Golf is a precision club-and-ball sport, in which competing players (or golfers), using many types of clubs, attempt to hit balls into each hole on a golf course while employing the fewest number of strokes.
It is one of the few ball games that does not require a standardized playing area. Instead, the game is played on golf "courses", each of which features a unique design, although courses typically consist of either nine or eighteen holes. Golf is defined, in the rules of golf, as "playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules."
Golf competition is generally played for the lowest number of strokes by an individual, known simply as stroke play, or the lowest score on the most individual holes during a complete round by an individual or team, known as match play.
A golf course consists of a series of holes, each with a teeing ground that is set off by two markers showing the bounds of the legal tee area, fairway, rough and other hazards, and the putting green surrounded by the fringe with the pin (normally a flagstick) and cup.
The levels of grass are varied to increase difficulty, or to allow for putting in the case of the green. While many holes are designed with a direct line-of-sight from the teeing area to the green, some holes may bend either to the left or to the right. This is commonly called a "dogleg", in reference to a dog's knee. The hole is called a "dogleg left" if the hole angles leftwards and "dogleg right" if it bends right. Sometimes, a hole's direction may bend twice; this is called a "double dogleg".
A typical golf course consists of eighteen holes but nine-hole courses are common and can be played twice through for a full round of eighteen holes.
Early Scottish golf courses were primarily laid out on links land, soil covered sand dunes directly inland from beaches. This gave rise to the term golf links, particularly applied to seaside courses and those built on naturally sandy soil inland.
The first eighteen-hole golf course in the United States was located on a sheep farm in Downers Grove, Illinois, in 1892. The course is still situated there today.