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Golf, a cross-country game in which a player strikes a small ball with various clubs from a series of starting points (teeing grounds) into a series of holes on a course. The player who holes his ball in the fewest strokes wins. The origins of the game are difficult to ascertain, although evidence now suggests that early forms of golf were played in the Netherlands first and then in Scotland.
From somewhat obscure antiquity, the game attained worldwide popularity, especially in the 20th century. Nothing is known about the early game’s favorite venues on the European continent, but in Scotland golf was first played on seaside links with their crisp turf and natural hazards. Only later in the game’s evolution did play on downs, moorland, and parkland courses begin. Golfers participate at every level, from a recreational game to popular televised professional tournaments. Despite its attractions, golf is not a game for everyone; it requires a high degree of skill that is honed only with great patience and dedication.
Most Prestigious Golf Courses
Prestige is, obviously, in the eye of the beholder. But some golf courses have clearly raised themselves above the pack based on their histories, the challenges they present, and the quality of golfers who’ve competed on each course over the decades or even the centuries.
Old Course at St. Andrews
The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland bills itself as the “Home of Golf,” and the course’s history proves that is no idle boast. Golf has been played on the site since around 1400, although the course has changed over the years. For example, in 1764 the course consisted of 22 holes. Several holes were eventually merged, leaving the course with 18, which is how the modern round of 18 holes was established. As of 2012, the Old Course has played host to 28 British Opens more than has been conducted at any other location and the 29th is scheduled for 2015. St. Andrews Golf Links includes seven courses, all of which contrary to popular perception are open to the public. To play the Old Course, however, a man must have a handicap of no more than 24 and a woman may not have a handicap greater than 36. The par-72 course is 7,279 yards long.
Augusta National Golf Club
The home of the Masters, Augusta National was voted the PGA Tour’s best course in a “Golf Digest” poll of tour players in 2012. After legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones retired from the sport in 1930, his first golf-related project was to build a course in Augusta. With Alister MacKenzie as primary architect, the course was built in 1932, and it began playing host to an invitational event that became the Masters in 1934. The 6,905-yard par-72 course is most famous for “Amen Corner,” its 11th through 13th holes, which may be the most difficult three-hole stretch on any course in the world. Augusta National is a private course.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
California’s Pebble Beach Golf Links is similar to St. Andrews in many respects. It is built along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean, and the wind off the ocean often makes the 6,737-yard par-72 course quite tricky. The Pacific becomes, in effect, the world’s largest water hazard on many holes. The course isn’t long, but the narrow fairways add to the challenge. Pebble Beach is a public course that’s played host to numerous amateur and professional championships, including five U.S. Opens as of 2012. The Open returns to Pebble in its centennial anniversary year, 2019.
Muirfield Village Golf Club
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is one of the two oldest golfing societies, along with the Royal & Ancient Club at St. Andrews. Created in 1744, the company eventually built the current Muirfield Village Golf Club in 1891 in Gullane, Scotland. The par-71 course is 7,221 yards long and frequently features tricky wind conditions. The course plays host to its 16th British Open in 2013. Golfers with handicaps no greater than 18 may play the course year-round on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Most Prestigious Tournaments in Golf
The four most prestigious men’s tournaments of the year are called the ‘major championships’ (or ‘majors’): the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship.
All are part of the PGA Tour and PGA European Tour. For women, the four majors are:
the Kraft Nabisco Championships,
the LPGA Championship,
the U.S. Open, and the British Open.
the Women’s British Open Ladies’ tours.
The Ryder Cup, jointly organized by the PGA and the PGA Europe, is the most prestigious men’s team competition. First held in 1927, it originally pitted the best American players against their British counterparts. But given relentless domination by the Americans, the British team decided to include Irish players in 1973, then expanded the team to include continental Europeans in 1979.
The Ryder Cup is held every two years, alternating between Europe and the United States. France will be hosting the 2018 tournament.
The equivalent women’s team event is the Solheim Cup, which was first held in 1990. Since 1994, the President’s Cup has pitted the best American golfers against the rest of the world (excluding Europe).
Golf in France
The Ryder Cup
The PGA Tour
The US Open
The Golf European Tour
The Solheim Cup
The French Open