A Beginners Guide to Golf
Is it just a good walk spoiled or one of the best sports ever created, we'll let you decide. If you are keen to enter the world of golf then look no further than this beginners guide to all things golf.
What is golf?
Golf, on the surface at least, is a very simple game. The main objective is to hit the ball from the starting point, the tee, all the way into a hole in as few attempts, known as strokes, as possible, using only a golf club. There are many different types of golf clubs but we will go into more detail later. A round of golf is usually played over 18 holes, although people often play either the first or last 9 holes if they are short on time, these are known as the "front 9" and the "back 9". The winner is the player with the fewest strokes, or to put it simply, the person with the lowest score wins.
Types of golf clubs
There are several types of golf club and they can each be subcategorized further into specific types. Broadly speaking there are the drivers, the irons, the woods, the wedges and the putter.
The drivers vary by shaft length, stiffness and head size. The ideal shaft length is different for each person depending on their bodies proportions. The stiffness of the shaft is more of a personal preference and the head size, measured in CC, is based on how much control the golfer wants over the ball in the air. For example, a 440cc driver offers more control whereas a 460cc generally offers more forgiveness for the player.
The irons come in many different types with different striking surfaces, backs and shaft materials each level of player can find the ideal club for them. Broadly speaking, irons are either made from forged iron or cast iron. The shaft being made from either steel, graphite or a composite material. Irons are numbered from 2 to 9, although the most common iron sets are from 5 to 9, the lower the number the flatter the face of the club, therefore the flatter the trajectory of the ball and the further the distance the ball will be hit, or at least in theory. Wedges also usually fall under the category of irons, being treated as 10, 11 and 12 irons.
Woods are broken down into two main groups, drivers and fairway woods. Drivers are usually only used for driving the ball off the tee, after that the fairway woods (or irons) would be used. Fairway woods are usually numbered 2 and 3 woods. Again, there are variations in head size and material and shaft length and material which will affect how the club performs.
Wedges are clubs that are used to hit a high trajectory or "chip" the ball in to the air. A pitching wedge (PW) is often used to hit the ball from the rough or fairway when near to the green but too far away to use the putter. A sand wedge (SW) is usually used to get a wayward golf ball out of a sand bunker, which is a type of golfing hazard but we will get to that later.
Where is golf played?
Golf is truly a global sport with golf courses dotted all around the world. Golf was invented in Scotland, first mentioned on March 6th, 1457, by King James II in an Act of Parliament banning all citizens from playing the sport as it distracted them from their mandatory archery practice. As a Scottish game, some of the worlds best golf courses in the world can be found there, courses such as the St Andrews and Muirfield and the, much referenced, Trump Turnberry. But given it's global appeal some of the biggest and best golf courses can be found in the US. The current number 1 rated golf course is Cypress Point Club in CA. The next two are Pine Valley Golf Club and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in NJ and NY respectively. Widely considered the most important and certainly the most historical golf course in America is the National Golf Links of America, often referred to as just "The Links". All these golf clubs, whilst impressive, are often out of reach for the average player so check out your local area for a golf course, and I'm sure you will find one that you enjoy, even if you are a complete novice.
Parts of a golf course
There many different parts of a golf course, normally named after the type of ground surface. The place where every player starts is called the "Teeing ground" or the "Tee box" a square of normally artificial ground where players insert there "Tee" into the ground to rest the ball upon. The player then hits the ball from the Tee box through the air and hopefully landing on the "Fairway" an area of short and manicured grass lawn, either natural or artificial. If, however, the player has mishit the ball and it goes far to the left or the right then they may land in the "rough" which is an area of longer and coarser grass that makes it more difficult to hit the next shot. The rough can vary between grass only a few inches long to completely wild and unkempt areas of wilderness. The fairway leads all the way up to the "green" short for "putting green" which is a roughly circular area of very short grass around the hole itself. The short grass surface offers minimal resistance to the ball when the player decides to putt the ball into the hole using the Putter.
Playing golf would a lot easier, but arguably less fun, if there were no "hazards" on the course. A golf course hazard is an obstacle placed between the tee and the hole to make the game more challenging. A hazard can be separated into two broad types, water hazards such as rivers and lakes and man-made hazards such as "bunkers". A bunker, also known as a sand trap, is a deep sand pit placed on the course to trap the players ball and make it difficult to hit the ball out. For both types of hazards you are able to play where the ball from where it is, if possible, or you can move it to a nearby location as dictated by the Rules of Golf. If you move your ball then you are liable to a one stroke penalty on your game. So it's always best to avoid hazards where possible.
Golf season varies from place to place in the UK it's normally April to September, in the Northern United States its April to October and in the Southern United States it's normally extended to March to November. Of course you can play golf whenever you like but it's always wise to check the weather forecast first.
For the average person a golf tournament on TV will be where they first hear about the game of golf. Whether this is watching household names like Tiger Woods play at the PGA Tour or if you enjoy watching the Europeans and Americans duke it out in the Ryder Cup golf tournaments have been the main draw for new golfers.
As with any sport, golf is best learnt by doing. So get out there and find your local course or club and see how you fare. Remember to be patient, golf can be a very frustrating game and will definitely test your nerves. If you would like to practice the game without the aggravation of having to find your ball again, you should consider the driving range. Here you can buy a 100 balls and practice your form and technique before doing it for real.