Golf Basics

Anatomy of a golf course

Golf is played by holes. It should be noted that "hole" can mean either the actual hole in the ground into which the ball is played, or the whole area from the teeing ground (an area of specially prepared grass from where a ball is first hit) to the putting green (the area around the actual hole in the ground). Most golf courses consist of 9 or 18 holes. (The "nineteenth hole" is the colloquial term for the bar at a club house.) For the shortest holes a good player requires only one stroke to hit the ball to the green. On longer holes the green is too far away to reach it with the first stroke , so that one or more strokes are played from the fairway (where the grass is cut so low that most balls can be easily played) or from the rough (uncut grass or ground not prepared at all).

Bunkers at Filton Golf Club, Bristol, England
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Bunkers at Filton Golf Club, Bristol, England

Many holes include hazards, namely bunkers (or sand traps), from which the ball is more difficult to play than from grass, and water hazards (lakes, ponds, rivers, etc.). Special rules apply to playing balls that come to rest in a hazard, which make it highly undesirable to play a ball into one. For example, a player must not touch the ground in a hazard with a club prior to playing a ball, not even for a practice swing. A ball in a water hazard may be played as it lies or may be replaced by dropping another ball outside the water, but a penalty is incurred in the latter case.

The grass of the putting green is cut very short so that a ball can roll over distances of several metres. "To putt" means to play a stroke on the green where the ball does not leave the ground. The direction of growth of individual blades of grass affects the rolling of a golf ball and is called the grain. The hole must have a diameter of 108 mm and a depth of at least 100 mm. Its position on the green is not static and may be changed from day to day. This hole on the green has a flag on a pole positioned in it so that it may be seen from some distance (but not necessarily from the tee). It is also termed "the pin".

The borders of a course are marked as such, and beyond them is out of bounds, that is, ground from which a ball must not be played. Special rules apply to certain man-made objects on the course (obstructions) and to ground in abnormal condition.

Every hole is classified by its par. The par of a hole is defined by the distance from tee to green. Typical values for a par-three hole range from 100 to 224 m, par-four hole from 225 to 434 m, and a par-five hole from 435 m. Par is also the theoretical number of strokes that an expert golfer should require for playing the ball into any given hole. The expert golfer is expected to reach the green in two strokes under par (in regulation) and then use two putts to get the ball into the hole. Many 18-hole courses have approximately four par-three, ten par-four, and four par-five holes. The total par of an 18-hole course is usually around 72.

At most golf courses there are additional facilities that are not part of the course itself. Often there is a practice range, usually with practice greens, bunkers, and a driving area (where long shots can be practiced). There may even be a practice course (which is often easier to play or shorter than other golf courses). A golf school is often associated with a course or club.



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