs sprouting all over the country. The same phenomenon happened all over the world.
The Golf Course
There used to be 22 holes in a standard golf course due to the influence of the St. Andrews Links on the sport. This number was dictated by the topography of the area but others copied it anyway. When some of the holes were judged as being too short, these were combined with others and only 18 remained. This figure became the new standard from that point on, although smaller courses may have fewer due to space constraints. Each hole must have its own teeing ground, fairway, rough, hazards, and putting green. The actual hole is made more visible with the use of a flagstick.
The Golf Equipment
Ball — The golf ball is small and spherical with a minimum diameter of 1.680 inches. Meanwhile, the weight cannot go over 1.620 ounces. The surface has dimples all over to lower air drag. This allows it to fly further which is crucial when going for a powerful swing. Most products on the market have between 300 and 500 dimples. These are made to be as perfectly symmetrical as possible because they would not be sanctioned for tournaments otherwise. Most will associate the golf ball with the color white but it is available in other colors. For example, neon colors are more suited to low-light conditions.
Club — Golf clubs are long and thin sticks that are available in various lengths, materials, and designs to provide different ways of engaging with the ball. The longer ones are intended for driving the ball across far distances. The shorter ones may be used within the putting green where accuracy is more important than power. Club angles are also crucial for selections. High-lofted faces are good for escaping hazards such as sand traps while lower loft angles are for traveling in straight lines. The lie angle is another vital consideration, especially for those who see their shots favoring the left or the right. Each player must get fitted to find the right clubs for their height and style.
Tee — The tee elevates the ball from the ground and makes it easier to hit. This lessens the chance of ground contact for the club which ensures maximum power transfer to the ball. This also gives the ball a lower trajectory which means a longer travel distance. Players mostly use it once for each hole at the first stroke. They have to hit the ball where it lies on the ground in the succeeding strokes. There are exceptions such as when playing in winter conditions where the turf might be vulnerable. It is possible to forego the tee but its advantages make it appealing for players.
Shoe — Most golf shoes are made with metal or plastic spikes similar to those used by sprinters in track ovals. These provide the players with better grip when walking across grassy and undulating terrain. The risk of slips and falls is minimized. The spikes also help players plant their feet on the ground and maintain balance throughout their swings. They won’t have to worry as much about their footing even in wet conditions. However, the metal spikes can wreak havoc on the course so a lot of places have banned them. Plastic spikes are still allowed. Most shoes allow the user to replace the spikes without much effort.
Bag — Every bag can carry a maximum of 14 clubs at any time so finding the right combination is essential. Players have the freedom to choose as long as the clubs are made within the rules of the game. These must have several pockets to accommodate accessories such as gloves, towels, hats, tees, and balls. They come in different designs with some meant to be carried by the player while others are for pulling with a trolley. Some are simply placed on a golf cart for ease of travel. They generally have both a shoulder strap and a hand strap. A lot of models feature retractable legs that allow the bag to stand at the side while the user is playing.
The Forms of Golf
In match play, the opposing players take turns on each hole. The person who had the lower score wins that hole. Once the course is complete, the one who wins the most holes gets the match. Sometimes one side races to such a big lead that it becomes mathematically impossible to defeat them. The officials may declare this side as a winner without having to play the rest of the holes. In case the holes have been exhausted and the players are tied, then they can keep on playing until a clear winner emerges with a one-hole lead.
In stroke play, the competitors play every hole for the round with the scores being added at the end to determine the totals. The one with the lowest cumulative score wins. This format is more popular in the professional circuit. In rare cases, there is a tie at the end between two or more players. They can go into a play-off to break the tie. This could be a single hole or more depending on the specific tournament rules.
During a tournament, viewers will hear words such as par, bogey, birdie, eagle, and so on. These are names of certain types of scores. The par is the strokes that it would take a golfer to put the ball in the green plus two putts. It differs for every hole but typical values are par-3, par-4, and par-5. In matches, the scores of the players are reported in relation to the par. It could be equal, over, or under. One stroke less than par is a birdie. Two strokes under is an eagle. One stroke higher than par is a bogey while two strokes up is a double bogey.
Certain behaviors are discouraged through the use of penalties. Those who loss a ball or hit theirs out of bounds incur a one-stroke penalty. The same thing happens when players make their ball move. Players get a harsher two-stroke penalty if strike the wrong ball. If two balls are near each other on the green, they need to be extra careful when taking their shots. Those caught cheating or repeatedly disregarding rules may be disqualified. These are deemed necessary to control games, promote sportsmanship, and get fair results that everyone can trust.
A full swing is also known as a drive in golf. This is often used at the teeing ground for maximum force since players want to send the ball a great distance to reach the green. Golfers wind themselves up for maximum rotational force while also using a long club to get the best possible outcome. The difficulty is in maintaining accuracy and a straight path despite the burst of power. They must maintain their balance and have a good follow-through.
An approach is similar to a swing but with less power and higher accuracy. This is used for medium-to-long distance ball travel. Instead of a full wind-up, this only goes around 3/4th of the way with the club pointing to the sky. In contrast, a drive calls for a wind-up where the club is nearly parallel to the ground on top of the shoulders.
A chip is also called a half-swing. It is often used to get the ball across short distances near the green. The goal is to get out of the current position safely and place the ball at an optimum position to finish the hole. Most will use irons or wedges with high loft angles which result in substantial vertical displacement and reduced horizontal travel distance.
A putt is a stroke for short distances usually on the green. Wind-ups and follow-throughs are subdued given the proximity of the hole. The important thing here is to get the right angle and just enough force to land on the target. It is common for players to use more force than necessary and overshoot the mark.