I have a surprising amount of friends who don’t know A THING about golf, despite my repeated attempts to talk ceaselessly about it at dinner parties. These are educated, well-read people, but when it comes to golf they’re more Clueless than Alicia Silverstone – in Blast from the Past (he’s been underground since 1965, idiot!). These people couldn’t say whether a low score or high score is better, and I aim to change that. I’ve created a handy guide to explain golf to even the biggest thickerton. Feel free to send it to any relatives or friends who are thickies, or have a read yourself (I know you’re not stupid, you’re just reading it for fun).
Let’s start from the very beginning. The object of golf is to play a hole in as few “strokes” or “times you hit the ball” as possible, without chucking your clubs, swearing, or storming off in blind rage mid-round. There are 18 holes in a round of golf, and a minimum of 2 obligatory drinks in the clubhouse after (at least that’s what my boyfriend keeps telling me).
Now the thing about golf is it’s a game of shoulds – you should be able to play a hole in x-amount of strokes, and a course in x-amount of strokes, and the goal of most golfers is to get as close to that number as possible (or if you’re really good, fewer strokes than that number, or in other words “sub-par” – yes that’s a reference to my blog name, #boom). You also should know all the rules, etiquette and regulations of golf, but YOU try and work these signs out!
Next, each hole has an ideal amount of strokes you’re meant to play the hole in, and that always includes two putts per hole.
“Putts” are strokes with a putter on the green – you know, like mini golf, minus the windmills, clowns and pock-marked teens.
The amount of strokes you’re meant to take to play a hole is called PAR, and you either have a par 3 hole, par 4 hole or par 5 hole. A par 3 hole means you’re supposed to get on the green in one shot, and 2-putt. A par 4 hole means you’re supposed to get on the green in 2 shots, and 2-putt. A par 5 hole means you get on in 3 shots and 2-putt. Sorry for writing all that out, but I said this was for thickies, and I plan to follow through on that.
Golfers are hilarious, so they give hilarious names to all sorts of things. If you finish a hole in one less stroke than par, it’s called a “birdie” because birds are hilarious…
If you finish a hole in two strokes less than par, it’s called an “eagle” because, well that’s the name of a specific type of bird, so that makes it better. If you get a hole-in-one it’s called an “ace” because there isn’t a better type of bird than an eagle, so they decided to change to playing-card references.
Now, if you finish a hole in one stroke more than par,
it’s called a “bogie,” because golfers used to show their detest for that player by picking their nose and secretly wiping a booger on their shoulder while saying “better luck next hole, buddy.”
If you finish a hole in 2 strokes more than par, it’s very cleverly called a “double-bogie” and it turns into a 2-finger nose job. Gross. Don’t ask what happens with a triple-bogie and quadruple-bogie.
The Handicap System
Don’t roll your eyes, this is important. Contrary to what its name implies, the handicap system was created to help players that are worse, and not to ‘hit good players in the kneecaps, thus settling old-standing family rivalries whilst creating a one-time opportunity for Joey to step into his father’s shoes and run the family business’. Makes no sense.
Since golf is one of the only sports where you can measure exactly how terrible someone is because there is no opponent to blame (technically, you only ever play against the course), you can easily assign a number of strokes to condescendingly ‘give’ them to make it fair whilst playing against a better golfer.
A lower number means you’re a better player, and in some golf clubs, means you can require players with higher handicaps to give you their lunch money or borrow their children for household chores, just by snapping your fingers.
Still confused? Let me explain using a handy analogy. Say you have two Nascar racers (that’s for you, America). Driver 1 is amazing and Driver 2 is mediocre. Driver 1 does a lap in world-class time, and Driver 2 does that same lap at an average of 2 minutes slower. Driver 2’s ‘handicap’ would be 2 minutes, so when they race against each other, Driver 2 has a 2-minute head start and the competition between them is basically more interesting because being equal makes it more fun!
So essentially, a golfer’s handicap is approximately the number they shoot above the par of a course. If you don’t golf I really wouldn’t worry about understanding any more than that. Shoot, I have friends that golf that don’t even understand the handicap system (yes John, I’m talking about you).
There you have it, everything you wanted to know about golf but were afraid, or didn’t care enough about, to ask. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. In any case I hope this clears things up so next week at Katie’s dinner party we can move onto the intricacies of Stableford Point scoring. Can’t wait.