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Fan's Guide to Golf Rules and Basics Page 2 of 5 (Essentials)

golf player1- History & Object
2- The Essentials (Scoring, Competion, etc.)
3- Equipment
4- Course Diagram
5- Glossary of Golf Terms

The Essentials

Getting Started

A player is usually grouped with 3 other golfers, forming a foursome. A round of golf typically consists of 18 holes and starts on the Number 1 tee. Players tee-off to start, and with the exception of short Par 3s, each hole begins with a drive. On the first hole, the players decide the order that they will tee-off. After the first hole, the player with the lowest score on the previous hole hits first. After every player has hit his first shot on each hole, the player who is away, or farthest from the hole, hits.

Game Length

The amount of time it takes to complete a standard 18 holes of play — commonly referred to as a “round” varies, but the clock is not a determining factor. An average round will last about four hours.


Standard scoring is calculated by comparing total strokes—attempts to hit the ball—against what is par for the course. Typically, the par system determines how many strokes it should take an experienced player to reach the green and then allows two strokes to putt the ball into the hole. Distance and difficulty determine whether the hole is Par 3, 4, or 5. For instance, when the green is reachable on the first shot, the hole is Par 3. The longest holes, usually 500 yards or more, typically take 3 shots to reach the green and are called Par 5s. Par 4s make up the majority of the holes and take two shots to reach the green. Scores on each hole are either under par, even with par, or over par. Four terms typically describe the score on a specific hole: eagle, birdie, par, and bogie. Two strokes under par is an eagle; the extremely rare feat of three strokes under par is a “double-eagle.” One stroke under par is called a birdie. Hitting the same number of strokes as par for the course is called even with par. One stroke over par is called a bogey, two strokes over par is a “double bogey,” three over par is a “triple bogey,” etc.

Cumulative scores are also calculated in relationship to par (e.g. four over par through the first seven holes).

Competitive golf

Most tournaments or matches adhere to medal play, often called “stroke play,” where the lowest total number of strokes determines the winner. In high school matches, the top five players from each team compete, and are seeded by handicap. The top player from one team plays the top player from the other team, the second player from one team plays the second player from the other team, and so on. In each match, the golfer with the lower score earns one point for the team. The results of these five head-to-head matches determine the winning school. College competitions and high school championships are played as tournaments that use the cumulative team total of the top five players of each team to declare a winner. Individual scores are also tallied to determine the best players in the tournament. Most professional tournaments use medal play format, and each golfer represents himself (no teams). Some tournaments use the match play format, in which the total score is not tracked; instead, the player who wins more individual holes than his opponent wins the match.


The key to success in golf is mastery of the swing. The world’s best golfers are always adjusting their swing in order to improve their game. Players concentrate on their alignment, stance, grip, and motion when swinging the clubs. Once the player has “addressed” the ball (proper alignment, stance, and grip), he starts the swing motion. The swing motion begins with the backswing, in which the player brings the club backwards, away from the ball. At the top of the backswing, the player begins the downswing, contacts the ball, and completes the swing with a follow-thorough.

Types of shots

The typical sequence of shots is drive, fairway shot or pitch, and then putt. Additional types of shots are required, such as the chip shot or punch, depending on ball location and course conditions. Additionally, advanced players can control the trajectory of the ball by hitting it with spin. Controlled shots include balls hit with backspin, slice, fade, hook, or draw.



Golf is played on the honor system and, except at high levels of play, referees are not used. Instead, golfers are responsible to keep track of their own scores. Typically, there are several golf course employees who help manage play, such as the starter, who determines the order and spacing between groups on the first tee, and the marshal, who keeps order on the course once play has started.

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