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Golf is an outdoor game in which 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. Golf is a very popular sport throughout the world.
The Golf Course
A golf course is divided into 18 sections, called holes. The standard course is about 5,900 to 6,400 m (about 6,500 to 7,000 yd); the individual holes may vary in length from 90 to 550 m (from 100 to 600 yd). Each hole has at one end a starting point known as a tee and, embedded in the ground at the other end, 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, 10.8 cm (4.2 in) in diameter, and at least 10 cm (4 in) 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 on to the fairway or main part of the golf course, a carefully tended strip of land, 27 to 90 m (30 to 100 yd) 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 land 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. Among these are 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, streams, 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 on to the fairway; and the approach shot to 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 fibreglass. Formerly, each club was known by a distinctive name, but today most are designated by numbers. The woods are customarily numbered 1 to 5, the irons 1 to 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 well 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; or No. 5) and the ?long? irons (No. 1, No. 2, or 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 ball at least 1.3 cm (0.5 in) off the ground, allowing the head of the club to strike the ball with maximum force. For long, low shots on the fairway, the No. 2 wood is used, and for long, high shots the No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 woods are employed. Other approach shots to the green, generally of a shorter range, are played with the higher-numbered irons. For even shorter approaches, known as chip shots, the same irons are used but with a shorter swing. The putter normally is used only on the green or the apron (a fringe of less smooth grass) of the green.
Forms of Competition
Two basic forms of competition exist in golf: match play and stroke play (also known as medal play). In match play the player (or, if more than one player, the team) taking the fewer number of strokes to sink the ball into any particular hole?called ?to hole out??is the winner of the hole. And the player or team winning the most holes wins the contest. If each player or team takes the same number of strokes on any hole, the hole is said to be halved (tied). A final score of ?9 and 8? in match play means that the winner was 9 holes ahead with only 8 left to play, sufficient to win the match. When the match is equal until the last hole, the winning score is ?1 up?.
In stroke play, now the more popular kind of play in major tournaments, the winner of the contest is the team or player taking the least number of strokes over the total number of holes agreed upon. Although a round usually consists of 9 or 18 holes, the play in championship contests covers 18, 36, 54, or 72 holes. In stroke play, ties are decided by play-off rounds.
Par is the term applied to the number of properly played strokes an expert golfer would be expected to use in completing a particular hole without mishap; the aggregate for all of the holes is called par for the course. Par is based primarily on the number of strokes necessary to reach the green, plus two putts. Par for a single hole varies from three strokes for a hole of less than 228 m (less than 250 yd) to five strokes for a hole of more than 428 m (more than 471 yd).
Occasionally, on a par-three hole, a player makes a hole in one?that is, drives the ball from the tee into the cup in one stroke. It has been calculated that the odds against any player doing this are 8,606 to 1. A score of one less than par is referred to as a birdie, and two less than par (for example, a score of three on a par-five hole) is called an eagle. Three strokes less than par is known as an albatross or double eagle in the United States. One stroke over par is called a bogey; two over par is a double bogey.
Some historians believe that golf originated in the Netherlands (the Dutch word kolf means ?club?), but the Romans had a game called paganica played with a bent stick and a ball made of feathers that may have been the original source of the game.
It has been fairly well established, however, 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 practising 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 of Scotland, took up the game of golf.
His granddaughter Mary, later 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 ; the term was adopted later in Scotland and England and became caddy or caddie. (Caddies, once an integral feature of the game, have now been largely superseded by golf carts and buggies except for professional players.)
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. They included the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (1744); the St Andrews Society of Golfers (1754), which in 1834 took its present name, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews; and the Royal Blackheath (1766), near London, where according to tradition golf was introduced to England in 1608.
The first clubs established outside Great Britain were the Calcutta Golf Club of East India (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 there is no documentary proof of this. In 1888 the St Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers, New York, was established. Some authorities say this is the oldest continuously existing golf club in the United States.
The popularity of the game reached great heights by the 1920s and steadily increased over the years, fostered by television. In the United States alone, more than 12,400 golf courses serve over 20 million people who play golf at least once a year.
Rules and Regulations
The rules of play for golf are numerous and complex and include a code of etiquette for behaviour on the green.
The game was originally played with a ball made of feathers tightly packed in a leather cover. About 1850 a ball made of gutta-percha came into use. Gutta-percha is a milky liquid, derived principally from the latex of Malaysian trees, that hardens after being boiled and cooled. About 1901 a ball with a rubber core enclosed in gutta-percha, similar to the ball in use today, was developed. The pitted surface of modern golf balls acts to stabilize flight.
Golf balls used in the United States have a diameter of no less than 4.27 cm (1.68 in) and weigh not more than 45.93 g (1.62 oz) and this is used in international tournaments.
The British traditionally used balls of this same weight but with a diameter of not less than 4.11 cm (1.62 in), but have mainly switched to the larger ball.
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, after the American former caddie Francis Ouimet won a victory over two outstanding British professionals in the US open championship tournament (open to amateurs and professionals), golf came to the attention of the American public in general.
The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) was organized in 1916, and annual tournaments were started during the same year. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) numbers about 550 club instructors and tournament players. Major American tours include the PGA (for men), the LPGA (for women), and the Seniors tour (for men over the age of 50).
The British PGA was founded in 1901. The Council of National Golf Unions was founded in 1924. England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales each have their own union. The English Ladies Golf Union was created in 1893.
Each year many golf championship tournaments take place, and there are major tours on every continent. The most important of these for men are the US Open (for professionals), the US Amateur, the Masters (an invitation tournament for professionals), the PGA Championship, the British Open, and the British Amateur. For women the important tournaments are the British Ladies Amateur Championship, the US Women’s Amateur, and the US Women’s Open.
International matches are also played, notably between teams from the United States and Europe or 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 tournaments for men include the Eisenhower Cup (amateur), the Ryder Cup, the World Matchplay, and the World Cup (professional), and the Shun Nomura Trophy and the Francis H. I. Brown International Team Match Trophy (seniors). World competition tournaments for women include the Solheim Cup.
The most famous feat in the history of golf was achieved by the American amateur player Bobby Jones, who in 1930 achieved the grand slam of golf by winning the British Open, the British Amateur, the US Open, and the US Amateur. Another type of grand slam is to be the winner of all four ?majors? (the British Open, US Open, PGA Championship, and the Masters) at the same time. One of the greatest women players of all time was Babe Didrikson Zaharias, an American who competed both as an amateur and as a professional.
Famous American golfers
Bobby Jones (1902 ? 1971) ? American amateur golfer, winner of the grand slam of golf in 1930 and founder of the prestigious Masters golf tournament. Born Robert Tyre Jones in Atlanta, Georgia, he studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology and at Harvard University (studied law). Jones won the United States Open golf championship in 1923, 1926, 1929, and 1930. He was US national amateur champion in 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, and 1930, and won the British Open championship in 1926, 1927, and 1930. He was the first player to win both the US and British Open championships in the same year (1930). Jones retired from active competition in 1930. In 1934 he founded the Masters tournament, which is played each April at Augusta, Georgia.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1913 ? 1956) ? American sportswoman, named the greatest female athlete of the first half of the 20th century by an Associated Press poll in 1950. She was born Mildred Didrikson in Port Arthur, Texas. She excelled in many sports, including basketball, swimming, athletics, and especially golf. In her teens she twice won a place on the All-American woman?s basketball team and established three national records in track and field events. A competitor in the 1932 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, she not only won but set records for the javelin throw (43.69 m / 143 ft 4 in) and the 80-m hurdle (11.7 seconds). She then played professional basketball, appeared in music hall, and learned to play golf. Between 1936 and 1954 she won every major woman?s golf championship, including the United States amateur championship (1946), and the world championship (1948, 1949, 1950, 1951) and US Women?s Open (1948, 1950, and 1954), both professional tournaments. Her autobiography ?This Life I?ve Led? was published in 1955.
Walter Hagen (1892 ?1969) ? American professional golfer, born in Rochester, New York. Among the numerous championships he won are the United States Open (1914 and 1919), the Professional Golfers? Association (PGA) Championship (1921, 1924- 1927), and the British Open (1922, 1924, 1928, and 1929). One of his accomplishments was defeating the great American golfer Bobby Jones in a challenge match in Florida in 1926. Hagen served as playing captain of the American Ryder Cup team in 1927, 1929,1933, and 1935 and as honorary captain in 1937. He retired from active competition in 1940 and in 1956 published his autobiography ? The Walter Hagen Story?.
Gene Sarazen (1902 – ) ? American professional golfer, also known as the Squire, who is considered one of the pre-eminent professional golfers of the 1920s and 1930s. Born Eugene Saraceni in Harrison, New York, he started playing golf at an early age. In 1922 Sarazen won the United States Open and the United States Professional Golfers Association (USPGA) championship, becoming the first golfer to capture the two titles in the same year. He was again USPGA champion in 1923, garnering his third significant tournament victory by the age of 21.
Competing primarily in exhibitions throughout the remainder of the 1920s, Sarazen did not win another major tournament until his victory in the 1932 US Open. That same year he also won the British Open championship. Sarazen won his third USPGA title in 1933, and after his 1935 victory at the Masters he became the first golfer to win all of the four major tournaments at the time (British Open, Masters, US Open, and USPGA).
Sarazen?s 1935 victory at the Masters included one of the most famous shots in golf history. He scored a double eagle (three strokes under par) on the 15th hole, directing the shot over a water hazard, which enabled him to tie for the lead. Sarazen won subsequent playoff to capture the title.
Sarazen was a member of six consecutive Ryder Cup teams (biennially from 1927 to 1937). Elected to the Professional Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1941, Sarazen won the USPGA Senior championship in 1954 and 1958. He is credited with designing the first sand iron (also called a sand wedge), a golf club with an angled head for playing shots out of sand traps. Sarazen was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1947.
Sam Snead (1912 -) ? American professional golfer who won 84 PGA tour events, a record number of tour victories by a single golfer. He was born Samuel Jackson Snead in Ashwood, Virginia. At a young age Snead caddied at a golf club near his home, and with the support of some club members he went to California in 1937 to complete in the professional golf circuit. He earned five second-place finishes in tournaments that first year, including a two-stroke loss to Ralph Guldahl at the United States Open.
He won the PGA championship in 1942, 1949, and 1951; the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, in 1949, 1952, and 1954; and the British Open championship in 1946. Snead was a member of eight US Ryder Cup teams (1937, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1959, and 1969 as a non-playing captain). He won the USPGA Seniors Championship six times (1964, 1965, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1973), and in 1965 he also won the Greater Greensboro Open competition in North Carolina, making him the oldest golfer on the men?s circuit to win a regular PGA tour event.
Also known as Slammin? Sammy, Snead became known for his ?sidewinder? putting technique, in which he faced the hole and struck the ball with his hand low on the club shaft. Snead wrote ?Natural Golf? (1954) and ?The Education of a Golfer? (1962).
Ben Hogan (1912 ? 1997) ? American professional golfer who won more than 60 tournaments and is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time. He was born William Benjamin Hogan in Dublin, Texas, and began his golf career in Fort Worth, Texas. Hogan was the leading money winner among American golfers from 1940 to 1942, and again in 1946 and 1948.
In 1949 he suffered severe injuries in a car accident, and doctors feared that he would have difficulty walking again. But only 17 months later, Hogan recovered and won his second of four US Open championships (1948, 1950, 1951, and 1953). He also won two PGA championships (1946 and 1948), two Masters titles (1951 and 1953), and one British Open championship (19530. After retiring from professional golf, Hogan started a golf-equipment manufacturing company that carried his name.
Arnold Palmer (1929 -) ? American golfer, the first to win the Masters championship four times and one of the most successful and popular golfers of all time.
Born in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, Palmer began playing golf at the age of three. He entered Wake Forest University in 1947, but interrupted his schooling to serve in the United States Coast Guard from 1950 to 1953. In 1954, after returning to Wake Forest, palmer won the US Amateur championship. He left the university that same year to begin a career as a professional golfer.
His professional victories include four Masters championships (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964); the 1960 US Open; and the 1961 and 1962 British Open championships. By 1968 Palmer had become the first golfer to earn more than 1,000,000 US $ in PGA tournament prize money. In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s his fan following increased and he is credited with popularizing professional golf during that period, especially on television. Palmer?s enthusiastic fans became known as Arnie?s Army.
After joining the Senior tour, he won the 1980 Seniors Championship (his first event on the tour) and the 1981 US Senior Open. He continued to increase his public recognition through a number of commercial product endorsements and established himself in the business community through his company, Arnold Palmer Enterprises.
Jack William Nicklaus (1940 -) ? American professional golfer, also known as the Golden Bear, whose 20 championship titles set the record for the most major golf tournament victories in a career. He was born in Columbus, Ohio. Nicklaus began playing golf at the age of 10, and at the age of 16 won his first major tournament, the Ohio Open. His next important tournament victory was in 1959, when he won the US Amateur championship. Two years later, in 1961, he won the US Amateur title again, in addition to the National Collegiate Association (NCAA) championship. Between 1959 and 1961, when he turned professional, Nicklaus won all but one of the 30 amateur matches he entered.
Nicklaus won his first professional tournament at the 1962 US Open, defeating American golfer Arnold Palmer. During his professional career Nicklaus also won six Masters tournaments (1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975,1986); his 1986 win at the age of 46 made Nicklaus the oldest Masters winner in history. Other major tournament victories include five PGA championships (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980), three more US Open titles (1967, 1972, 1980), and three British Open titles (1966, 1970, 1978). He was named the PGA?s player of the year five times (1967, 1972 1973 1975, 1976), and won the PGA?s Golfer of the Century award in 1988. Nicklaus joined the Senior tour in 1990 and won the US Senior Open in 1991 and 1993. Throughout his career he has designed many noted golf courses, and in 1993 ?Golf World Magazine? named him architect of the year.
Nancy Lopez (1957 -) ? American golfer, a four-time winner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) player of the year award (1978, 1979, 1985, 1988). Lopez was born in Torrance, California, and educated at the University of Tulsa. She left the college in 1977 to turn professional and finished second in her first three tournaments. Lopez won the 1978 LPGA Championship, her first major tournament victory, and was the leading money-winner on the tour for year, she was leading money-winner twice more (1979, 1985) and won the LPGA Championship again in 1985 and 1989. With 35 tour victories by the age of 30, Lopez won election to the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1987.
A well-liked and intense competitor, Lopez developed a style that combined a powerful and unorthodox swing, excellent putting, fierce concentration, and relaxed attitude. Her spectacular performance during the late 1970s and early 1980s did much to increase the popularity of women?s professional golf.
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, became popular in the 1930s. Special putting greens and driving ranges combine practice and recreation. Pitch and putt is a shorter version of the long game.
The accompanying tables list the records of some of the important tournaments.
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