Thursday, November 11, 2010
Golf 101 & My Passion for the Fairways & Greens
Depending on the season and weather, I love to be out on the golf course! It is a sport/hobby I picked up just a year ago with my uncle, a sport I always thought was pretty silly and lame. Growing up I never cared for sports much, my father played with his work buddies, my grandfather was passionate about it, having visited many courses around the country, but I just didn't "get it". That is until one day my uncle invited me out to go with him, to drive the cart while he played. After a few holes I was intrigued and wanted to give it a whack myself! It was addicting, a lot of fun, good exercise, and it's a great way to have some fun an test your skills!
Here in Battle Creek, Michigan we have many wonderful courses to choose from, public and members only. It really isn't too costly to start and play, but it an be if you go nuts for it. However, if you're good and Tigeresque, you could make millions in the pros! Or at least become a local legend...
When the weather turns south, like now as winter comes, the courses close up until spring, unless your fortunate enough to live in laces like Florida, Arizona, or California, as an example, where the climate allows for year around golfing. Or if you have the time and money, you could always travel out of state and even out of country to experience great golfing anytime of the year. It is my dream to hit the courses of St. Andrew's in Scotland, as well as others around the world.
I am not a pro, and I am not particularly skilled, but in just a year I have come a long ways. I am not the most knowledgeable on the game, and I don't really follow the pro sport, but I like to catch some of it on the Golf channel now and again to see how the pros play and what courses they play, that I have "played" on the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise for the PlayStation. If I'm low on cash or the weather is sucking, I always have my Tiger Woods on the PlayStation. And you know what? You can actually learn a lot from it, and I do believe it has helped my own game. Still, there is nothing to compare to real world experience. Practice makes perfect!
Basically in golf you are hitting a little ball with a stick! That is how the sport first was started back in the 15th century by sheep herders in Scotland. They knocked around a rock with a stick or their staff along natural trails and obstacles. Over the centuries it as evolved and science even plays a great role in the sport nowadays as courses and equipment are designed for optimal play and challenge.
The basic rule of golf is to hit the ball well, get it close to the hole, and to "putt" the ball into the hole with as few strokes as possible. Each course has 18 holes, that is standard, though smaller area courses may just be 9 holes, or larger courses may offer 2 or more courses, each with 18 holes, for beginners, amateurs, and the more experienced. Each "hole", which means from start to finish, has a scoring "par". Ever us or hear the term, "Par for the course"? Par means a definitive number or amount, equally no more or less than stated.
In golf, each hole has a par of strokes, the number of times you should hit the ball before getting it in the hole. There are Par 3's, Par 4s, and Par 5's, meaning respectively, on a Par 3 you should hit the ball no more than 3 times, making your hole on the 3rd hit...4 times for a Par 4, and 5 times for a Par 5. There are penalties for hitting it more than your "Par", and t be a better and great player, it is always good to make it "Under Par", that is making your hole in less strokes than required. Official course rules allows for a standard Par of 72 for an entire game of 18 holes. To make Par for the course, you should score exactly 72, making par every hole. Making Under Par throughout the course is great, while Over Par is not so much!
Golf s a game where you play against the course, against nature and the design of the course, against yourself, and you can also play against a friend or many others. You can team up, and there are variations to the rules to make for more challenging or fun games. As with many other games/sports there are handicaps for different levels of players and the courses. No 2 holes are exactly the same, as you have to take into count the levelness of the ground, the weather (wind, rain), the distance and design of each hole, and such things as obstacles (trees, rough ground, tall grass, sand bunkers...)
Courses all over the world are designed in many different ways, but with standards as dictated by the PGA, the Pro Golfers Association. Some courses have a PGA rating, because they meet or exceed certain pro sport standards for the course, but a course can be made and played by anyone, in any fashion.
A course is designed for aesthetics and challenge of the game. Many courses around the world, and even locally, are a showcase of the area's naturally beauty, and man's creativity. Great thought and care is taken to create and maintain a course, using special types of grass, elevations, and "routes" from the Tee position to the Green, where the Flag/Pin and Hole is. Each hole, and the course as a whole may use several different types of grass that hold up to wear and tear, and the seasons, and utilize the natural beauty and obstacles of trees, brush, rocks, or man made creeks, sand bunkers, etc...
You start your game at the Tee Box, or the Drive. You commonly use the Driver club, designed to really whack the hell out of that poor ball! Depending on distance, the Fairway, and obstacles, you may club-down to a 3 or 5 Wood, or a 1 or 2 Iron. Each club is designed, in principle, for different distances, height, and shot types, to be determined by the players skill, style, or the lie of their ball. This is what the Caddy does if you ever watch a game of golf, they too are good players, and help chose the right club for the occasion, for the player. This is one of my faults in the game, as I have yet to master knowing what club to use, and what my skill is for each club. A great way to test this is using a Driving Range, where you can practice striking the ball with each of your clubs, with varying power and distances, to get a feel for what you will use on the course. I go now and again, but I prefer the experience and practice on the course, myself.
Players have different styles by which they an hold and strike the ball, it's important to try and learn them and practice them, to find what works best for you, and what is best for the condition of where your playing and what you want to achieve. Sometimes accuracy and laying-up is more important than taking out your frustrations by "killing" the ball. It just depends on what you want to achieve. My drives are generally pretty low and not too far, though I get some pretty good ones now and again. I practice to improve getting my ball higher, and further, but also straighter. I hate missing the Fairway to left or right, especially when I loose a ball to the woods, deep brush, or some creek, pond. Where your ball drops, rolls, and comes to lie will greatly determine your next shot, what club, and how easy to make par or better, or worse.
The Tee position often has at least 3 different positions, the furthest back from the fairway is the most experienced golfers position, allowing for a longer hole, and for those who are power hitters. Many courses have a map of each hole and tells you the distance from that tee to the flag/hole. The middle tee is for the average golfer, and the shorter tee, closest to the Fairway, commonly called the Woman's Tee, for beginners and those who do not hit very far. I have worked my way from the Women's Tee to the middle Tee! The Tee area is made of a different grass than the rest of the course, it is very short and hardy, as it is trampled and gouged by club swings, called divots. Good etiquette here is to replace the divot if you see the chunk of sod you drove with or instead of the ball, lol, but many places offer a bucket of dirt and seed that you can place and tap with your foot, to help maintain the course. After all, if maintenance prices increase, so does the cost of your game! Also, you should be quiet when someone is taking their stroke, be behind the player to not inhibit their drive, or for safety in-case of an errant ball flies back and to the side (it happens and could be lethal). You never drive a cart upon the tee grass, take a good look at it, you can see the difference.
The Fairway may not always be flat land, it can have elevations and dips, it may carry the ball to the left or right, it mind wind its way to the Green like a snake...Many courses, if you look closely, and this is true on the PlayStation, the Fairway grass looks banded with lighter and darker rows...like you might see of some peoples lawns. This is done to show the direction of the Fairway, the ball will generally follow that line, but this isn't something all courses have, or that can be completely dependant on. Depending on your lie, the position of the ball, and the distance to the Green, your next shot will be the Approach shot, meaning you are approaching the Green, your goal to get it in the cup, the hole, or at least very close for a easy Putt. If your on a Par 4, this is your 2nd stroke, you should be able to make the Green or very close. On a Par 5 you will be taking a 3rd stroke to reach the Green, unless your very good. On Tiger Woods PGA for PlayStation I am THAT good. In real life? A Par 5 is like a Par 10 for me, lol!
You should always be careful and aware of what is going on around you. A stray ball can be deadly. Don't strike if people are still on the fairway. It's usually okay to drive if folks are on the green, but better form to just wait. Most courses have these holes lying alongside one another, so a stray ball is always possible, you must yell out, FORE! as a warning, if it appears your ball may be heading in the general direction of others. This warns them to watch out, take cover! It happens, else there wouldn't be a word for it!
The Green is where you want to end up, close to the hole if not already getting the ball in. Putting is where you're true test of the game is. There is a saying in golf, "Drive for show and putt for dough,". All your shots to the green have amounted to getting you to make Par, hopefully, but putting can really kill your game. Many courses offer a putting practice zone where you can practice. And don't think for a minute that Miniature Golf doesn't help. It actually can.
The Green is made of different grasses, it is very short like carpet. Some green may be soft, some ma be hard. This means your ball may plop down and lie down dead, it may bounce and roll away...The Green area may be elevated above the Fairway, it may lie down from the Fairway. The Green itself is a game unto itself. It may have twists and curves, you may be putting uphill or down, you don't always luck out with a straight even shot to the hole, or the cup. But that is your goal, to get it in with few shots, hopefully just one if it didn't skillfully or luckily roll in on your approach for a Birdie or Eagle, or a god-shot: the Albatross.
When putting you use the putter, a special club designed just for that. It all depends on the lie, the speed, your luck and skill. Taking more shots than par results in a bad score, Bogey for 1 Over Par, Double Bogey for 2 Over Par, Triple Bogey for 3 Over Par, and so on with a cut off of 10 strokes. You never really have to count or take a score past the tenth, if its not in, by that 10th shot, your taking a 10 over, which equals: 13 for a Par 3, 14 for a Par 4 and a 15 for Par 5. Playing outside of official games you should keep putting, if no one is waiting for you. This gives you practice with different lies and distances. My goal is to always get it to at least stop right next to the hole, if not going in. I hate, but commonly over shoot the hole.
My uncle says it is a game you love to hate, and it is true. It can be very frustrating, but the challenges are also what makes it interesting. Your playing outside, under different and sometimes uncontrollable conditions to test your skill and luck. It's great way to spend a morning, afternoon, or evening on your own, with a friend, or a small group; fresh air, nature, friendship, exercise...FORE!
Posted by G.J. LENTZ at 2:29 PM