Golf (gowf in Scots) is a game in which individual players or teams strike a ball into a hole using various clubs and is one of the few ball games for which a standard playing area is not fixed; as described in the Rules of Golf, promulgated by the United States Golf Association and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the game comprises playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes.
Thought to have originated in Scotland, the game has been played in the British Isles recreationally since the 16th century CE and professionally since the late 19th century CE; in its present form, the game dates to at least 1672, when golf is recorded to have been contested in Musselburgh, Scotland. Although the game was regarded for much of the 20th century CE as an elite pastime, it has become increasingly popular amongst individuals from all social and economic strata, largely appreciated as a game one can play for his/her entire life.
Golf is played on a tract of land known as the course, classically in a links configuration close to the sea, where the grasses are slower growing. Inland courses were not viable until the invention of the mechanical mower in the late 19th century as not enough grass could be cut by hand to maintain the courses in playing condition. Any list of Golf Courses will always show that the earliest clubs are built on "links" land. The course comprises a series of holes, typically of 9 or 18, where the hole is used to refer not only to the void in the ground in which a cup is placed and into which players seek to hit the ball, but also to the total distance from teeing ground to green (the area surrounding the actual hole).
The first stroke on each hole is made from the teeing ground, where the grass is well-tended and the ball is struck from an elevated position, having been placed on a tee. After teeing off, a player strikes the ball again from the position at which it has come to rest, from the fairway (where the grass is cut low in order that balls may be easily played), the rough (where grass may be more unruly), or a hazard (such as a bunker of sand, body of water, or forest), from which play is most difficult, since hazards, like the rough, are designed to penalize players for inaccurate or otherwise errant shots. Strict rules apply to one's navigating a hazard, and one often must assess him/herself a penalty stroke if a ball is unplayable and must be moved.
The grass of the putting green (or more commonly the green) is cut very short so that a ball can roll easily over distances of several yards. A player putts the ball with a special club, the putter, in order that the ball does not leave the ground vertically. The slope of the green, called the break, and the direction of grass growth, the grain, affect the roll of the ball towards the cup, which is always found somewhere on the green and must have a diameter of at least 4.25 inches (10.80 centimeters) and a depth of 3.94 inches (10.00 centimeters); the hole usually has a flag protruding from it so that it may be located from a distance, the flag may also be referred to as the "pin".
One seeks to strike the ball in the hole using the fewest strokes possible, hoping not to exceed par, the maximum number of strokes a skilled player should require to complete a given hole, in view of the hole's length and difficulty.
A caddy (alternatively, caddie) is an individual, most often at a private golf club or resort, who carries the golf bag of a player and offers him advice on play and moral support. A caddy is expected to be acquainted with the rules of golf generally and a golf course in specific and to be able to advise his player as to club selection, shot yardage, pin placement, and overall strategy. They serve also to perform a variety of common golf duties, such as the raking of bunkers and the repairing of divots.
The term is dated by historians to the late 16th century, when Mary, Queen of Scots, is thought to have brought the term to Scotland from her native France, where military cadets carried golf clubs for royalty.
Traditional caddying, in which a caddy walks a course with a player, remains the most common method of caddying used at public and private golf clubs and the only form permitted on major professional golf tours.
In professional golf, caddies are usually travel weekly with a single player, but at the club level are most often attached to a given club. Caddies who work on the professional level often draw large salaries. Sometimes they earn fans of their own right; Eddie Lowery (pictured, center) became a celebrated figure after he, aged 10 years, caddied for American Francis Ouimet in the 1913 United States Open, and Lowery was ultimately depicted prominently in the 2005 dramatic film The Greatest Game Ever Played.
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Although it is best known for its number two course, designed in 1907 by Scottish architect Donald Ross, which has hosted three men's major championships, two THE TOUR Championship events, and an iteration of the Ryder Cup Matches, the Pinehurst Resort, situated in Pinehurst, North Carolina, comprises eight full golf courses, and through 2004 was listed by Guinness World Records as the world's largest golf resort.
Its first eighteen-hole course, completed in 1898 on land procured by Boston soda fountain magnate James Walker Tufts, featured square-shaped putting greens composed of oiled sand (pictured). It was home for a time to the North and South Open, during the former half of the twentieth century CE one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the United States, and to the United North and South Amateur Championship, organized by the United States Golf Association, which was won in 1904 (pictured) by American Walter Travis, who became the first The Amateur Championship winner to capture the North and South title.
For more golf images, see the golf category at Wikimedia Commons.
Did you know...
- ...that, although Scotland is home to Musselburgh Links, the oldest golf course on which play has been continuous since its opening, and is generally recognized as the birthplace of golf, the history of variants of golf in China and the Netherlands may predate that in Scotland?
- ...that Uruguayan professional golfer Fay Crocker became the first non-American to win an LPGA major championship at the 1955 United States Women's Open and the oldest-ever winner of a women's major championship at the 1960 Titleholders Championship?
- ...that the Vardon grip, named for its progenitor English golfer Harry Vardon, features a player's resting his dominant little finger on his non-dominant index finger?
- ...that American Champions Tour player Bruce Fleisher holds that tour's record for prize money won in one's rookie season, having earned US$2,515,705 in 1999 en route to claiming the Arnold Palmer Award as the tour's leading money-winner?
- ...that the flop shot, in which a player uses a lofted club, such as a lob wedge, to launch a ball at a very high angle with much backspin in order to minimize its distance, was popularized on the professional level by American Phil Mickelson (pictured)?
- I look into [my opponents'] eyes, shake their hand, pat their back, and wish them luck, but I am thinking, ?I am going to bury you?. -- Spanish professional golfer Seve Ballesteros, on his competitive nature and self-confidence
- Golf is an awkward set of bodily contortions designed to produce a graceful result. -- Scottish-American professional golfer Tommy Armour, on the beauty of golf as produced by the unnatural machinations of the golf swing
- They say golf is like life, but don't believe them: golf is more complicated than that. -- American professional golfer and golf course architect Gardner Dickinson
- Golf [is] the art of driving hard, avoiding the rough, surmounting traps and hazards, aiming straight, and arriving on the green at last, only to end up in a hole in the ground before your companions. The favored pastime of businessmen and their cronies, probably without a full appreciation of its metaphorical implications. -- American humorist and essayist Rick Bayan, in his 1994 The Cynic's Dictionary
- It is almost impossible to remember how tragic a place this world is when one is playing golf. -- Northern Irish essayist Robert Wilson Lynd, on the tranquility of the golf course
For more quotations, see the golf category at the English Wikiquote.
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