History Of Golf

Some historians feel that golf originated in the Netherlands (the Dutch word kolf means club), and some authorities trace golf back to a Roman game.  The Romans, who occupied most of the island of Great Britain from the A.D. 40's to the early 400's, had a game they played in the streets, with a bent stick and a ball made of leather and stuffed with feathers, that may have been the original source of the game called paganica.  Other historians trace golf to a Dutch game called het kolven, a French and Belgian game called chole, a French game called jeu de mail, and an English game called cambuca


Golf is usually regarded as a Scottish invention, as the game was mentioned in two 15th-century laws prohibiting the playing of the game of "gowf". Some scholars, however, suggest that this refers to another game which is much akin to shinty or hurling, or to modern field hockey. They point out that a game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was played in 17th-century Netherlands. Primatively, the action of using a stick with a boxed attachment to hit stones close to a marked target, similar to that of bocce, originated in Italy. The term golf is believed to have originated from a Germanic word for "club". It has been hypothesised that golf is actually an acronym for gentlemen only; ladies forbidden, but this is believed to be an urban legend.




Tiger Woods currently the leading professional golfer



Golf was being played officially throughout Scotland from 1502. The dates below represent the first record of golf at the sites mentioned.  Most of the early references to golf in Scottish official records are either to ban it or to condemn those playing it. The first documented mention, as is widely quoted, is in Edinburgh on 6th March 1457, when King James II banned ‘ye golf’, in an attempt to encourage archery practice, which was being neglected. This royal ban was repeated, for the same reasons, in 1471 by his son, James III, and again in 1491 by his grandson, James IV.


 Even when the ban was effectively lifted in 1502 in Perth, there was over a century of complaints and convictions by the Kirk from 1580 until 1724 against golf on the Sabbath (Sunday). The official (royal) line, voiced by King James VI in 1618, was that golf on the Sabbath was acceptable, so long as it was not during the times of service, because Sunday was the only day the great mass of people would have free to play. It was not a view shared by the Kirk. Indeed Sunday golf at St Andrews only began at all during the Second World War and is still not permitted on the Old Course, though this is more to do with preserving the course rather than religious strictures.


In any event, it has been fairly well established that the game actually was devised by the Scots in the 14th or 15th century. The game became so popular in Scotland that in order to keep people from playing golf and football during time that should have been employed in practicing archery, a military necessity, the Scottish parliament in 1457 passed a law prohibiting both games. The Scottish people, however, largely ignored this and similar laws, and early in the 16th century James IV, king of Scotland, took up the game of golf. His granddaughter Mary, later Mary, queen of Scots, took the game to France, where she was educated. The young men who attended her on the golf links were known as cadets, "pupils"; the term was adopted later in Scotland and England, becoming caddy or caddie. (Caddies, once an integral feature of the game, have now been largely superseded by golf carts and buggies.) In England the game was made popular by the attention given it by James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, and his son Charles I. 


In the 18th century the first golf associations were established.  The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in Edinburgh, Scotland, is often recognized as the first organized golf club. It was established in 1744 and set down the first written rules of the game.  These rules were developed to govern play and settle disputes. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews   was founded in 1754 as the Society of St. Andrews Golfers.  It was the leader in setting golf's rules and standards. For example, it set the standard round of golf at 18 holes, in 1834 it took its present name, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.  The Royal Blackheath (1766), near London, where according to tradition golf was introduced to England in 1608.  The popularity of golf spread from Scotland and England to parts of the British Commonwealth. The first clubs established outside Britain were the Calcutta Golf Club  (1829) and the Royal Bombay Club (1842). The first golf club established in the western hemisphere was Canada's Royal Montreal Golf Club, founded in 1873. 

It is believed that golf was played in America during the colonial period, but no documented proof of this has been advanced. Historians disagree over which existing golf club in the United States was founded first. Among the oldest American clubs are the Dorset Field Club in Dorset, Vermont; the Foxburg Country Club in Foxburg, Pennsylvania; and the St. Andrews Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. All three clubs claim founding dates in the 1880's. The Amateur Golf Association of the United States (now the United States Golf Association) was founded in 1894 to serve as the governing body for golf in the United States. In 1951, the USGA and Britain's Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews agreed to jointly interpret the rules and standards that now govern golf throughout the world. The popularity of the game in the U.S. and Great Britain reached great heights by the 1920s and has steadily increased in recent years, fostered by television. In the U.S. alone, more than 12,400 golf courses serve over 20 million people who play golf at least once a year. Golf is also popular in Canada, South Africa, and Australia and since the end of World War II has enjoyed phenomenal growth in Japan. 


It is an urban legend that golf courses contain 18 holes because that was the number of shots it took to polish off a fifth of scotch. According to the USGA however, this is incorrect. The links at St. Andrews occupy a narrow strip of land along the sea.  As early as the 15th century, golfers at St. Andrews established a customary route through the undulating terrain, playing to holes whose locations were dictated by topography.  The course that emerged featured eleven holes, laid out end to end from the clubhouse to the far end of the property.  One played the holes out, turned around, and played the holes in, for a total of 22 holes. In 1764, several of the holes were deemed too short, and were therefore combined.  The number was thereby reduced from 11 to nine, so that a complete round of the links comprised 18 holes.

The oldest playing golf course in the world is The Old Links at Musselburgh. Evidence has shown that golf was played on Musselburgh Links in 1672 although Mary Queen of Scots reputedly played there in 1567. The major changes in equipment since the 19th century have been better mowers, especially for the greens, better golf ball designs, using rubber and man-made materials since about 1900, and the introduction of the metal shaft beginning in the 1930s. Also in the 1930s the wooden golf tee was invented. In the 1970s the use of metal to replace wood heads began, and shafts made of graphite composite materials were introduced in the 1980s.



The rise of professional golf 

In 1916, American professional golfers formed the PGA. Until then, amateur golfers dominated the sport. Bobby Jones, who retired in 1930, was the finest amateur golfer of his day. But outstanding professionals, notably Walter Hagen, were beginning to establish golf as a major sport. Hagen was a superb golfer who won additional fame in the 1920's for his showmanship and flamboyant style. Other leading early professionals included Tommy Armour, Gene Sarazen, Horton Smith, and Joe Turnesa. 

Some of the first events on the American professional tour began in the early 1920's, and the tour became established in the 1930's. It was led by such golfers as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead. Prize money averaged less than $10,000 per tournament until after World War II ended in 1945. During the late 1940's, tournament purses in PGA events averaged about $12,000. Hogan and Snead dominated the sport in the 1950's along with Jimmy Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum, and Cary Middlecoff. Top professionals of the 1960's and early 1970's included Americans Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Casper, along with Gary Player of South Africa. 

The U.S. PGA Tour now ranks as the biggest and richest golf tour in the world. In the late 1990's, the tour consisted of about 55 tournaments with prize money of more than $76 million. 




Strandhill Golf Club in Ireland is an example of a coastal links



Women's golf has enjoyed a growth similar to that of men's golf. From about 1900 through the 1920's, British amateurs dominated women's golf. Joyce Wethered was the top British golfer during the 1920's, and some experts consider her the greatest woman golfer in history. By the 1930's, United States women golfers had become important. Top U.S. golfers included Patty Berg, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and Betty Jameson

Widespread interest in women's professional golf developed after World War II. Berg and Zaharias turned professional and became leaders of the LPGA. The LPGA tour began in 1950 with 11 events worth about $45,000 in prize money. By the mid-1990's, it had 39 events worth about $26 million. Stars included Nancy Lopez, Jan Stephenson, Amy Alcott, and Pat Bradley

Golf today

United States golfers dominated golf internationally until the late 1970's, when golfers from other countries began to emerge. These golfers included Greg Norman of Australia, Severiano Ballesteros of Spain, Bernhard Langer of West Germany, Isao Aoki of Japan, and Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo of Britain. Several professional tours also flourished outside the United States. The most important were the European tour, based in Britain; the South African tour; the Japanese tour; the Asian tour; and the Australia/New Zealand tour. Among the top U.S. golfers of the 1970's and 1980's were Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, and Fuzzy Zoeller

In 1980, the PGA Tour started the Senior PGA Tour for players 50 and older. The senior tour included Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, and other noted professionals from the mid-1900's. It began with two tournaments and a total of $250,000 in prize money. By the mid-1990's, it had 44 tournaments and a total of about $37 million in prizes. 

In 1996, Tiger Woods, a Stanford University sophomore, won his third straight U.S. amateur championship. Woods then turned professional and became an immediate sensation on the PGA tour. 

Rules and Regulations. 

The rules of play for golf are numerous and complex and include a code of etiquette for behavior on the green. 
The game was originally played with a ball made of feathers tightly packed in a leather cover, called the feathery, until the gutty was introduced in 1848. The gutty was a solid ball made of a rubbery substance called gutta-percha. The gutty was later replaced by the rubber-cored ball invented in 1898 by U.S. golfer Coburn Haskell.  The pitted surface of modern golf balls acts to stabilize flight. The ball used in the U.S. has a diameter of no less than 4.27 cm (1.68 in) and weighs not more than 45.93 g (1.62 oz). The British have traditionally used a ball of this same weight but with a diameter of not less than 4.11 cm (1.62 in). In 1968 experiments were undertaken to investigate the possibility of establishing a single set of specifications for the ball. 

Governing Bodies

The organizations that establish golf rules for the world are the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association (USGA), founded in 1894. Before 1913, golf in America was played chiefly by people of wealth. In 1913, however, the American former caddie Francis Ouimet (1893-1967) won a victory over two outstanding British professionals in the U.S. open championship tournament (open to amateurs and professionals), and thereafter golf claimed the attention of the general public. The Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA) was organized in 1916, and annual tournaments were started during the same year. Currently, some 8500 members of the PGA assist amateur players, mostly as club or resort instructors; and each year several hundred professionals tour the country playing in major tournaments. These tours are controlled by the Tournament Players Division of the PGA. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) numbers about 550 club instructors and tournament players. 



Each year many golf championship tournaments take place. The most important of these for men are the U.S. Open (for professionals), the U.S. Amateur, the Masters (an invitational match for professionals), the PGA Championship, the British Open, and the British Amateur. For women the important tournaments are the British Ladies Amateur Championship, the U.S. Women's Amateur, and the U.S. Women's Open. International matches are also played, notably between teams from the U.S. and Great Britain. The Walker Cup Match (amateur) and the Ryder Cup Match (professional) are for men; the Curtis Cup Match (amateur) is for women. World competition is provided for men by tournaments for the Eisenhower Cup (amateur), the Ryder Cup and the World Cup (professional), and the Shun Nomura Trophy and the Francis H. I. Brown International Team Match Trophy (seniors); and for women by the Espirito Santo Trophy tournament. 

The most famous feat in the history of golf was achieved by the American amateur player Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones, Jr., who in 1930 made the so-called Grand Slam of golf by winning the British Open, the British Amateur, the U.S. Open, and the U.S. Amateur. One of the greatest women players of all time was Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias, an American who competed both as an amateur and as a professional. 

Other Forms of Golf

Because it is more a participant than a spectator game, variations of golf, many of which can be played at night under lights, are developed from time to time. Miniature golf, a putting game on fancifully designed courses, reached the height of its popularity in the 1930s. Special putting greens and driving ranges combine practice and recreation. Pitch and putt is a shorter version of the long game. 




Deer exercising their right to roam sometimes damage the course





The following is a partial timeline of the history of golf:


  • 1353 - The first recorded reference to "chole", the probable antecedent of golf. It is a derivative of hockey played in Flanders (Belgium).

  • 1421 - A Scottish regiment aiding the French against the English at the Siege of Bauge is introduced to the game of chole. Hugh Kennedy, Robert Stewart and John Smale, three of the identified players, are credited with introducing the game in Scotland.

  • 1457 - Golf, along with football (that is, soccer), is banned by the Scots Parliament of James II because it has interfered with military training for the wars against the English.

  • 1470 - The ban on golf is reaffirmed by the Parliament of James III.

  • 1491 - The golf ban is affirmed again by Parliament, this time under King James IV.

  • 1502 - With the signing of the Treaty of Glasgow between England and Scotland, the ban on golf is lifted.

    • James IV makes the first recorded purchase of golf equipment, a set of clubs from a bow-maker in Perth, Scotland.

  • 1513 - Queen Catherine of England, in a letter to Cardinal Wolsey, refers to the growing popularity of golf in England.

  • 1527 - The first commoner recorded as a golfer is Sir Robert Maule, described as playing on Barry Links (near the modern-day Carnoustie).

  • 1552 - The first recorded evidence of golf at St. Andrews.

  • 1553 - The Archbishop of St. Andrews issues a decree giving the local populace the right to play golf on the links at St. Andrews.

  • 1567 - Mary, Queen of Scots, seen playing golf shortly after the death of her husband Lord Darnley, is the first known female golfer.

  • 1589 - Golf is banned in the Blackfriars Yard, Glasgow. This is the earliest reference to golf in the west of Scotland.

  • 1592 - The City of Edinburgh bans golfing at Leith on Sunday "in tyme of sermonis."

  • 1618 - Invention of the feathery ball.

    • King James VI of Scotland and I of England confirms the right of the populace to play golf on Sundays.

  • 1621 - First recorded reference to golf on the links of Dornoch (later Royal Dornoch), in the far north of Scotland.

  • 1641 - Charles I is playing golf at Leith when he learns of the Irish rebellion, marking the beginning of the English Civil War. He finishes his round.

  • 1642 - John Dickson receives a license as ball-maker for Aberdeen, Scotland.

  • 1659 - Golf is banned from the streets of Albany, New York-the first reference to golf in America.

  • 1682 - In the first recorded international golf match, the Duke of York and John Paterstone of Scotland defeat two English noblemen in a match played on the links of Leith.

    • Andrew Dickson, carrying clubs for the Duke of York, is the first recorded caddy.

  • 1687 - A book by Thomas Kincaid, Thoughts on Golve, contains the first references on how golf clubs are made.

  • 1721 - Earliest reference to golf at Glasgow Green, the first course played in the west of Scotland.

  • 1724 - "A solemn match of golf" between Alexander Elphinstone and Captain John Porteous becomes the first match reported in a newspaper. Elphinstone fights and wins a duel on the same ground in 1729.

  • 1743 - Thomas Mathison's epic The Goff is the first literary effort devoted to golf.

  • 1744 - The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is formed, playing at Leith links. It is the first golf club.

    • The City of Edinburgh pays for a Silver Cup to be awarded to the annual champion in an open competition played at Leith. John Rattray is the first champion.

  • 1754 - Golfers at St. Andrews purchase a Silver Cup for an open championship played on the Old Course. Bailie William Landale is the first champion.

    • The first codified Rules of Golf published by the St. Andrews Golfers (later the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews).

  • 1759 - Earliest reference to stroke-play, at St. Andrews. Previously, all play was match.

  • 1764 - The competition for the Silver Club at Leith is restricted to members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

    • The first four holes at St. Andrews are combined into two, reducing the round from twenty-two holes (11 out and in) to 18 (nine out and in). St. Andrews is the first 18-hole golf course, and sets the standard for future courses.

  • 1766 - The Blackheath Club becomes the first golf club formed outside of Scotland.

  • 1767 - The score of 94 returned by James Durham at St. Andrews in the Silver Cup competition sets a record unbroken for 86 years.

  • 1768 - The Golf House at Leith is erected. It is the first golf clubhouse.

  • 1773 - Competition at St. Andrews is restricted to members of the Leith and St. Andrews societies.

    • The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh is formed.

  • 1774 - Thomas McMillan offers a Silver Cup for competition at Musselburgh. He wins the first championship.

    • The first part-time golf course professional (at the time also the greenkeeper) is hired, by the Edinburgh Burgess Society.

  • 1780 - The Aberdeen Golf Club (later Royal Aberdeen) is formed.

  • 1783 - A Silver Club is offered for competition at Glasgow.

  • 1786 - The South Carolina Golf Club is formed in Charleston, the first golf club outside of the United Kingdom.

    • The Crail Golfing Society is formed.

  • 1787 - The Bruntsfield Club is formed.

  • 1788 - The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers requires members to wear club uniform when playing on the links.

  • 1797 - The Burntisland Golf Club is formed.

    • The town of St. Andrews sells the land containing the Old Course (known then as Pilmor Links), to Thomas Erskine for 805 pounds. Erskine was required to preserve the course for golf.

  • 1806 - The St. Andrews Club chooses to elect its captains rather than award captaincy to the winner of the Silver Cup. Thus begins the tradition of the Captain "playing himself into office," by hitting a single shot before the start of the annual competition.

  • 1810 - Earliest recorded reference to a women's competition at Musselburgh.

  • 1820 - The Bangalore Club is formed, the first club outside of the British Isles.

  • 1824 - The Perth Golfing Society is formed, later Royal Perth (the first club so honored).

  • 1826 - Hickory imported from America is used to make golf shafts.

  • 1829 - The Calcutta Golf Club (later Royal Calcutta) is formed.

  • 1832 - The North Berwick Club is founded, the first to include women in its activities, although they are not permitted to play in competitions.

  • 1833 - King William IV confers the distinction of "Royal" on the Perth Golfing Society; as Royal Perth it is the first Club to hold the distinction.

    • The St. Andrews Golfers ban the stymie, but rescind the ban one year later.

  • 1834 - William IV confers the title "Royal and Ancient" on the Golf Club at St. Andrews.

  • 1836 - The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers abandons the deteriorating Leith Links, moving to Musselburgh.

    • The longest driver ever recorded with a feathery ball, 361 yards, is achieved by Samuel Messieux at Elysian Fields.

  • 1842 - The Bombay Golfing Society (later Royal Bombay) is founded.

  • 1844 - Blackheath follows Leith in expanding its course from five to seven holes. North Berwick also had seven holes at the time, although the trend toward a standard eighteen had begun.

  • 1848 - Invention of the "guttie," the gutta-percha ball. It flies farther than the feathery and is much less expensive. It contributes greatly to the expansion of the game.






Golf is a game where individual players or teams hit a ball into a hole using various clubs. It is defined in the Rules of Golf as "playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules."


Golf originated in Scotland and has been played for several centuries in the British Isles. The oldest course in the world is The Old Links at Musselburgh. Golf has been played on Musselburgh Links since 1672. Although often viewed as an elite pastime, golf is increasingly popular and continues to attract ever more players around the world.


Anatomy of a golf course


Golf is played on a tract of land designated as "the course". The course consists of a series of "holes." The "hole" means both the hole in the ground into which the ball is played, as well as the total distance from the tee (a pre-determinied area from where a ball is first hit) to the green (the area surrounding the actual hole in the ground). Most golf courses consist of 9 or 18 holes. (The "nineteenth hole" is the colloquial term for the bar at a club house). After the player first hits, or "strokes," the ball, he continues to do so from the fairway (where the grass is cut so low that most balls can be easily played) or from the rough (grass which is cut much longer than fairway grass, or which may be uncut) until the ball comes to rest in the hole in the ground. When the player strokes the ball, and it comes to rest in the hole, he has completed play on that hole. Skilled players require fewer strokes to hit the ball into the hole.

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 a ball can roll easily over distances of several metres or yards. "To putt" means to play a stroke, usually but not always on the green, where the ball does not leave the ground. The direction of growth of individual blades of grass affects the roll of a golf ball and is called the grain. The hole must have a diameter of 108 mm and a depth of at least 100 mm. Its position on the green is not static and may be changed from day to day. This hole on the green has a flag on a pole positioned in it so that it may be seen from some distance, but not necessarily from the tee. This flag is often called "the pin".


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 determine how a golfer may proceed when his or her ball is very close to certain man-made objects on the course (obstructions) or resting upon ground in abnormal condition.


Every hole is classified by its par. The par of a hole is primarily but not exclusively determined by the distance from tee to green. Typical lengths for par three holes range from 100 to 224 m, for par four holes from 225 to 434 m, and for par five holes 435 m and greater. Par is the theoretical number of strokes that an expert golfer should require for playing the ball into any given hole. The expert golfer is expected to 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 an 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 with a course or club.


Each course is measured out and has its own course rating. This rating defines how many strokes you get on top because of the difficulties. For example if a course is very high rated, you will get, depending on your handicap, one or two strokes as a bonus. So, if you have a handicap of 7, you should be able to play a 79 in a tournament. If it is a high rated course and you get two strokes as a bonus, you can even play a 81 and still have played your handicap 7.



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. A hole of golf consists of hitting a ball from a tee on the teeing ground (a marked area designated for the first shot of a hole), and, once the ball comes to rest, striking it again, and repeating this process until the ball at last comes to rest in the cup. Once the ball is on the green (an area of finely cut grass) the ball is usually putted (hit along the ground) into the hole. The aim of holing the ball in as few strokes as possible may be impeded by various obstructions, such as bunkers and water hazards.


Players commonly drive motorized electric carts, or walk, over the course, either singly or in groups of two, three, or four, sometimes accompanied by caddies who carry and manage the players' equipment and give them advice. Each player plays a ball from the tee to the hole, except that in the mode of play called foursomes, two teams of two players compete, and the members of each team alternate shots using only one ball, until the ball is holed out. In all modes of play, when individual players have all brought a ball into play, the player whose ball is the farthest from the hole is next to play. In some team events, a player who is farthest from the hole may ask his or her partner who may be closer to the hole to play first. When all players of a group have completed the hole, the player or team with the best score on that hole has the honor, that is, the right to play first on the next tee.


Each player acts as marker for 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. Penalty strokes are not actually strokes but penalty points that are added to the score for violations of rules or for making use of relief procedures in certain situations.


If you wish to play on a golf course, you have to pay a certain fee. There are two different fees: the range fee, which is for the driving range; and the green fee, which allows play on the golf course itself. The green fee differs from 20$ up to 425$ Pebble Beach Golf Links for 18 holes.





The two basic forms of playing golf are match play and stroke play.

  1. In match play, two players (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 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. At any given point, if the lead is equal to the number of holes remaining, the match is said to be "dormie", and is continued until the leader increases the lead by one hole, thereby winning the match, or until the match ends in a tie. In some cases, a match may be continued past the predetermined number of holes until one side takes a one-hole lead, and thereupon immediately wins by one hole.

  2. In stroke play, every player (or team) counts the number of shots taken for the whole round or tournament to produce the total score, and the player with the lowest score wins. A variant of stroke play is Stableford scoring, where a number of points (two for the target score) are given for each hole, and the fewer shots taken, the more points obtained, so the aim is to have as many points as possible. Another variant of stroke play, the Modified Stableford method, awards points on each hole in relation to par and then adds the points over a round; for more details on this method, see the article on The INTERNATIONAL, a tournament that uses Modified Stableford scoring.

    There are many variations of these basic principles, some of which are explicitly described in the "Rules of Golf" and are therefore regarded "official". "Official" forms of play are, among others, foursome and four-ball games.



Team play


A foursome (defined in Rule 29) 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.


A four-ball (Rules 30 and 31) is also played between two teams of two players each, but every player plays his own ball and the lower score on each hole is counted. Four-balls can be played as match play or stroke play.


There are also popular unofficial variations on team play. In a scramble, or ambrose, each player in a team tees off on each hole, and the players decide which shot was best. Every player then plays his second shot from that spot, and the procedure is repeated until the hole is finished.


In a greensome 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.




Handicap systems


A handicap is a numerical measure of an amateur golfer's ability. It can be used to calculate a so-called "net" score from the number of strokes actually played, thus allowing players of different proficiency to play against each other on equal terms. Handicaps are administrated by golf clubs or national golf associations.

Handicap systems are not used in professional golf. Professional golfers typically score several strokes below par for a round.



Term on a

Specific term



albatross (double-eagle)

three strokes under par



two strokes under par



one stroke under par


par or even

strokes equal to par



one stroke more than par


double bogey

two strokes over par


triple bogey

three strokes over par




Golf rules and other regulations


The rules of golf are internationally standardised and are jointly governed by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A), which was founded 1754 and the United States Golf Association (USGA). By agreement with the R&A, USGA jurisdiction on the enforcement and interpretation of the rules is limited to the United States and Mexico. Because the rules of golf continue to evolve, amended versions of the rule book are usually published and made effective in a four-year cycle.


The underlying principle of the rules is fairness. As declared 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 can't do either, do what is fair". Some rules state that:

  • every player is entitled and obliged to play the ball from the position where it has come to rest after a stroke, unless a rule allows or demands otherwise (Rule 13-1)

  • a player must not accept assistance in making a stroke (Rule 14-2)

  • the condition of the ground or other parts of the course may not be altered to gain an advantage, except in some cases defined in the rules

  • a ball may only be replaced by another if it is destroyed, lost, or unplayable, and a penalty is incurred in the latter cases

The Decisions on the Rules of Golf are based on formal case decisions by the R&A and USGA and are published regularly.


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 strict regulations regarding the amateur status of golfers. Essentially, everybody who has ever taught or played golf for money (or even accepted a trophy of more than a modest monetary value) is not considered an amateur and must not participate in amateur competitions.



Golf course architecture and design


While no two courses are alike, many can be classified into one of the following broad categories:

  • Links courses: the most traditional type of golf course, of which some century-old examples have survived in the British isles. Located in coastal areas, on sandy soil, often amid dunes, with few artificial water hazards and few if any trees. Traditional links courses, such as The Old Course at St. Andrews, are built on "land reclaimed from the sea," land that was once underwater.

  • Parkland courses: typical inland courses, often resembling traditional British parks, with lawn-like fairways and many trees.

  • Heathland – a more open, less-manicured inland course often featuring gorse and heather and typically less wooded than “parkland” courses. Examples include Woodhall Spa in England and Gleneagles in Scotland.

  • Desert courses: a rather recent invention, popular in Australia, parts of the USA and in the Middle East. Desert courses require heavy irrigation for maintenance of the turf, leading to concerns about the ecological consequences of excessive water consumption. A desert course also violates the widely accepted principle of golf course architecture that an aesthetically pleasing course should require minimal alteration of the existing landscape. Nevertheless, many players enjoy the unique experience of playing golf in the desert.

  • Sand courses: instead of a heavily irrigated 'green', the players play on sand.

  • Snow courses: another rather recent invention; golf being played on snow, typically with an orange colored or another brightly colored ball. Can be played in Arctic or subarctic regions during winter.


In the United States design varies widely, with courses such as the entirely artificial Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, where a course complete with waterfalls was created in the desert, and on the other end of the spectrum, Rustic Canyon outside of Los Angeles, which was created with a minimal amount of earth moving resulting in an affordable daily green fee and a more natural golfing experience.




Hitting a golf ball


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).


Every shot is a compromise between length and precision, as long shots are inevitably less precise than short ones. Obviously, a longer shot may result in a better score if it helps reduce the total number of strokes for a given hole, but the benefit may be more than outweighed by additional strokes or penalties if a ball is lost, out of bounds, or comes to rest on difficult ground. Therefore, a skilled golfer must assess the quality of his or her shots in a particular situation in order to judge whether the possible benefits of aggressive play are worth the risks.


There are several possible causes of poor shots, such as poor alignment of the club, wrong direction of swing, and off-center hits where the clubhead rotates around the ball at impact. Many of these troubles are aggravated with the "longer" clubs and higher speed of swing. Furthermore, the absolute effect of a deviation will increase with a longer shot compared with a short one.


Poor shots include the hook, in which the ball curves to the left (for a right-handed player), and a slice, in which the ball curves to the right (for a right-handed player; the reverse are true for left-handers).


As a point of safety for other players, and those further down the fairway, or anywhere you might hit the ball, yelling "Fore!" is considered a warning to beware of the ball so as to not be hit when it comes their way.



Types of shots

  • A tee shot is the first shot played from a teeing ground. It is often made with a driver (i.e., a 1-wood) off a tee for long holes, or with an iron on shorter holes. Ideally, tee shots on long holes have a rather shallow flight and long roll of the ball, while tee shots on short holes are flighted higher and are expected to stop quickly.

  • A fairway shot is similar to a drive when done with a fairway wood. However, a tee may not be used once the ball has been brought into play; therefore, playing from the fairway may be more difficult depending on how the ball lies. If precision is more important than length (typically, when playing on narrow fairways or approaching a green), irons are usually played from the fairway. Irons or wedges are also often used when playing from the rough.

  • A bunker shot is played when the ball is in a bunker (sand trap). It resembles a pitch and is played with a "sand wedge." The sand wedge is designed with a wider base allowing the club to skid in the sand.

  • On the green, a putter is used to 'putt' the ball. The ball rolls on the ground, never becoming air-borne.


An approach shot is played into the green from outside the green, usually over an intermediate or short distance. Types of approach shots are:

  • Pitch: a high approach shot that makes the ball fly high and roll very little, stopping more or less where it hits the ground. Pitches are usually done with a wedge.

  • Flop: an even higher approach shot that stops shortly after it hits the ground. It is used when a player must play over an obstacle to the green. It is usually played with a sand wedge or a lob wedge.

  • Chip: a low approach shot where the ball makes a shallow flight and then rolls out on the green. Chips are made with a less lofted club than the "pitch" shot or "lob" shot in order to produce the desired flatter trajectory.





The golf swing


Putts and short chips are ideally played without much movement of the body, but most other golf shots are played using variants of the full golf swing. The full golf swing itself is used in tee and fairway shots.


A full swing is a complex rotation of the body aimed at accelerating the club head to a great speed. For a right-handed golfer, it consists of a backswing to the right, a downswing to the left (in which the ball is hit), and a follow through. At address, the player stands with the left shoulder pointing in the intended direction of ball flight, with the ball before the feet. The club is held with both hands (right below left), the clubhead resting on the ground behind the ball, hips and knees somewhat flexed, and the arms hanging from the shoulders. The backswing is a rotation to the right, consisting of a shifting of the player's body weight to the right side, a turning of the pelvis and shoulders, lifting of the arms and flexing of the elbows and wrists. At the end of the backswing the hands are above the right shoulder, with the club pointing more or less in the intended direction of ball flight. The downswing is roughly a backswing reversed. After the ball is hit, the follow-through stage consists of a continued rotation to the left. At the end of the swing, the weight has shifted almost entirely to the left foot, the body is fully turned to the left and the hands are above the left shoulder with the club hanging down over the players' back.


Relatively few golfers play left-handed (i.e., swing back to the left and forward to the right), with even players who are strongly left-handed in their daily life preferring the right-handed golf swing. In the past, this may have been due to the difficulty of finding left-handed golf clubs. Today, more manufacturers provide left-handed versions of their club lines, and the clubs are more readily purchased from mail-order and Internet catalogues. A golfer who plays right-handed, but holds the club left-hand-below-right is said to be "cack-handed". It is difficult to obtain the same consistency and power with this arrangement as is possible with conventional technique.


The full golf swing is an unnatural, highly complex motion and notoriously difficult to learn. It is not uncommon for beginners to spend several months practising the very basics before playing their first ball on a course. It is usually considered impossible to acquire a stable and successful swing without professional instruction, and even highly skilled golfers may continue to take golf lessons for many years. Much has developed around how hard the golf swing is to learn and execute, and how one must be persistent to keep at it.


Besides the physical part, the mental aspect of the golf swing is very difficult. Golfers play against the course, not each other directly, and hit a stationary object, not one put into motion by an opponent. This means that there is never anyone to blame but oneself for a bad result, and in most competitive formats there are no teammates to directly help one out. Knowledge of this creates a great deal of psychological pressure on the golfer; this pressure exists at all levels of play. Even the best professional golfers sometimes succumb to this pressure, such as getting the "yips" and being unable to make short putts, or having collapses of their full swing.




Physics of a golf shot


A golf ball acquires spin when it is hit. Backspin is imparted in almost every shot due to the golf club's loft (i.e., angle between the clubface and a vertical plane). A spinning ball deforms the flow of air around it and thereby acts similar to an aeroplane wing; a back-spinning ball therefore experiences an upward force which makes it fly higher and longer than a ball without spin would. The amount of backspin also influences the behavior of a ball when it hits the ground. A ball with little backspin will usually roll out for a considerable distance while a ball with much backspin may not roll at all or in some cases even roll backwards. Sidespin occurs when the clubface is not aligned perpendicularly to the plane of swing. Sidespin makes the ball curve to the left or right, a hook or slice respectively for a right-handed player; this effect can be made use of to steer it around obstacles or towards the safe side of a difficult fairway. However, it is difficult to control the amount of sidespin, and many poor shots result from uncontrolled or excessive spin that makes the ball curve sharply.






Golf clubs


A player usually carries several clubs during the game (but no more than fourteen, the limit defined by the rules). There are three major types of clubs, known as woods, irons, and putters. Wedges are irons used to play shorter shots. Woods are played for long shots from the tee or fairway, and occasionally rough, while irons are for precision shots from fairways as well as from the rough. A new type of wood known as a "hybrid" combines the straight-hitting characteristics of irons with the easy-to-hit-in-the-air characteristics of higher-lofted woods. A "hybrid" is often used for long shots from difficult rough. Hybrids are also used by players who have a difficult time getting the ball airborne with long irons. Wedges are played from difficult ground such as sand or the rough and for approach shots to the green. Putters are mostly played on the green, but can also be useful when playing from bunkers or for some approach shots.




Golfball with a tough rubber core



Golf balls


The minimum allowed width of a golf ball is 42.67mm and its mass may not be greater than 45.93g. Modern golf balls have a two, three, or four layer design constructed from various synthetic materials. The surface usually has a pattern of 300-400 dimples designed to improve the ball's aerodynamics. The method of construction and materials used greatly affect the ball's playing characteristics such as distance, trajectory, spin and feel. Harder materials, such as Surlyn, usually result in the ball's traveling longer distances, while softer covers, such as Balata, tend to generate higher spin and greater stopping potential.




Other equipment


Sometimes transport 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. They also often wear gloves that help grip the club. Tees resemble nails with a flattened head and are usually made of wood or plastic. A tee is pushed into the ground to rest a ball on top of for an easier shot; however, this is only allowed for the first stroke (tee shot or drive) of each hole. When on the green, the ball may be picked up to be cleaned or if it is in the way of an opponent's putting line; its position must then be marked using a ball marker (usually a flat, round piece of plastic or a coin). Scores are recorded on a score card during the round.







Social aspects of golf


In the United States, golf is the unofficial game of the business world. It is often said, in fact, that board meetings merely confirm decisions that are actually made on the golf course. For this reason, the successful conduct of business golf (which extends beyond merely knowing the game) is considered a useful business skill; various schools, including prestigious universities such as Stanford, have started both undergraduate and graduate-level courses that teach "business golf." The PGA of America, an organization separate from the PGA Tour, helps to sponsor these programs at universities nationwide.


Golf is not inherently an expensive activity; the cost of an average round of golf is USD $36, and the game is regularly enjoyed by over 26 million Americans and many more world-wide. In fact, most regions of the country feature public courses which strive to be affordable for the average golfer. But the perception of golf as a game for the wealthy elite and country clubs as a haven for corrupt businessmen is common among many. Films such as Caddyshack perpetuate this belief. It is also probably fair to say that the snobbish attitude of many golf club patrons (and particularly members) cannot be denied.


This being said the social status of better (and usually more expensive) equipment cannot be overlooked. In order to be outfitted with the latest equipment (including rather expensive clothing, shoes and gloves) one can end up spending quite a sum. Also, greens fees at some of the more picturesque and prestigious courses can be quite sizeable.



Golfing countries


In 2005 Golf Digest calculated that there were nearly 32,000 golf courses in the world, approximately half of them in the United States.  The countries with most golf courses in relation to population, starting with the best endowed were: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Wales, United States, Sweden, and England (countries with less than 500,000 people were excluded). Apart from Sweden all of these are countries where English is the main language, but the number of courses in new golfing territories is increasing rapidly. For example the first golf course in the People's Republic of China only opened in the mid-1980s, but by 2005 there were 200 courses in that country.


The professional game was initially dominated by British golfers, but since World War I, America has produced the greatest quantity of leading professionals. Other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and South Africa are also traditional powers in the game. Since around the 1970s, Japan and various Western European countries have produced leading players on a regular basis. The number of countries with high-class professionals continues to increase steadily, especially in East Asia. South Korea is notably strong in women's golf.




Professional golf


Golf is played professionally in many different countries. The majority of professional golfers work as club or teaching professionals, and only compete in local competitions. A small elite of professional golfers are "tournament pros" who compete full time on international "tours".




Golf tours


There are at least twenty professional golf tours, each run by a PGA or an independent tour organisation, which is responsible for arranging events, finding sponsors, and regulating the tour. Typically a tour has "members" who are entitled to compete in all 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.


The most widely known tour is the PGA TOUR (officially rendered in all caps), which attracts the best golfers from all the other men's tours. This is due mostly to the fact that most PGA TOUR events have a first prize of at least USD 800,000. 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 PGA European Tour, which attracts a substantial number of top golfers from outside North America, ranks only slightly below 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. There are several other men's tours around the world.


Golf is unique in having lucrative competition for older players. There are several senior tours for men 50 and older, the best known of which is the U.S.-based Champions Tour.  There are five principal tours for women, each based in a different country or continent. The most prestigious of these is the U.S-based LPGA Tour.




Men's major championships


The major championships are the four most prestigious men's tournaments of the year. In current (2005) chronological order they are:

  • The Masters

  • U.S. Open

  • The (British) Open Championship

  • 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. The U.S. Open and PGA Championship are played at various courses around the United States, while The Open Championship is played at various courses in the UK.


The number of major championships a player accumulates in his career has a very large impact on his stature in the game. Jack Nicklaus is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, largely because he has won a record 18 professional majors, or 20 majors in total if his two U.S. Amateurs are included. Tiger Woods, who may be the only golfer likely to challenge Nicklaus's record, has won ten majors, all before the age of thirty. Woods also came closest to winning all four current majors in one season (known as a Grand Slam) when he won them consecutively across two seasons: the 2000 U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship; and the 2001 Masters. This feat has been frequently called the Tiger Slam.


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. These are the four that Bobby Jones won in 1930 to become the only player ever to have earned a Grand Slam.




Women's majors


Women's golf does not have a globally agreed set of majors. 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:

  • Kraft Nabisco Championship

  • U.S. Women's Open

  • LPGA Championship

  • Women's British Open


Only the last of these is also recognised by the Ladies European Tour.

In 2003 Annika Sörenstam was the first woman after fifty years who started at a men's PGA Tour.



Environmental impact


Environmental concerns over the use of land for golf courses have grown over the past 30 years. Specific concerns include the amount of water and chemical pesticides and fertilizers used for maintenance, as well as the destruction of wetlands and other environmentally important areas during construction.


These, along with health and cost concerns, have led to significant research into more environmentally sound practices and turf grasses. The modern golf course superintendent is well trained in the uses of these practices and grasses. This has led to reductions in the amount of chemicals and water used on courses. The turf on golf courses is an excellent filter for water and has been used in many communities to cleanse grey water. While many people continue to oppose golf courses for environmental reasons, there are others who feel that they are beneficial for the community and the environment as they provide corridors for migrating animals and sanctuaries for birds and other wildlife.


A major result of modern equipment is that today's players can hit the ball much further than previously. In a concern for safety, modern golf course architects have had to lengthen and widen their design envelope. This has led to a ten percent increase in the amount of area that is required for golf courses today. At the same time, water restrictions placed by many communities have forced many courses to limit the amount of maintained turf grass. While most modern 18-hole golf courses occupy as much as 60 ha (150 acres) of land, the average course has 30 ha (75 acres) of maintained turf. (Sources include the National Golf Foundation and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America [GCSAA].)


Golf courses are built on many different types of land, including sandy areas along coasts, abandoned farms, strip mines and quarries, deserts and forests. Many Western countries have instituted significant environmental restrictions on where and how courses can be built.


In some parts of the world, attempts to build courses and resorts have led to significant protests along with vandalism and violence by both sides. 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.


In Saudi Arabia, golf courses have been constructed on nothing more than oil-covered sand. However, in some cities such as Dhahran, modern, grass golf courses have been built recently.  In Coober Pedy, Australia, there is a famous golf course that consists of nine holes dug into mounds of sand, diesel and oil and not a blade of grass or a tree to be seen. You carry a small piece of astroturf from which you tee.  In New Zealand it is not uncommon for rural courses to have greens fenced off and sheep graze the fairways.












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