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All you wanted to know about Golf but were afraid to ask!

FARMINGDALE, NY - AUGUST 24:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland working with putting coach Phil Kenyon of England during the pro-am as a preview for The Barclays in the PGA Tour FedExCup Play-Offs on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on August 24, 2016 in Farmongdale, New York.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
The top professionals too rely heavily on their coaches to keep their basics strong
Modified 02 Jun 2017, 15:25 IST

I often get asked a lot of questions about the basic rules of golf, and what my handicap is, even though most people asking have no clue what it really means!

In this month’s article, I would like to highlight some of the basic rules and terminologies that you may have heard about golf. The aim of this article is to serve as a primer for those who are unaware of the details of the sport.

Golf is an outdoor sport that is played using specially designed “clubs” and a ball. The aim of golf is to get the ball into the hole in the least number of strokes. Unlike in other sports where higher the score the better, in golf, the lower your score, the better.

The unique feature of golf is that the ball must be set into motion from a static position; consequently, the two critical factors are accuracy and distance control. In other similar sports like hockey or cricket, the player reacts to the ball that is already in motion. This makes golf look a lot easier than it actually is in reality. 

Although there may be exceptions, most golf courses consist of 18 holes that are divided into a combination of short par-3 holes, mid length par-4 holes and longer par-5 holes. The average number of shots that need to be taken per round is 72. 

Below is a video released by the United States Golf Associaition explaining how scoring in golf works:

A “par” on each hole is the number of shots a golfer is expected to complete the hole in. A handicap is the average number of shots that a golfer usually takes to complete a round based on her skill level. For example, if a golfer completes a round in 82 shots on an average, her handicap will be 10. 

Along the way, there are man-made or natural obstacles,which make the game more challenging. The two main types are sand traps called “Bunkers”, and water bodies like ponds, lakes, streams that are called “Water Hazards”. Penalties in the form of extra shots are added to the score if the ball goes into a water hazard, or outside the boundary walls of the golf course; the latter is termed, “Out of Bounds”.


The “Teeing Ground” or “Tee Box” is the designated area from where the first shot of each hole is played on to a “Fairway”, which is the well-manicured area of grass. From there an approach shot is made on to a “Green”, which generally has the smoothest surface of grass for “Putting” relatively shorter strokes into the hole. 

Each golfer can have up to a maximum of 14 clubs in the golf bag that are used to hit shots of varying distances and loft, based on the design of the club, and depending on the distance the player is from the hole.

After hitting a shot, you must wait for your playing partners to finish hitting their shots, and then walk to where your ball is lying, before hitting the next shot. This process repeats until you finish the hole, counting the number of shots taken to complete it. 

As I mentioned in one of my earlier articles, a golfer has a lot of time on hand walking from one shot to another, which may allow negative thoughts to creep into the mind, thus affecting performance. Being mentally strong and using breathing techniques becomes very important to keep the mind calm.


Unlike in indoor sports, another challenge that golfers face is adverse weather conditions since it is an outdoor sport. I have played tournaments in soaring temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius during the peak summers, where an 18-hole round typically lasts 5 hours. There have also been times in winters that the temperatures have been close to 2 or 3 degrees Celsius.

A round of golf only temporarily ceases during rain, if there is a threat of thunder or lightning, and the safety of players is in question. Wind directly affects the direction in which the ball flies, and adjustments must be made accordingly. 

For those who did not know much about golf, I hope I have highlighted some of the terminologies, and that your understanding of the sport has improved. Golf is truly a unique sport in many ways, and tests the character of a person. I urge everyone to try their hand at golf at some point of time. As is the case with most golfers, I promise you that you will get hooked on for life and wonder why you did not start playing this sport earlier!

I will leave you with the words of American Football player and coach, Lou Holtz, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – andit is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

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Published 24 Feb 2017, 17:50 IST
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