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Golf

Golf is a precision club and ball sport, in which competing players (or golfers) use many types of clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a golf course using the fewest number of strokes.

golf-main.jpgIt is one of the few ball games that does not require a standardized playing area. Instead, the game is played on golf "courses", each of which features a unique design, although courses typically consist of either nine or 18 holes. Golf 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 competition is generally played for the lowest number of strokes by an individual, known simply as stroke play, or the lowest score on the most individual holes during a complete round by an individual or team, known as match play.

Origin

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 14th 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. This game was, in turn, exported to the Low Countries, Germany, and England (where it was called pall-mall, pronounced “pell mell”). Some observers, however, believe that golf descended from the Persian game, chaug├ín. 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.

golf_history.jpgThe 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. To many golfers, the Old Course at St Andrews, a links course dating to before 1574, is considered to be a site of pilgrimage. 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 Prestwick Golf Club, in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Golf course

A golf course consists of a series of 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 "double dogleg".

golf-course.jpgA typical golf course consists of 18 holes, but nine-hole courses are common and can be played twice through for a full round of 18 holes.

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 located on a sheep farm in Downers Grove, Illinois, in 1892. The course is still situated there today.

Play of the game

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. On a nine-hole course, a standard round consists of two consecutive nine-hole rounds.

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). When this initial stroke (or 'shot') is required to be long due to the length of the hole, it is usual (but not required) for a golfer to suspend (or 'tee-up') the ball on a tee prior to striking it. A tee in this last sense is a small peg which can be used to elevate the ball slightly above the ground up to a few centimetres high. This elevation is at the discretion of the golfer. Tees are commonly made of wood but may be constructed of any material; the ball may even be teed on a mound of grass or dirt (at one time a small pile of sand placed by the golfer was routinely used and sand was provided at teeing grounds for golfers' use).

When the initial shot on a hole is a long-distance shot intended to move the ball a great distance down the fairway, this shot is commonly called a 'drive'. Shorter holes generally are initiated with shorter clubs called 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"). 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 long 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, bunkers (or sand traps), and water hazards. In most forms of gameplay, each player plays his or her ball until it is holed.

Players can walk to their next shot or drive in golf carts over the course. The game can be played either individually or in groups and sometimes 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 caddy's advice can only be given to the player or players for whom the caddy is working, and not to competing players.