Golf, outdoor game in which individual players use specially designed clubs to propel a small, hard ball over a field of play known as a course or links. The object of the game is to advance the ball around the course using as few strokes as possible.
The Golf Course
A golf course is divided into 18 sections, called holes. The standard course is about 6500 to 7000 yd (about 5900 to 6400 m). The individual holes may vary in length from 100 to 600 yd (about 90 to 550 m). Each hole has at one end a starting point known as a tee and, imbedded in the ground at the other end and marked by a flag, a cup or cylindrical container (also called a hole) into which the ball must be propelled in order to complete play at each hole. The cup is usually made of metal or plastic, 4.2 in (10.8 cm) in diameter, and at least 4 in (10 cm) deep.
Play begins at the first tee, a level area of turf, generally raised slightly above the surrounding terrain. From here each player tries to drive the ball onto the fairway, or main part of the golf course, a carefully tended strip of land, 30 to 100 yd (about 27 to 90 m) wide, on which the grass has been cut to provide a good playing surface for the ball. On either side of the fairway is the rough, which consists of areas covered with long grass, bushes, or trees, and which sometimes contains sandy, rough, or marshy areas that compel golfers to use additional skill and judgment in playing their shots. In the absence of such natural obstacles, artificial hazards may be constructed. These include bunkers, also known as traps, which are hollows dug in the earth and usually filled with loose sand; mounds and other earthen embankments; and water hazards, such as ditches, creeks, ponds, or lakes. At the far end of the fairway from the tee is the putting green, an area of closely cropped grass surrounding the hole or cup. The smooth surface of the putting green is designed to facilitate the progress of the ball into the cup after the ball has been given a tap or gentle stroke known as a putt.
Golf Strokes and Golf Clubs
In addition to the putt, the specialized stroke used on the green, two main types of shots are used in playing each hole: the drive, which is a long shot from the tee onto the fairway; and the approach shot, which is the shot used to hit the ball onto the green. Both types demand great accuracy. Shots of various lengths are played with different clubs, according to the distance to be covered and the lie (position) of the ball. A standard set of 14 golf clubs (the maximum that may be carried in tournament play), is divided into two main types: those known as woods, with heads made of wood or metal; and those known as irons, with heads made of forged steel, usually chromium plated. The shafts of both types usually are made of metal and sometimes of fiberglass. Formerly, each club was known by a distinctive name, but today most are designated by numbers. The woods are customarily numbered 1 through 5, the irons 1 through 9. The putter, an iron, has retained its name. In addition to the numbered irons are the utility clubs, including the sand wedge and the pitching wedge, used on medium-range shots to loft the ball high into the air and limit its roll to a short distance after landing.
The clubs are variously used in achieving distance, height, or accurate placement of the ball; the angle at which the striking surface is set on the shaft of the club determines the trajectory of the ball. For making drives and distance shots on the fairway, the woods (No. 1, or driver; No. 2; No. 3; No. 4; and No. 5) and the so-called long irons (No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3) are used. For the initial drive of each hole, the ball is teed up-that is, placed on a small wooden, rubber, or plastic peg, known as a tee, which the players carry with them. This lifts the