We explain what golf is, in what formats it is played and how points are counted. In addition, we tell you how its origin and its history were.

Golf player Chinnarat Phadungsil manages to remove the ball from a sandbank with one stroke.
Golf is a sport associated with the wealthy classes and especially with Anglo-Saxon culture.

What is golf?

The golf is an outdoor individual competitive sport whose objective is to introduce a small, light ball into a set of holes distributed in the field, using the fewest number of attempts possible. For this a set of metal and wooden sticks are used, designed with different angles and to cover different lengths. Those who play golf are known as golfers.

Although it is a sport of probable Scottish origin, there are those who suggest that the name “golf” comes from the Dutch word kolf (“stick” or “club”). Other etymologies, on the contrary, affirm that they are actually the initials of Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden (“gentlemen only, ladies prohibited”), an inscription that used to be painted on signs located in the sports fields, which were part of gentlemen’s social clubs.

Golf is an extremely popular sport in the modern world and is today considered an Olympic sport, thanks to its reintegration into the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. Until then he had been absent from the Olympics for 112 years, since the 1904 St. Louis Olympics.

It is also a sport associated with the wealthy classes and especially with Anglo-Saxon culture: the vast majority of its champions and outstanding players are Americans, English, South African or Australian.

See also: Individual sports

Origin and history of golf

A portrait from 1790 shows a golfer and his caddy.
In Scotland the first golf players’ associations were created in 1744.

The exact origins of golf are uncertain. It is known that a similar sport was practiced in Scotland and Holland at the end of the Middle Ages.whose name varies between kolven, colf and even chole, in French. However, The first written mention of golf is found in two acts of the Scottish Parliament from the 15th century, in which the practice of this sport was prohibited. For this reason it is considered probable that it was a Scottish invention.

The golf It was banned in Scotland for much of the 15th century., until peace between England and Scotland allowed its practice again, especially in light of the fact that King James IV practiced it, judging by records of expenditures on golf clubs made for the monarch. Thanks to this association between sport and royalty, It became popular throughout Great Britain throughout the 16th centuryto such an extent that King James VI appointed William Mayne, the first known club maker, as Royal Clubmakerthat is, “royal club maker.”

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In that century the first golf courses also appeared, of which the oldest is the Old Links at Musselburgh Racecourse, in Scotland, where the first golf players’ associations were also created in 1744: the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (“The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers”) and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (“The real and ancient golf club of San Andrés”).

The following year, also in Great Britain, the first official regulations of this sport were created, and In 1857 the first golf manual in history appeared: “The Golfer’s Manual”, written under a pseudonym by the British author Henry Brougham Farnie (1836-1889).

The golf It became popular first in Europe and then in other geographies, especially with the British Empire. in the XIX century. It was played for the first time in the Olympic Games in the Paris edition of 1900 and then in the Saint Louis (United States) edition of 1904. In both editions only the United States and Canada participated, and only with male athletes; then it was not played again in the Olympic context until 2016. The first women’s golf club was founded in St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1967.

Golf Basics

A golf team can have up to 14 different clubs.
Golf clubs are designed with different angles to cover different lengths.

The golf It is played individually, but 2 to 4 players can compete per game, each one equipped with a number of clubs between 5 and 14 different ones. The game does not have a set time, but depends on how long it takes the players to do the (normally) 18 holes of the course. The starting point on this route is always the same, a small, flat surface known as tee either tee box. Similarly, the arrival zone where the hole is located is called green.

Players compete against each other to see who can get their respective ball into all the holes using the fewest number of strokes., for which they must avoid obstacles and accidents present in the field, such as lakes, trees, hills and sandbanks. Each hole normally has a set number of strokes in which it can be completed (known as pairof English professional average result“average professional result”) and which will be higher depending on the difficulty of the course.

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There are three golf game formats:

  • Stroke play. In this mode, the number of total strokes per player is counted, from the beginning to the end of the course. This involves playing the 18 holes (in large tournaments, however, it is 72 holes, since they last 4 days). Once all players have completed the field, the player who has hit the ball the fewest times will be the winner.
  • match play. In this mode players assign a number of holes to play (9 or 18, usually) and compete to see who wins the most. To determine who won each hole, the number of strokes each person took is compared.
  • Stableford play. In this mode, players compete hole by hole, assigning different points according to the number of strokes used to complete it, that is, depending on whether they make the right number of strokes, or less. At the end of the course, whoever has the most points assigned will win the competition.

Golf balls have an average diameter of 42.67 mm and a weight of 45.93 g.. One, two, three or more layers can be used in each game, depending on the type of competition (professional, amateur, etc.). The clubs, for their part, belong to each player, who carries them in a leather bag, installed in a cart or bag holderor carried by a caddythat is, a pawn.

golf score

In golf game modes that involve scoring, the following table is used at the end of each hole to determine how many points to assign to each player:

Name Points Meaning
Double Bogey 0 The hole is completed with two or more strokes over par.
Bogey 1 The hole is completed with a stroke over par.
Pair 2 The hole is completed with the correct shots.
Birdie 3 The hole is completed with a shot under par.
Eagle 4 The hole is completed with two strokes under par.
Albatross 5 The hole is completed with three strokes under par.
Condor 6 The hole is completed with four strokes under par.

Furthermore, there is talk of hole in one when the ball is entered into the hole with the first and only stroke.

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golf playing field

A golf course can be seen from above.
The golf course may have trees, lakes, sand traps and other obstacles.

Unlike other sports, The golf playing field does not have standardized measurements, but it can be very different depending on its location and its nature. These are very large surfaces, each made up of:

  • A teestarting point of the tour.
  • A greenarrival point.
  • fairway, smooth extension that separates the previous two.
  • Rough, rougher extension that is also between the first two.

Additionally, in each field there may be a variable number of trees, lakes, sand traps (bunker) and other obstacles.

Golf courses can be classified into two categories:

  • Professional fields. Those in which the sum of the distances of the 18 holes exceeds 7000 yards or 6400 meters.
  • tourist fields. Those in which the sum of the distances of the 18 holes is less than 7,000 yards or 6,400 meters.

The 18 holes of a course are normally identified (hole 1, hole 2, hole 3) and can sometimes have their own, commemorative or special names, and have their own designs. In addition, Each field is delimited by colored stakes, to mark the playing area. If a player’s ball lands outside the limits of play (such as the bottom of a lake), a penalty stroke will be added and he or she may hit another ball as close as possible to the place where the previous one was lost.

Playing handicap

Golf player Lee Bo-mee hits the ball at a championship in Thailand.
A player’s handicap is determined by the results obtained in official competitions.

In golf jargon, We speak of handicap to express the difficulty value of a course or a hole, as well as the average playing value of a player. That is, it is a term to express the level of play. In the case of federated players, the handicap is measured with a number from 0 to 48with decimals, determined by the results obtained in official competitions.

Instead, In the case of holes, the handicap is expressed with a digit between 1 and 18, where lower numbers express greater difficulty. Likewise, to determine the handicap of a course, meteorological factors, terrain, grass conditions and the competition category of professional players are taken into account, and a figure is established that can, in certain cases, replace the par assigned, to make the competition fairer.

Continue with: Types of sports


  • “Golf” on Wikipedia.
  • “Etymology of Golf” in Online Spanish Etymological Dictionary.
  • “Description of golf” in the International Olympic Committee.
  • “Golf Swing Basics” (video) on SL Productions.
  • “Golf (sport)” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.