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Golf: The Basics

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Golf is played over a series of holes called a golf course. Most golf courses are made up of 18 holes, but some have 9 holes. Each golf course is unique in size, shape, length, hazards, and terrain and each hole on a given golf course is unique.

Sand traps on a golf course Photo by Ducksters

A golf hole has the following major components:

Tee Area: This is where play begins. The golf ball may be placed on a tee for the first shot of the hole.

Fairway: The main area between the tee and the green. The grass is cut shorter on the fairway to allow for easier shots. Golfers try to keep the ball in the bounds of the fairway when they are between the tee and the green.

Green: This is the area where the hole is located. The grass on the green is cut short and greens are very smooth to allow the ball to roll when putted.

Hole: The hole is a cup that is inserted into the ground. There is a flag that sticks out of the hole to allow golfers to see it from a distance.

Hazards: Many holes are made more difficult with hazards like ponds and sand traps. These are to be avoided by the savvy golfer.

Playing a hole of golf

Golf starts at the tee area. A player may place the ball on a golf tee in order to get a better shot. The golf ball must be placed between and even with or behind the tee markers. This first shot is called a drive. On a par 3 hole the goal is to place the golf ball on the green with the tee shot. On longer holes the goal is to hit a drive as far as you can, but keeping the ball on the fairway.

The next series of shots are to advance the golf ball close to or on the green. When the ball gets close to the green the golfer will try to pitch the ball such that it hits the green area and comes to a stop near the hole.

Once the golf ball is on the green, the golfer will use the putter. With the putter the golfer will try to roll the ball into the hole.

Children playing golf
Source: Library of Congress

Types of golf shots

Throughout the play of a hole, various types of golf shots are needed. Some of these include:

The tee shot: This shot is often made with a driver off a tee for long golf holes, or with an iron on shorter holes. When trying to go a longer distance, that ball should be hit with a low trajectory so the ball will go far and also roll once it hits the ground. Short shots should have a higher arc so that they may stop quickly.

The fairway shot: This golf shot is similar to a tee shot, with similar goals, but a tee may not be used. Most players use a higher golf club for the fairway than they would from the tee.

A bunker shot: This shot is taken from the bunker or sand trap. Typically an iron with a high pitch or sand wedge is used for this shot in order to be sure to get the ball up and out of the trap.

Putt: When the ball is on the green, a putter is used to 'putt' the golf ball. The golf ball rolls on the ground.

Pitch or Fop: These are high approach shots that makes the golf ball fly high and roll very little, stopping more or less where it hits the ground. Pitches are usually taken with a wedge.

Chip: This shot is a low approach shot where some roll after the ball hits the green is wanted.

Golf is generally a game of great concentration and practice. Many golfers go to driving ranges and practice greens for hours and hours just to improve a specific shot or putt.

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