The Basics of Golf

Tee shot

The History of Putting

The game of golf can be traced back to the Romans in 100 BC, although the exact origin of the game is unknown and highly debated. The objective of the game is to get the ball in the hole in the least amount of swings possible.

More than 60 million people worldwide watch golf annually, making it one of the most watched sporting events on television. It is also one of the most competitive. Golf is unique in that the physical state of the players is not as important as their strategy and state of mind. It is one of the only athletic events where a younger player does not have an advantage over older players based on strength or endurance. In golf, those qualities are not as important as the ability to stabilize, focus and strategize.

The Basics of Golf

Although there are many terms and details of the sport, there is little you need to understand to enjoy, or even play, a round of golf. The basics are outlined below:

  1. The goal of the game is to make or meet par for each hole. Par reflects the maximum number of swings a player should need to get the ball in the hole. Par is set for each hole depending on the difficulty of the hole (ranging from three to five).
  2. Players hit the ball with one of 14 clubs. Each club has a purpose and helps the ball travel a certain distance and speed. Choosing the right club for each shot is a major part of the strategy that wins games.
  3. In golf, a low score represents a good game. In professional golf, the scores are almost always negative numbers.
  4. A standard game of golf consists of 18 holes (18 rounds); although some golf courses have nine holes and players are expected to play each hole twice for a full game.
  5. The Masters is to golf as the Super Bowl is to American football. The Masters is played in April. In 2015, Jordan Spieth won the Masters, setting the record for most birdies in a tournament. It was the first time in 39 years a golfer maintained a lead for the entire tournament. Spieth is only 21 years old.

Common Terms

There are more than 100 common terms in the game of golf. To sound like a professional the first time on the green, these are the 10 terms you need to know:

  1. Bogey – Score of one above par
  2. Birdie – Score of one under par (also see Eagle)
  3. Bunker – Shallow pit that serves as an obstacle on the green, usually a patch of sand. It is more difficult to hit the ball from a sunken bunker
  4. Caddie – Man or woman who carries the clubs from hole to hole for the player, and also assists with other tasks as needed (such as setting up the tee)
  5. Eagle – Score of two under par
  6. Green – Refers to the well-kept grassy area where you hit a ball
  7. Level-Par – Term describing a score of par
  8. Mulligan – Legally hitting the second ball (most common on the first hole)
  9. Par – Score the player is expected to achieve (or beat) on a particular hole. The par is determined by the hole’s difficulty and is set at a three, four or five
  10. Tee – Plastic or wood piece of equipment that is placed directly into the grass, creating a stable place for the golf ball to balance before being hit

Find a Course in Your Neighborhood

Golf is a sport that requires extreme concentration, but offers a fun way to get outside and spend time with friends and family. Find a golf course in your neighborhood and test your skills. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Jordan Spieth.

Additional Resources





  • Golf, by Mark Crossfield, available on iTunes for a fee
  • The Loop, by Brendan Mohler, available in the iTunes app store for free
Print Friendly, PDF & Email