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Articles: Golf


Golf is a sport of precision and accuracy in which individuals use a variety of clubs to hit small balls into a number of holes from different starting points on a grass course. The aim is to get the ball in the hole using the fewest strokes possible.

The game of golf is primarily an individual sport although there are some team formats of the game. The most common version of the professional game is known as stroke play and is played on an 18-hole course over a four day period. The entire course is played four times and the player who records the fewest total shots over the 72 holes wins the tournament.

While the origins of golf remain unclear, there are ancient variations of games with similarities to golf dating back to the Roman times. From eighth century China to middle-age Europe, further evidence of club-and-ball games can be found, but it is in 15th century Scotland that the modern version of the game was born.

The earliest records of golfing rules date back to Leith in 1744 and were compiled by the Company of Gentlemen Golfers. The oldest tournament is the Open Championship which was first played at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860 and remains one of golf’s major tournaments today.

Today, there are more than 35,000 golf courses in the world, half of which are in the USA. The professional game has over 20 official tours and is played all over the globe. China has been the most recent country to embrace golf and is the fastest growing golfing nation in the world today. In other areas of the world, the popularity of golf has declined recently due to a combination of time and cost constraints, and a perceived lack of social diversity in the game. New initiatives are now being sought to attract new golfers of all ages from all walks of life.

A game of golf

The majority of professional golf tournaments are played by individuals who compete against each other in a points-based scoring format. Over 150 players may take part in a tournament and they play each hole in small groups of two or three.

The game is played outside on grass golf courses that are made up of 18 holes of different lengths (some smaller golf courses only have 9 holes). Golf is distinctive in the fact that every course is completely different in size, shape, dimensions and layout.

There are two main types of golf courses: Links courses, which are normally located between farmland and coastal areas and have many natural undulations and irregularities but very few trees; and Parkland Courses, which are located in-land and have many trees but less surface anomalies.

Each hole consists of a starting area known as a tee, from where the player must strike the ball towards the hole which is located on a green. If the green is too far to reach in one stroke, the player will attempt to hit the ball onto a fairway. This is a long stretch of low cut grass between the tees and green that provides an optimum ball-striking surface. The green is a smooth surface of even shorter grass with the target hole - which is marked by a flag - cut into it. The ball is usually hit along the ground on the green and the player must use skill to compensate for any slopes, humps and dips that may exist.

The fairways and greens are often surrounded by many natural and man-made hazards designed to test the skill and accuracy of the players. The hazards include longer grass known as rough, which can prevent a player from striking the ball cleanly; bunkers, which are large man-made sand pits (sometimes natural on links courses); and water hazards, such as lakes and streams.

Golf balls are made from a hard but flexible chemical resin with a dimpled surface. The indentations in the surface allow the ball to maintain a consistent trajectory during flight. The ball must not weigh more than 1.620 oz (45.93 grams) and must be at least 1.680 in (42.67 mm) in diameter.

To hit the ball, a player has a variety of clubs to choose from. For long tee and fairway shots, a player may use a driver or a wood. These clubs - often made from titanium - have larger heads and longer shafts and are designed to hit the ball as far as possible. For shorter tee and fairway shots, an iron is used. These clubs have shorter shafts and a flat, angled head made from metal. Different angles are used to achieve a variety of heights and distances, and to play the ball from multiple surfaces including sand and rough. Once on the green, a player will use a putter to play the ball along the ground and into the hole.

To assist with club selection and course navigation, each player employs the services of a caddy. The caddy carries the player’s equipment but also keeps detailed information about the dimensions and set-up of each hole. The caddy will know how far the ball is from the hole and can advise on the most suitable club to hit the ball the required distance.

How a game of golf begins

Before a game of golf begins, players are drawn into groups of three for the first two days of a tournament and groups of two for the final two days. They are issued with scorecards by the match officials and follow the order of play indicated on the scorecard.

The first player strikes the ball from the first tee and the game begins. Once both players have taken a shot, the order of play is determined by the distance from the hole with the furthest player going first. The winning player on each hole goes first on the next hole.

The main rules of the game

Golf tournaments are played in a stroke play format over four days with one round of 18 holes played each day. After the second day, players outside of the top 65 scores (including ties) are normally eliminated from the tournament; this is known as the cut. However, the criteria for the cut can vary slightly in different tournaments.

Each hole is assigned a benchmark score known a par; it is against this figure that a player’s score is calculated. A player scores a point for every shot below par and drops points for all scores over par. If the par score is matched, no points are won or lost. After the last stroke has been played on the final day, the player with the lowest score is the winner.

A player may receive penalty strokes for rule infringements and other situations such a losing a ball, hitting the ball out of bounds or landing in an unplayable area.

Due to the amount of variable situations that may occur on the golf course, a team of rules official are required to patrol the course and advise players where necessary. The underlying principle of fair play has been an important element of the golf rule book since the early days of the sport.

Another format of golf that is sometimes played on professional circuits is match play. In this version of the game, players play against each other (or on behalf of a team) on a hole-by-hole basis. A player wins a point for winning a hole or half a point if the hole is tied. Over the course of 18 holes, the player with the most points wins the match or a point for their team.

In team competitions, pairs of players can compete against each other in the match play format. When both players on each team play with a separate ball, this is known as fourball golf and the lowest score on each team is counted. When both players on the same team play with the same ball and take alternate shots, it is known as foursome golf. The foursome variation can also be applied to stroke play golf.

Strategy and tactics when playing golf.

In order to hit the ball into the hole using as few strokes as possible, a golf professional will try to optimise each shot by considering many factors. On links courses, players try to play the ball low and attempt to run the ball to towards the hole. Not only does this tactic take advantage of the naturally fast surfaces, but it also minimises the effect of strong coastal winds. The main downside to this strategy is the unpredictable nature of the surfaces which can easily send a ball wildly off course or into a hazard.

On parkland courses, players favour high shots that minimise the amount of time that the ball spends on the ground. This type of course rewards accuracy but wayward shots can easily end up behind trees, in bunkers or in difficult rough areas.

To choose the right club for each shot, a player must calculate the distance from the hole, the elevation of the target area and the effect of the wind. He must also take into consideration the surface he is playing from and any hazards that may come into play. It is in this situation that accurate information from the caddy is essential.

Once all the information has been processed, the final decision on the shot may be determined by the player’s situation in the game. Whether a player is protecting or chasing a lead can have a major impact on their decision making.

In order to master the different types of shots required, professional golfers often employ one or more coaches to help with different aspects of their game.

Competing in golf.

The term professional golfer refers to anyone who makes a living playing golf and this includes those who teach golf at local club level. As a result, there are many professional golfers competing at local tournament level. However, the number of international tour professionals is much smaller and this is the level that most will amateurs will aspire to.

The very best amateur golfers can compete in tournaments and even qualify for the majors but breaking into the professional circuit often requires the backing of a sponsor. By winning regularly on the amateur circuit a player can enter prize money events and turn professional but without sponsorship, early life as a pro can be expensive.

For male golfers, there are more than twenty professional tours that can provide a stepping stone to the elite level of the US PGA and European Tours. For female golfers, there are eight professional tours in current operation across four different continents. It is possible for players to compete in enough events to hold cards on more than one tour.

Players are awarded points depending on where they finish in each tournament; this total is divided by the amount of tournaments that they enter to give their overall ranking score. A separate ranking list is also published based the amount of money a player accumulates in a year.

The biggest events in golf are described as the majors and on the men’s tour these events are the Masters, The US Open, The Open Championship and The US PGA. In addition, there are four World Golf Championship events organised by the International Federation of PGA Tours.

The biggest team event in men’s golf is the Ryder Cup which is contested by two teams representing the USA and Europe. The biennial event has grown to become one of golf’s showpiece tournaments.

The women’s tour is organised by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and includes five majors and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. The most significant women’s team event is the Solheim Cup which follows the same team format and biannual schedule as the men’s Ryder Cup.

Site reference: Golf: World golf governing bodies

Site reference: Golf: Competitions and organisers

Betting on golf

With most golf tournaments lasting for four days and featuring more than 150 competitors, it is no surprise that there are plenty of golf betting opportunities available. This is good news for those who like to bet before and during play. The regularity of tournaments and the large amount of statistics available also makes golf an attractive market to sports bettors.

With so many competitors in each event, the outright winner market can provide some great prices. However, if you prefer to narrow your options, betting companies also allow you to bet on who will win the daily groupings (Three-ball winners market, Two-ball winners market).

Other popular bets include backing a player to finish in the Top 4, Top 5 or Top 10 and predicting the margin of victory. The duration of golf events also offers great opportunities for fans of in-play betting.