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How to Play Golf: Explaining the Basics of this Frustrating Yet Rewarding Club-and-Ball Sport

by Joseph Hardison / , February 11, 2021

Does the game of golf frustrate you? On paper, it seems too complicated to understand even the basic rules of this often exasperating yet highly satisfying club-and-ball sport. However, if we tell you there is a process of building a lifelong love of golf, we promise you, if you read through this article on how to play golf, you will be able to play and understand the game like a pro.

The Objective

Let us first understand what every beginner should know before they enter a golf course. The objective of the game is to get your ball from the starting point (or tee), to the green, into the hole. Take note that you have to get your ball into the hole in as few shots as possible. It is also worth noting that the so-called “hole” is not only the actual hole, but also describes the entire area from the tee to the green where the flag marker is.

The Equipment

Now let us discuss the basic things you need to play golf. Obviously, you have to have a set of golf clubs, a golf bag, and a pair of gloves. In some cases, you might also need your own golf balls and tees.

Now let us move on to knowing and understanding which golf club to use for which shot.

Driver club

Its goal is to get the ball as far as possible towards the green.

Hybrid club

If your objective is to get shots of 150 yards plus airborne, then this is the way to go.

Two to nine iron

These are generally for hitting towards the green from 120 to 190 yards away. A simple rule of thumb is to use the low number two irons for longer shots, and the higher number irons for shorter shots.

Wedges

These are solely for hitting short, high shots from near the green and sand bunkers.

Putter

On the other hand, these are for rolling the ball into the hole after it is on the green or—in certain situations—from just off the green.

The Rules

To enjoy a game of golf entirely, you must know—at the very least—the basic rules. First off, it is imperative that you must hit the golf ball only by using standard clubs from the start of each hole, to the green, ultimately into the hole marked by the flag. A player strikes the ball in turn, with the furthest away from the hole going first. Having said these, it is probably safe to say that you cannot go “Happy Gilmore” at any point on the course.

Penalties

At the start of a new hole, whoever took the least shots on the preceding hole shall go first. The penalty for a lost ball is one stroke. This includes balls struck out of bounds or into water hazards.

You have five minutes to search for your ball, and the penalty is both stroke—one shot if the ball is lost—and distance, as you play again from your original starting position if it goes out of the playing area and/or into the water.

Gear

Players can use up to only 14 clubs. In addition, they cannot seek advice from anyone other than their partner or caddy. As for the ball, it should be played as it is found. You must not move, break, or bend anything fixed or growing other than assume your normal stance to improve the line, your ball, your line of sight, or your swing area.

A player can mark lift and clean his ball on the putting green so long as it is replaced precisely where it was. You may also repair ball marks or hole plugs, but not spike marks that are on the putting line.

The Scoring Terms

Golf has its own language. To a certain extent, you can compare it to tennis in terms of having or using jargons.

Ace

This simply means pulling a rare and impressive hole-in-one.

Par

Means the predetermined number of strokes that a scratch golfer should require to complete a particular hole.

Birdie

Means one stroke under par on a hole.

Bogey

On the flipside, means one stroke over par on a hole.

Double bogey

Means two strokes over par on a hole.

Eagle

Means two strokes under par on a hole.

Albatross or double eagle

Means three strokes under par on a hole.

The Tournament System

Most professional golfing events or tournaments use the stroke play system. These are typically held over four days, and the winner is the player who completes 72 holes, four rounds of a team in the fewest number of shots.

Conclusion

We hope that, in this article, you have learned the basic objectives, rules, equipment, and scoring system in golf. Consider this as your first step toward truly embracing the sport; the joy, the agony, and everything in between.

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