BBC Sport golf


Related BBC sites

A guide to the rules of golf

The aim of golf is simple: hit a small ball into a hole with the fewest possible shots, 18 times.

Golfer on the tee
Find out about variations of golf

Unlike other sports, a golfer's real enemy is never his or her opponent but him/herself and more importantly, his or her surroundings.

That is one reason why the game has managed to keep a sense of sportsmanship at its heart - because even at the highest level golfers are united in their battle against the course as much as each other.

If you're new to the sport, either as a player or spectator, our guide to the basics will provide an insight into what it's all about.


A standard golf course is made up of 18 holes.

That is just about the only thing all golf courses have in common.

The first shot on each hole is played from a teeing area (known as a tee) with the ball usually being placed on a plastic or wooden peg (also known as a tee).

Bunker at a golf course
Every golf course is unique

The rest of the hole consists of a mixture of long grass called rough or a closely-mown stretch of grass known as the fairway which leads to the green, where the hole is.

As well as rough, there may be other hazards to contend with such as bunkers and streams.

A flagstick sits in the hole to show the target - usually with yellow flags on the first nine holes and red on the second nine.

Most courses are around 6,000 yards long and take between three and four hours to play 18 holes, which involves walking about five miles.


In basic terms your score on a golf course is made up of the number of shots you take, plus any penalties you may incur.

So if you take 90 shots to go around a course and your friend takes 92, you are the winner.

Golf scoring terms
Albatross: Three shots less than par
Eagle: Two shots less
Birdie: One shot less
Bogey: One shot more
Double bogey: Two shots more
Triple bogey: Three shots more Contd....

Scoring centres around the "par" for the course.

This is the number of shots that it takes a top golfer to go around, usually between 70 and 72.

And each hole has a par according to its length and difficulty. A par-three hole lets you have three shots.

Let's say you score 92 on a par 72 course. Your score will be 20 over par.

Similarly if you score five on a par-four hole, you will be one over par for the hole.

In addition golf allows you to play against better players by giving you extra shots, almost like a head start.

This is called handicapping.


There are many rules that apply to golf but unlike many other sports, unless it is a tournament, there is no need for a referee or umpire.

Players must know the rules themselves, be honest about the number of shots they take and play the ball as it lies.

Moving or interfering with the ball is a big no-no, although there are some exceptions.

If you lose your ball or hit it in a lake then you will have to add strokes to your score before you can play on.

But generally common sense prevails.


The great American golfer Bobby Jones said: "In golf, the customs and etiquette and decorum are as important as the rules of play."

The host of dos and don'ts can seem petty, especially at the more elitist clubs.

Golf divot
Be sure to replace those divots

But this code of conduct has allowed golf to retain its sporting values despite becoming a multi-million pound global industry.

At its heart are two principles - respect for the course and respect for fellow golfers.

Examples include not talking during a player's swing, not walking on the line of their putt on the green, raking bunkers, repairing pitch marks and replacing divots.


related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.