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Take a shot!   Thinking of playing golf?  We take a light-hearted look at courses, the basic rules and, of course, the all-important etiquette..

There are a wealth of courses out there, all with their own specially designed fairways, greens, bunkers and hazards, not to mention the rough!  Standing on the first tee, staring down the fairway, it can be hard to imagine how many strokes it is going to take before you actually get to the green, the soft, plush area surrounding the hole.  You may land in a sand-filled bunker, finish up in a stream or pond, veer off into the fringe or, worse, end up in the rough hunting for your ball in long grass and trees.  At the green it is not as easy as it looks to putt the ball into the hole as there are cambers, gradients, the lay of the grass and your own nerves to overcome first.

However, before you even pick up a club, whether it be a driver or putter, there are a few things to think about.

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If you are just starting out, the last thing you need is a course that beats you!  It can be overwhelming to take on an 18-hole golf course straight away so it is worth considering a smaller 9-hole venue.

For many, where their friends play can be a deciding factor, with welcome advice about drainage, where it is too flat, or if the green is too slow or too fast.  As you progress in the game these all become very important factors.

Each course is designed differently with interesting challenges such as bunkers and water hazards.  Ideally you want it to be varied too with long, short and straight holes as part of the play. If the gradient is too steep or the course design is too difficult you may not be able to actually make the shots with your existing skill level so think carefully about the type of game you are looking for and which clubs you will need.  In addition, some courses dictate the direction of play, whilst others allow you to change it up and play a different route.

How often do you want to play and how much are you able to plan ahead is the next big question.  Do you have to book a tee (a game) in advance or is flexible scheduling allowed?  Or should you become a member of a private club and enjoy priority and flexible times?

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These are based on the Par, the standard number of strokes the course expects you to take from the tee to the hole.  The idea is that you try to beat the Par, as well as your opponent.

Ace – brilliant, it’s a hole in one, straight from the tee and into the hole – that’s how to take a shot!

Eagle – an additional two strokes (two strokes under par).

Birdie – one stroke under par (also known as a double eagle).

Bogey – one stroke above par.

Double Bogey – two strokes above par.

Triple Bogey – three strokes above par.

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Handicaps (and we don’t mean the golf club)

The rules changed in January 2020 and you now need at least three scorecards to calculate your handicap.  This can be done on one of the many apps online using a standard formula and should be updated with the next three scorecards and so on.  Men’s handicaps tend to be between zero and 28, women’s from zero to 36.

Once you have your handicap you can play anyone, regardless of ability, as the handicap is designed to equalise the game and gives those with less experience a chance of victory!  However a large gap between handicaps can mean a very slow game for the more experienced person and may not be as enjoyable.

A low handicap means that you are pretty good but you won’t have as many strokes to play with!  On a par 72 course, for instance, a player with a handicap of five is expected to complete the course in no more than 77 strokes (five over par).  Someone with a handicap of 20 would have 92 strokes (20 over par).  If the five handicapper has an off-day and shoots 81, the score would be four over par but, if the opponent finishes with 94, their score would win with two over par.


Known as a “gentleman’s game”, golf has an etiquette all of its own, even during the fiercest competition.

“Clean up” after yourself: that means putting a grass divot back after you’ve hit the ball, or raking over the sand if you’ve been in the bunker.

Despite what you’ve seen in the movies, you really must keep quiet during someone’s backswing.

Avoid walking across someone else’s line (the line from their ball to the hole) as it can upset the lay of the land, literally.

Don’t hit the ball into a group that is ahead of you.  Wait for them to finish before you take a shot.

If you do make a mistake and your ball is heading towards a moving target, i.e. another golfer or group, shout FORE!

If a group behind you is playing faster, let them through.

Maintain your composure and avoid angry outbursts.

Abide by the rules (obtain a copy of the Rule Book to be sure).

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Basic Rules

It is said that Ian Woosnan was once fined two strokes because he had too many clubs in his bag.  You are allowed up to 14.

Tee-up within tee-box parameters and markers (yellow for men, red for ladies and white for medals).

Don’t play someone else’s ball!  It helps to mark your own with a coloured felt pen.  If you have to lift a ball to check, notify your opponent beforehand and mark the spot with a ball marker.

Play the ball where it lies (unless hazard rules apply or it’s on the putting green where you can mark it, lift it and clean it before placing it back on the exact spot).

Your opponent completes your scorecard so make sure it is correct before both of you sign it.

So now you know, go on, take a shot!


For more information on the game take a look at John Cook’s invaluable tips in previous issues in our articles section or see the original magazines at

First published in the July/August 2022 issue of The Local Buzz


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