Golf was first developed in Scotland in the 15th century but is now played all round the world by both professional and amateur players.
The aim of golf is to hit a small ball from a tee (= a flat area of grass) into a hole on a green (= a very finely cut area of grass), which may be up to 600 yards (550 metres) away, using as few shots (= hits) as possible. Most golf courses consist of 18 holes . To make play more difficult they are often hilly and have various natural and man-made hazards such as lakes, bunkers (= pits filled with sand), and rough , long grass or trees on either side of the fairway .
Each player has their own ball and several different types of club ( woods , irons and a putter ) with which to hit it. The club chosen depends on the type of shot the player needs to make. In professional tournaments each player has a caddie to carry their bag of clubs from one hole to the next and to advise them on their play. Players try to finish each hole in a given number of shots, which is known as par . If they use one shot less than par they score a birdie ; if they use two shots less they score an eagle ; if they use three shots under par they score an albatross . If they manage to get the ball into the hole in a single shot they can claim a hole in one . If they use a shot more than par they score a bogey . A handicap is an advantage given to weaker players which is expressed as a number related to the number of shots above par. Professional golfers have a handicap of zero. At the end of a round (= all 18 holes), the player with the lowest score is the winner. Professional matches may consist of several rounds. The result sometimes depends on the total number of shots players have taken ( strokeplay ), or else on the number of individual holes each player has won ( matchplay ).
Golf began as a sport of the upper classes and in Britain it continues to attract mainly people in business and the professions. The game is quite expensive to play and membership of the most popular golf clubs may cost a lot of money. The most famous British clubs include the Royal and Ancient at St Andrews , where the first official rules of golf were agreed in 1754, Muirfield and Wentworth . Golf may have been taken to America by people from Scotland in the 17th century, but the first permanent club was not established there until 1888, in Yonkers, New York.
There are four important international competitions for professional golfers, known as the majors , three of them held in the US. The Masters Tournament is always held at Augusta, Georgia. The others are the US Open and the US PGA Championship . The British Open is regarded as the world’s top golf tournament. US and European teams also compete every two years in the Ryder Cup . The major US competitions for women include the US Women’s Open and the LPGA Women’s Championship . Amateur events include the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup . Television has helped to increase the popularity of the game, and many new golf courses have been created.
Many people who do not play golf enjoy a game of crazy golf ( AmE miniature golf ) in a local park. The idea is to hit a golf ball round a small grass and concrete course of nine holes, through tunnels, over bridges, round small pools, etc. Others enjoy putting , a miniature form of golf on a small grassy course.