Monday, January 24, 2011

All About Golf

Golf is a precision club-and-ball sport, in which competing players (golfers), using many types of clubs, attempt to hit balls into each hole on a golf course while employing the fewest number of strokes. Golf 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. The origin of golf is unclear and open to debate. 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 B.C., 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, chaugán. 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. The 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. A golf course consists of a series of holes, each with a teeing area 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 (flagstick) and cup. Different 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 tee-off point to the green, some of the holes may bend, either to the left or to the right. This is called a "dogleg", in reference to a dog's knee. The hole is called a "dogleg left" if the hole angles leftwards and vice versa; sometimes, a hole's direction can bend twice and is called a "double dogleg". A typical golf course consists of 18 holes but nine hole courses are common and can be played twice through for 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 very first 18 hole golf course in America was located on a sheep farm in Downers Grove, Illinois in 1892. The golf course is still situated there.

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 area (also called the "tee box" or simply "the tee.") When this initial stroke (or "shot") is required to be a long one due to the length of the hole, it is usual (but not required) for a golfer to suspend (or "tee") 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 centimeters high. This elevation is at the discretion of the golfer. Tee pegs are commonly made of wood but may be constructed of any material; the ball may even be "tee'd" 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 areas 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. 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 ("sand traps"), and water hazards. In most forms of gameplay, each player plays his or her ball until it is holed. Players can walk or drive in motorized carts over the course. Play can be done either singly 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 caddies' advice can only be given to the player or players for whom the caddy is working, and not to competing players. The rules of golf are internationally standardised and are jointly governed by The R&A, spun off in 2004 from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (founded 1754), and the United States Golf Association (USGA). The underlying principle of the rules is fairness. As stated 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 cannot do either, do what is fair. There are strict regulations regarding the amateur status of golfers. Essentially, anybody who has ever received payment or compensation for giving instruction, or played golf for money, is not considered an amateur and may not participate in competitions limited solely to amateurs. However, amateur golfers may receive expenses which comply with strict guidelines and they may accept non-cash prizes within the limits established by the Rules of Amateur Status. In addition to the officially printed rules, golfers also abide by a set of guidelines called golf etiquette. Etiquette guidelines cover matters such as safety, fairness, pace of play, and a player's obligation to contribute to the care of the course. Though there are no penalties for breach of etiquette rules, players generally follow the rules of golf etiquette in an effort to improve everyone's playing experience.

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Penalties are incurred in certain situations. They are counted towards a player's score as if there were extra swing(s) at the ball. Strokes are added for rule infractions or for hitting one's ball into an unplayable situation. A lost ball or a ball hit out of bounds result in a penalty of one stroke and distance. (Rule 27-1) A one stroke penalty is assessed if a player's equipment causes the ball to move or the removal of a loose impediment causes the ball to move. (Rule 18-2) If a golfer makes a stroke at the wrong ball (Rule 19-2) or hits a fellow golfer's ball with a putt (Rule 19-5), the player incurs a two stroke penalty. Most rule infractions lead to stroke penalties but also can lead to disqualification. Disqualification could be from cheating, signing for a lower score, or from rule infractions that lead to improper play. Golf clubs are used to hit a golf ball, Each club is composed of a shaft with a lance (grip) on the top end and a club head on the bottom. "Long" clubs, which have a lower amount of degreed loft, are those meant to propel the ball a comparatively longer distance and "short" clubs, a higher degree, a comparatively short distance. Typically, the actual physical length of each club is longer or shorter, depending on the distance the club is intended to propel the ball. The "driver" is the largest-headed and "longest" club. Woods are slightly shorter but still comparatively large-headed clubs, used for long-distance fairway shots. Woods are now typically made of metal; the traditional name "woods" remains in general use but is gradually being replaced by the term "fairway metal." Next shorter in length are the irons, the most numerous and versatile class used for a wide variety of shots. Hybrid (golf) clubs which embody characteristics of both woods and irons in varying degrees, are increasingly being used in preference to long irons in many places because they are easier for the average golfer to use. Last but not least, putters are used to roll the ball across the green into the cup. A maximum of 14 clubs is allowed in a player's bag at one time during a stipulated round. The choice of clubs is at the golfer's discretion, although every club must be constructed in accordance with parameters outlined in the rules. (Clubs which meet these parameters are usually called "conforming.") Violation of these rules can result in disqualification. The exact shot hit at any given time on a golf course, and which club is used to accomplish the shot, are always completely at the discretion of the golfer; in other words, there is no restriction whatsoever on which club a golfer may or may not use at any time for any shot. Golf balls are spherical, usually white (although other colours are allowed), and minutely pock-marked by "dimples" that decrease aerodynamic drag by decreasing air turbulence around the ball in motion, thereby allowing the ball to fly farther. A tee is allowed only for the first stroke on each hole, unless the player must hit a provisional or replay his or her first shot from the tee. Many golfers wear golf shoes with metal or plastic spikes designed to increase traction, thus allowing for longer and more accurate shots. A golf bag is used to transport golf clubs. Golf bags have several pockets designed for carrying equipment and supplies such as tees, balls, and gloves. Golf bags can be carried, pulled on a two-wheel pull cart or harnessed to a motorized golf cart during play. Golf bags have both a hand strap and shoulder strap for carrying, and sometimes have retractable legs that allow the bag to stand upright when at rest. Golfers start with the non-dominant side of the body facing the target. At address the body and club are positioned parallel to the target line. The feet are commonly shoulder width apart for middle irons and putters, narrower for short irons and wider for long irons and woods. The ball is positioned in the center of the players stance for short irons and putters, more to the front for middle irons and even more for long irons and woods. The golfer chooses a grip. The golfer chooses a golf club and stroke appropriate to the distance: The drive is used on the tee box to tee off long distances. The approach is used in long to mid distance shots. The chip is used for relatively short distance shots around the green. The goal of the chip is to land the ball safely on the green allowing it to roll out towards the hole. The putt is used in short distance shots on or near the green. The goal of the putt is to get the ball in the hole or as close to the hole as possible.

In every form of play, the goal is to play as few strokes per round as possible. A "hole in one" (or an "ace") occurs when a golfer sinks his ball into the cup with his first stroke (a drive from the tee). Common scores for a hole also have specific terms.In match play, two players (or two teams) play each 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" (tied). 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 or ties any of the remaining holes, thereby winning the match, or until the match ends in a tie with the lead player's opponent winning all remaining holes. When the game is tied after the predetermined number of holes have been played, it may be continued until one side takes a one-hole lead.In stroke play, the score achieved for each and every hole of the round or tournament is added to produce the total score, and the player with the lowest score wins. (Stroke play is the game most commonly played by professional golfers.) If there is a tie after the regulation number of holes in a professional tournament, a playoff takes place between all tied players. Playoffs are either sudden death or employ a pre-determined number of holes, anywhere from three to a full eighteen. In sudden death, a player who scores lower on a hole than all of his opponents wins the match. If at least two players remain tied after such a playoff using a pre-determined number of holes, then play continues in sudden death format, where the first player to win a hole wins the tournament. A handicap is a numerical measure of an amateur golfer's ability to play golf over the course of 18 holes. Handicaps can be applied either for stroke play competition or match play competition. In either competition, a handicap generally represents the number of strokes above par that a player will achieve on an above average day (i.e., when playing well). In stroke play competition, the competitor's handicap is subtracted from their total "gross" score at the end of the round, to calculate a "net" score against which standings are calculated. In match play competition, handicap strokes are assigned on a hole-by-hole basis, according to the handicap rating of each hole (which is provided by the course). The hardest holes on the course receive the most handicap strokes, with the easiest holes receiving the least handicap strokes. Calculating a handicap is often complicated, but essentially it is representative of the average over par of a number of a player's previous above average rounds, adjusted for course difficulty. Legislation regarding the calculation of handicaps differs among countries. For example, handicap rules may include the difficulty of the course the golfer is playing on by taking into consideration factors such as the number of bunkers, the length of the course, the difficulty and slopes of the greens, the width of the fairways, and so on. Handicap systems are not used in professional golf. Professional golfers often score several strokes below par for a round and thus have a calculated handicap of 0 or less, meaning that their handicap results in the addition of strokes to their round score. Someone with a handicap of zero or less is often referred to as a scratch golfer. In 2005, Golf Digest calculated that the countries with most golf courses per capita, starting with the best endowed were: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Wales, United States, Sweden, and England (countries with fewer than 500,000 people were excluded). Apart from Sweden, all of these countries have English as the majority language, but the number of courses in new territories is increasing rapidly. The most notable example of this phenomenon is China. The first golf course in the People's Republic of China opened in 1984, but by the end of 2009 there were roughly 600 in the country. Jack Nicklaus, who in late 2009 had either designed or had plans to design 35 courses in China, claimed in October of that year that China had plans to build 1,400 public courses in the next five years (currently, only a small number of China's courses are public), although a Chinese golf industry insider called Nicklaus' claim "bullshit". For the last several years, development of new golf courses has been officially banned, but the number of courses has nonetheless tripled since 2004; the "ban" has been easily evaded with the government's tacit approval simply by not mentioning golf in any development plans. In the United States, the number of people who play golf 25 times or more per year decreased from 6.9 million in 2000 to 4.6 million in 2005, according to the National Golf Foundation. The NGF reported that the number who played golf at all decreased from 30 to 26 million over the same period

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