THE GAME of golf is fundamentally the same as it was during the last three centuries and yet the courses that we play have changed radically. To understand how and why golf courses have changed so much, it is wise to take a brief look back to notice how the character of the game has changed and, by necessity, so too has the playing field.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is considered to be the main ruling authority in all countries where the game is played, with the exception of the US and Mexico. Although only a small town on the east coast of Scotland, St. Andrews is recognised as the home of golf and it boasts one of the most famous golf courses in the world, The Old Course.
In the early days, there was no standard number of holes, which were to be played, some courses had nine, others had 14 and there is evidence that St. Andrews originally had 22 holes. The Old Course was later changed to 18 holes and this is now the accepted number of holes, although some still play nine holes twice.
When the original courses were set out, there was very little preparation given to the course. The greens were made where the best grass was to be found and fairways were usually the areas where cattle grazed and kept the grass short.
Today, the golf courses we play are much more manicured than those of a couple of centuries ago. Courses constructed now are similar in design to the original designs, with teeing grounds, fairways, rough, bunkers, greens and water features.
In general, there are three different types of holes:
• Holes less than 225 metres long are called par three holes – this means that a Pro should be able to hit the ball onto the green in one shot and then take no more than two putts, so scoring a three.
• Holes more than 225 metres but less than 430 metres long are called par four holes – this means that a Pro should be able to hit the ball onto the green in two shots and then take another two putts, so scoring a four.
• Holes more than 430 metres long are called par five holes – this means that a Pro should be able to hit the ball onto the green in three shots and then take another two putts, so scoring a five.
There will be more changes in the near future – new strains of grasses are continually being developed that are able to thrive in different temperatures, using recycled water. Indeed, the maintenance of golf courses is now much more sophisticated and is undertaken by qualified personnel, while soil analysis and good environmental practice is found at almost all golf courses.
The next article will focus on equipment.
• Golf is written by Tony Bennett, head coach of Bennett’s Golf Learning Centres (BGLC), with branches located in Alto Golf, Alvor, Quinta da Ria, Tavira, Montado, Palmela, and Santa da Serra, Madeira. For more information, advice on a specific point or general enquiry, send an e-mail to [email protected], view www.BGLC.net or call 932 524 253.