Golf is a sport in which players using many types of clubs including woods, irons, and putters, attempt to hit balls into each hole on a golf course in the lowest possible number of strokes. Golf is one of the few ball games that does not use a standardized playing area; rather, the game is played on golf “courses”, each one of which has a unique design and typically consists of either 9 or 18 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”
It is not known exactly how, nor where the first game of golf was played. The earliest known illustration of a recognisable precursor to golf is found in a ca. 1460 French prayer book from the Touraine known as La Duchesse de Bourgogne, after a former owner. It shows teams playing considerable distances to a grazed green with target stakes (the piquet) as goals, using a curved hockey-like one-piece wooden club (the crosse) for approach shots, and sophisticated putters (the mail), a paralellepiped with three nearly parallel sets of planes, to roll round wooden balls to the target. The use of a hole on ice as a target goal, is depicted in a French book of hours dated ca. 1480; and a hole on a green, in a Flemish prayer book, ca. 1505.
The modern game of golf may have reached Scotland in the early 17th century, perhaps imported by Flemings as a favourite recreation. Golf spread from Scotland and has now become a worldwide game, with golf courses in the majority of affluent countries.
Golf competition is generally played as stroke play, in which the individual with the lowest number of strokes is declared the winner, or as match play with the winner determined by whichever individual or team posts the lower score on the most individual holes during a complete round.
Golf as a spectator sport has become increasingly popular, with several different levels of professional and amateur tours in many regions of the world. Players such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lorena Ochoa and Anika Sorenstam have become well-recognized sports figures across the world. Sponsorship has also become a huge part of the game and players often earn more from their sponsorship contracts than they do from the game itself.