November 6, 2023

How golf is played

How Golf is Played

Golf is a very popular sport worldwide with an estimate of 60'000'000 players around the world, 30'000 golf courses and a history dating back to the 1400s.  Therefore it is no surprise that you are here reading this article - and for that, Congratulations!

Golf is an amazing sport with much more than only miraculously trying to get a tiny white ball into another tiny hole that is 600 yards away from where you start, in strokes less than you can count on one hand.

Golf also puts you out there, in nature, in good company and in (very often) beautiful surroundings. It lets everyone participates, from a 10-year-olds all the way up to seniors enjoying their retirement. And in the middle - a huge competitive professional arena that is drawing the attention of millions every year on the PGA tour, Masters tournaments and more.

The Game of Golf

Golf is played with between 1-4 players, usually 18 holes with the objection of completing every hole in the least amount of strokes. Golf is rarely played in teams and this makes golf a competition both between your opponents and you, but also a competition with yourself! Golf is a constant battle in order to reduce your handicap, improve at the game and complete the holes and courses in fewer strokes.

When playing golf you either have a golf cart to get around, that you use yourself or share with one other golfer or you use a golf trolley. The golf trolley option is a bit more common in Europe than it is in the US. Some people still decide to carry their golf clubs but it often depends on the weather (how much i.e. rain clothes you need to have in your bag), how long the course is and if you are playing 9 or 18 holes.

A golf bag is allowed to contain 14 clubs and you are not allowed to swap clubs during the round. The set-up for a standard golf bag usually looks something like this:

Example of a standard Golfbag-setup:

  • 1 Putter
  • 1 Driver
  • 7 Irons (4-Pw)3 Wedges (with different lofts)
  • 1 rescue club (for long fairway shots or though terrain)
  • 1 Fairway wood (sometimes called "3-wood")
  • How golf is played

    Other useful equipment to load into your bag would preferably be:

    • Golf balls (if you are new, it's often reassuring to know you have spares!)
    • An umbrella
    • Windjacket/Rainjacket
    • Sunscreen! (Common mistake not to apply sunscreen)
    • Sunglasses
    • An extra glove (in case of!)
    • Pitchfork (to fix green hits)
    • Ball pencil marker (So you can mark your balls)
    • Green marker (for lifting your ball before putting)
    • Tees! (Rather too many than too few)
    • Water bottle! A lot of golf course have taps at every second hole to fill up.

    For a great article on what to look for, read this article - "5 Best Iron Sets for Beginners 2019"

    As previously mentioned you play in groups or alone from 1-4 players. In busy periods or at popular golf courses you will usually be paired up with more players in order to fill every tee-time with 4 players. This is usually done when you are booking online or if the golf club is trying to optimize the schedule. Handicap level is not taken into consideration.

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    Golfers are always instructed to be ready and at the tee 5 minutes prior to your tee-off time.

    Get to know the Golf Course!

    The outline of the map is out of bounds and a penaly applies. Here you can read about all golf rules and the Golf Rules Changes that applied 2019: (Golf Rules 2019 (and Golf Rules Changes!))

    Golf course

    Step by step: How is a round of golf played

    After you have made the booking of your tee-time, time to prepare a day of golf! Make sure you check the weather forecast and also the website of the golf course you are going to play. Sometimes they will post information about irregularities such as delayed starts or that the driving range is temporarily closed etc. Then plan your day and prepare that a round of golf in busy hours is usually around 3,5-5 hours.

    Arrive at the golf club well in advance! Having to stress between check-in, the driving range, that friend who "forgot to buy balls" and need to run to the golf shop and then to make your tee-time is not how to start a round of golf. Therefore, arrive at least 45 minutes prior to tee-off. Here is a list of how you should do before teeing off:

    • Check-in and receive your scorecard. Also, make sure to get a course guide or program it into your golf watch.
    • Fill up with snacks, water, and other necessities.
    • Make sure you have tee's, enough golfballs and a fresh glove.
    • Head to the practice area. Just like in every sports warming up the body and your golf swing will improve your game and reduce risks of injuries.
    • Don't just warm up your drives! Make sure to do some chipping and putting around the practice green.
    • Make sure, by looking at the signs or your course guide, where the 1st tee is and show up at least 5 minutes prior to tee-off.
    how golf is played
    An example of how a course guide could look like. A course guide usually includes all the individual holes as well.

    STARTING THE ROUND OF GOLF: Usually, the person with the lowest handicap starts off the round in and it continues down to the one with the highest. When playing for fun with friends, it's pretty common that players offer each other a "mulligan".

    That means that if the first stoke of the round leaves the ball unplayable or off bound, you are allowed to take a second attempt at a first stroke - without penalty. Make sure not to do this in tournaments with i.e. prize tables as this is usually not allowed!

    >>> You will need golf balls! Check out our review of golf balls here. <<<

    Scoring: Scorecards get passed around so that you each keep score for another player in your group. The 18 holes are grouped into two - first nine and back nine. A standard golf course is usually between Par 70-72. So if you are a scratch player (0 in HCP) you should complete the course in 72 strokes, and if you have handicap 18, you should complete it in 90 strokes.

    DURING THE ROUND OF GOLF: A busy day usually means that all tee-times will be booked. That means that you have to keep a certain tempo while playing. This should not be confused with having to rush or stress your game, simply not dragging your feet or searching for a golfball too long. 2019 the time limit for looking for a golfball decreased from 5 minutes to 3 minutes in order to increase the tempo.

    This is why it is always good to hit a second, "spare", shot when you suspect that you may have trouble finding the first one. Because now, if you don't find the first ball you do not have to walk all the way back to where you were but instead take the penalty stroke and continue with less delay.

    In 2019, the time limit to be looking for a golfball decreased from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

    The Par on holes varies, and you usually have as much Par on first nine and back nine. This means, that you should hit roughly the same amount of shots on first and back 9. Another rule is if you have hit 3 strokes above par on any given hole, you should pick up the ball and scratch that hole. For example, if you have 8 strokes on a Par 5, you register 5+4=9 and pick up the ball.

    Some etiquette to follow during your round:

    • Keep a good tempo (without rushing/stressing)
    • Always prepare your course guide and be ready when it's your turn to hit.
    • Pick up the ball after +3 above par.
    • Hit a provisional ball if you suspect not finding the first shot.
    • Look for ~3minutes for a lost ball.
    • Always place your trolley in the direction of where you are going. (So that you don't have to go back and get it multiple times)
    • Help each other to look for in which direction a ball goes.

    AFTER THE ROUND OF GOLF: Do not wait around on last green and start counting your score. Put the flag back and head back to the clubhouse! Usually, you will either have some digital scoring but surprisingly many golfers still use pen and scorecard. (Probably for the old-school feel of it)

    If you want the golf club to register the round in order to raise or lower your handicap, you can simply leave the scorecard with them. If you have taken your score digitally, the device will usually give you an option to register it there. Remember that you always need a player with HCP36 or lower to attest to your registered round in order for it to be eligible for a handicap adjustment.

    Disc Golf!

    If you are at all interested in checking out another variation of golf, disc golf is getting more and more popular. We have written reviews on both Golf Bags and Discs but also on Golf Disc Baskets! Check it out!

    Golf Swing Basics

    If you are new to golf, your first couple of rounds are going to be both a little bit frustrating and nervous - but also great fun! You will improve your game very quickly and when you feel comfortable moving around the golf course it will also make focusing on your swing easier.

    But i think that we all have experienced this - the swing feels perfect on the range math, the shots are going straight and everything is fine. Until you hit the course and you start to duff the club, it hooks and it feels nothing like when you practiced. This is probably because the math gives you some extra forgiveness as well as you will feel much more relaxed hitting at the range instead of the course.

    Here are some tips to try to up your game and golf swing your first rounds of golf:

    • Warm up properly. This both adds confidence and eases your muscles.
    • Play with understanding players. Going your first rounds with golfers that will stress you will only worsen your game and swing.
    • Do not try to change too much of your swing during the round, leave that for the driving range.
    • Take it easy! A gentle and easy swing will do just fine!
    • First and foremost - get the ball straight. Distance can be worked on later.
    • Don't give up! Look at the score of individual holes rather than the whole round.

    Taking golf lessons early on is definitely a sound investment if you are serious with getting started playing golf. It will always be more fun to play if you feel that you improve as a player. A lot of players get stuck on a repeated faulty shot, such as a slice or a hook. Here you can read more on the classic "slice".

    A fair warning - do not try to compensate for faults in your swing or your game by overpaying for clubs that may be too difficult for you. Easy hitting clubs will make the game more enjoyable in the beginning!

    Thank you for reading this article - check out more in the top menu!

    About the author 

    Emma Johnson

    I have been playing golf for over 20 years and I am crazy about all thing Golf equipment! I'm currently playing TaylorMade M6 Irons and TaylorMade M4 Driver. I just started playing with the Bridgestone RXS Tour golf balls. I currently play on HCP 6 and I'm mostly playing for fun at the moment, after playing some tournaments on the Amateur Tour and in local championships. I have worked part-time with TaylorMade and I really love their products. Send me an e-mail at or leave a comment down below if you want to get in contact with me!

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