The game is played with a ball made of gutta percha having a diameter of 1% inches and weigh ing from 26 to 28 pennyweights, hit with such one of the clubs used as is most suitable for the accomplishment of a particular stroke. It is played over a course laid out over an open stretch of country, and the object is to hit the ball into each of the holes made for its reception successively in the fewest number of strokes: The number of holes is usually eighteen, but where the area available is limited, nine played twice round are made to do service. The distance of each hole from the striking-off place (or tee) depends upon the nature of the intervening land; from 100 to 500 yards is the usual, limit. In lay ing them out advantage is taken of such natural obstacles to straightforward play as ditches. walls, trees, hills, roads, or hollow places, so as to break up the total length into difficult portions, compelling the player to exercise judgment and skill. If there are no natural objects, or. hazards, artificial ones are introduced. such as a bunker made by hollowing out the earth and leaving it loose like sand in front of a hole, or an embank ment is raised at some selected spot. The game is played mostly by twos (singles), though some times by two pairs (or foursomes), and it may be either 'medal play' Or 'match play' In the former all the strokes of the game are added together at the end of the eighteen holes, and he who has completed the round in the lowest number of total strokes wins; or, if match play, each hole is counted separately to the one who makes it in the fewest strokes, the winner being the one who has most holes to his credit.
The play is begun by one player placing his ball on the tee, or striking-off place, and striking it with one of his clubs, called the driver, such a distance as will best land it in a favorable place for the next stroke. Then his opponent drives off, and they both proceed to where their respec tive balls have fallen. The first player then has to consider what club to use, having regard to the distance he wants to go, the kind of course he has to get over, and the direction of the wind, when he usually selects another kind of club, a 'brassie,' and with that projects the ball within twenty feet of the hole, around which the ground has been leveled and the grass cut short. This is `putting' the green. Then the second player plays. When both players are on the green, each selects a third kind of club—a shorter one, specially de signed for softer, gentler strokes, and each in turn 'puts' the ball until one of them succeeds in getting his ball to roll into the hole, which is 4% inches wide. So, with variations (and
they are the endless charm of the game), the two players continue until their ball has been into each of the eighteen holes. There are other kinds of clubs for getting the ball out of all sorts of difficult places, such as the `sleek,' which is long handled and used where the ball lies in a rut or difficult depression, the 'niblick,' used when the ball falls into sand, and others whose use the player will gradually learn. There are other combinations of players, too; such as the three ball match, inter-club match, club tournaments, and handicap play, the particular details of which it is not necessary to mention here.
The rules of the game all the world over are based upon those of the Saint Andrew's Club of Scotland, and in a general sense follow them. Players are divided into two classes, professional and amateur, and the national championships are three: One for men (amateurs), one for women (amateurs), and an open championship for men, in which amateurs are at liberty to enter.
In America the central authority is the United States Golf Association, organized December 22, 1894, when it consisted of the Chicago Golf Club, the Country Club of Brookline, the Newport Golf Club;and the Saint Andrews Golf Club of Yonk ers. It now (1902) consists of nearly two hun dred clubs, and there are subsidiary associations, the Metropolitan, Western, Southern, Intercol legiate, Western Pennsylvania, and Florida Golf Associations, the League of the Lower Lakes, the Pacific Northwest, New Jersey State, In diana State, and several women's associations. Outside these associations are hundreds of unas sedated clubs.
In the men's amateur championship the en tries are reduced by a preliminary sifting at medal play to the 64 lowest. These then play match play every consecutive day, whereby the numbers are day by day reduced, first to 32, then to 16, then to 8, then to 4, and finally to 2. The women's championship is not so exhaustive as the men's. In it the entries are reduced by one round at medal play to 32, who thereafter meet at match play in a round of 18 holes every consecutive day, as in the former case.
The open championship is a contest of four times round the links, 72 holes, at medal play.
Consult especially: Clark, Golf: A Royal and Ancient Game (New York, 1899) ; Kerr, The Golf Book of East Lothian (Edinburgh, 1896) ; Lee, Golf in America (New York, 1895) ; Travers, Practical Golf (New York, 1901) ; Hutchinson, Golf, "Badminton Series" (Londoh, 1890).