The Game Of Golf
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The game of golf consists in playing a ball, in as few strokes as possible, from certain starting places, called teeing-grounds, with various clubs suited to the nature of the stroke, into a succession of holes cut in the ground at varying distances.
Golf may be played on any park or common, but its original home is the " Links " or common land which is found by the seashore, where the short close turf, the sandy subsoil, and the many natural obstacles in the shape of bents, whins, sand-holes and banks, supply the conditions which are essential to the proper pursuit of the game.
Eighteen is the usual number of holes in a golf course, and in arranging the succession of these holes, care should be taken that they are so placed that " parties playing to one hole " shall not be crossed or met by parties playing to another. If sufficient suitable ground be not available to admit of this being done, it is better to limit the number of holes to 15, 12 or 9.
The extent and nature of the ground available will determine the distances between the individual holes, and these should be placed so as to take advantage of any natural features in the shape of hillocks, hollows, ditches, or other obstacles, to test the skill of the golfer, and lend variety and interest to the play. As a general rule, a hole should not be much shorter than 100 yards, or longer than 500 yards, while the entire course, if made up of 18 holes and measured from hole to hole, should be from 2 to 3 or 4 miles in length. For each hole there is a starting point, called the teeing-ground. The first of these is usually marked out near the club-house, and the others are placed near the hole previously played but in such a position that parties playing from it will be out of the line of fire of those playing to the previous hole.
The game commences at the first teeing-ground, and the hole to which the ball is to be played is cut in a well-cared-for green, called the putting-green. The hole is round, 4 1/4 inches in diameter, and should be at least 4 inches in depth. To preserve its shape, it is usually lined with tin or iron, but this lining should be pressed down into the hole, so as to leave an inch of turf above its upper rim. If this is not done, and the metal rim is left flush with the surface of the grass, many balls that would otherwise go in, will either run round the rim or jump over the hole. A movable flag or disc, mounted on a stick or pin, is placed in the hole to indicate its position.
The putting-green, technically, is all ground within 20 yards of the hole (Rule 30), and all this space, if possible, should be of the closest and smoothest turf. It is not desirable to have the surface flat like a billiard-table, and an undulating surface, provided the turf be equal and true, will be found to make the putting more interesting and difficult.
Between the teeing-ground and the putting-green should be found, whether they be natural or artificially formed, various " hazards " in the shape of sand-pits or " bunkers," ditches, gorse, roads, or other obstacles, and these should be placed so as to catch and punish badly-played balls, while plenty of open space and good turf should be found between them to reward well-hit strokes.
Thus, supposing a hole be 250 yards in length measured from the teeing-ground, there should be a hazard of some sort extending right across the line of the hole, about r o0 or 130 yards from the tee. Beyond this the ground should be good ; but, guarding the hole again, and some 30 or 40 yards in front of it, there should be another hazard which the player would have to carry before reaching the putting-green. In addition, hazards may be placed on either side of the course to catch crooked balls, and also beyond the hole to punish those that are hit too strongly, but " blind " hazards—i.e., hazards which are not visible to the player, such as sunk ditches or holes, should either be marked or filled up.
The Ball used in playing golf is made in various sizes, but that most in use measures about 1 3/4 inches in diameter. It is usually made of well-seasoned gutta-percha, grooved or notched on the surface, and painted white. Prior to the introduction of gutta-percha, golf-balls were made of feathers, forced into a case of leather, and the figures 27 and 27 1/2, which are used to-day in differentiating thevarious sizes of balls, represent the weight in pennyweights of the old feather balls. Several kinds of composition balls, known generically as " putties," in contradistinction to the " gutties " or gutta-percha balls, though they have had a certain vogue, have failed to take the place of those made of the raw material. Balls made of fresh gutta-percha are properly seasoned and at their best about six months after being made and painted, but care should be taken that they are kept at an even and moderate temperature. If they are kept longer they are apt to become brittle, and, when struck, the paint will crack off.
There are many varieties of golf Clubs, but those most commonly in use, and all that are really necessary for the player, are as follows: Driver, Brassy, Cleek, Mashie, Iron, Niblick, and Putter.
All other golf clubs are either adaptations or modifications of these.
The driver and brassy are wooden clubs, and the putter may also be of the same material. The heads of the others are made of malleable iron. The heads of wooden clubs are usually made of well-seasoned beech-wood. Apple-wood is also used, but it is hard, and lacks the spring of beech-wood. The best shafts, both for wooden and iron clubs, are made of hickory, although good shafts are also made of ash, lance wood, greenheart, lemon tree, and a variety of other woods. The best heads for clubs are those in which the grain of the wood runs down the neck and along the head. If the grain runs across the neck, the club is sure to break in course of play. The finest shafts, though they are difficult to obtain, are made of split hickory—i.e., hickory which is split from the wood with the grain, and not sawn off the plank.
The Driver—The driver is the club used from the tee if the hole be long, or if the ball lie well, whenever it is desired to play it as far as possible towards the hole. It is a wooden club with a long powerful shaft. The head should have plenty of wood in it and the face or hitting part of the head should be fairly deep. It should not be hollowed out in the middle, nor sloped back when the club head is laid on the ground.
The Brassy—The head of the brassy is smaller and shorter than that of the driver, and the sole is shod with brass, to preserve the wood when the ball has to be played from stony or hard ground. The face of the brassy is often " spooned " or sloped backward, so as to raise the ball in the air, and the smaller size of the head admits of its being used when the ball lies in a "cup" or indentation of the ground, which the driver head would be too large to enter.
The Cleek—The sleek is an iron-headed club with a straight and narrow face. The shaft is longer than that of other iron clubs, and it is chiefly used in playing full shots through the green, when the ball lies badly, or when a wooden club would take it too far.
The Iron—The iron has a deeper blade or face than the sleek and is shorter in the shaft. Irons are made of various weights and with various degrees of pitch or loft, and are chiefly used for approaching the hole, or for lifting the ball over hazards or out of sand.
The Mashie—The mashie is shorter in the head than the iron, and bears much the same relation to it that the brassy does to the driver. Like the iron, it is also made of various weights and degrees of loft, for particular strokes, and its uses are practically the same.
The Niblick—The niblick is used when the ball lies badly in sand, mud, whins or other hazards, or wherever it is necessary to use great force to extricate the ball from its position. The head is round, small and very heavy.
The Putter—The putter is used chieflyafter the ball has been played on to the putting-green, to play the ball into the hole. The head is made either of wood or metal. It is more upright and the shaft is much shorter than that of any other club, and should be quite stiff There are many varieties of metal putters, no one of which can be said to be better than another. The chief points to be looked to in a putter, its appearance and make being secondary considerations, are that it should be well balanced and not too heavy.
A Bulger is a wooden driver or brassy with a convex face instead of a straight one. It is claimed by its admirers, that a ball, struck on the heel or toe off this convex face, will still go straight, unlike a ball similarly struck from an ordinary club, which will fly to the right or left respectively. If, however, the club be drawn in towards the body, or thrown out from it in striking, as very commonly happens, the convex face will considerably augment the curve thus put upon the ball, so that any advantage it may possess in the one case is counterbalanced by its disadvantage in the other. It is generally conceded, however, that a ball, if struck truly with the apex of the convexity, will fly off quicker, and consequently travel farther, from the bulger than from a straight-faced club, where the area of contact is larger.
Spoons, or wooden clubs of different lengths, with their faces hollowed out at various angles, are now almost obsolete. The long spoon, mid spoon, short spoon and baffing spoon or baffy (the latter used for approaching the hole), are now rarely seen, having been supplanted by the brassy, and the modern irons and mashies.