Golf By the Numbers



Golf is a popular sport in many countries around the world. It is a game wherein the player strikes a small ball using different clubs from a series of starting points or teeing grounds into a series of holes on a course. It can be played at many different levels at nearly any age. It can be played casually or competitively. The game’s main goal is to get the ball into the hole with the least number of swings or strokes of the club.

If you are into golf and want to learn more about it, we’re here to help you. This post contains a lot of information about golf, including its history, how it is played, the different types of courses, the important equipment needed, the proper attire, and the sport’s benefits. In addition to that, also included are facts, statistics, and numerical data about golf that you should learn about. With this, let us begin with the origins and history of golf.

History of Golf

an illustration of men playing golf


Golf’s origin has long been debated. According to some historians, the sport’s history can be traced back to the Roman game called “paganica,” which involved using a bent stick to hit wool or feather-stuffed leather balls. Based on one view, the game spread throughout several countries as the Romans conquered much of Europe during the 1st century B.C. and eventually transformed into the modern game we know today.[1]

There are also others who cite “chuiwan” as the ancestor of golf. It was a game that was played in China during the Ming dynasty. It was earlier described as a game where players hit a ball with a stick while walking. It was thought to have been introduced into Europe by traders during the Middle Ages. However, neither of these theories is convincing.

As early as 1819, William Ousley, an English traveler, claimed that golf came from the Persian national game called “chaugan,” which was the ancestor of modern polo. Historians later considered the French cross-country game of “chicane” to be a descendant of “chaugan.” In “chicane,” a ball had to be moved to a church or garden door with the fewest possible strokes.

The game of chicane closely resembled the game called “kolf,” which J.H. van Hengel, a Dutch historian, believed to be the earliest form of golf. There were lots of traditions that surrounded the game of kolf. One was that it was annually played in the village of Loenen in the Netherlands from 1297 to recall the capture of the killer of Floris V, Count of Holland and Zeeland, a year earlier. However, no evidence supports this early date, but it seemed to be a clear anachronism.[1]

Where Did Golf Come From?

man playing golf

According to Historic UK, golf originated from a game that was played on the eastern coast of Scotland, near the royal capital of Edinburgh. During those times, players would attempt to hit a pebble over sand dunes around tracks using a bent stick or club. In the 15th century, Scotland defended itself against an invasion by the “Auld Enemy.” However, the nation’s enthusiastic pursuit of golf led many people to neglect their military training. This resulted in the Scottish parliament of King James II banning the sport in 1457.[2]

Even though people ignored the ban largely, it was in 1502 when the game earned the royal seal of approval. It was when King James IV of Scotland (1473-1513) became the first golfing monarch in the world. The game’s popularity quickly spread throughout 16th century Europe thanks to the royal endorsement.

The game was brought to England by King Charles I. It was then introduced to France by Mary Queen of Scots when she studied there. Did you know that the term “caddie” in golf was derived from the name for her French military aides, which were known as cadets?

During those times, one of the premier golf courses was at Leith near Edinburgh. In 1862, it hosted the first international golf match. It was where the Duke of York and George Patterson, who represented Scotland, defeated two English noblemen.

In 1744, the game of golf officially became a sport when the first club was formed by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith and set up an annual competition with silverware prizes. Duncan Forbes was the one who drafted the rules for the new competition.

The first 18-hole course was built at St. Andrews in 1764, where the now-recognized standard for the game was established. The club was honored by King Willian IV in 1834 with the title “Royal & Ancient.” With that, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was made the world’s premier golf club. During these times, golfers used hand-crafted wooden clubs that were made from beech with shafts of hazel or ash. On the other hand, the balls were made from compressed feathers wrapped in a stitched horsehide.

Golf Spread to Different Places

multi-ethnic golf players

As the might of the British Empire to encompass the world expanded during the 19th century, golf followed closely behind. The first golf club formed outside Scotland was called the Royal Blackheath, which was in 1766 near London. On the other hand, the first golf club outside Britain was Bangalore in India, which was established in 1820. After these, others followed quickly, including the Royal Curragh in Ireland in 1856, the Adelaide in 1870, Royal Montreal in 1873, Cape Town in 1885, St. Andrews of New York in 1888, and Royal Hong Kong in 1889.

Many changes were brought about by the Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era. When the railways were built, ordinary people began to explore outside of their towns and cities for the first time. With this, golf clubs also started to appear all over the countryside. Mass production methods were also adopted to be able to make clubs and balls fast and more affordable for the average person. With this, golf’s popularity increased.

In 1860, the forerunner to the British Open was played at the Prestwick Golf Club, with Willie Park victorious. This was followed by other legendary names when it comes to golf, including Tom Morris. His son named Young Tom Morris went on to be the first great champion who won an event record four consecutive times from 1869.

In the United States, the United States Golf Association, or USGA, was created in 1894. It was established to regulate the game in the country. When 1900 came, more than 1000 golf clubs were formed throughout the United States. The country quickly established itself as the center of the professional game with the availability of serious funding via commercial sponsorship.[2]

At the present time, golf courses around the world reflect the history of the game. Many golf courses in the United States are beautifully sculptured and landscaped. But you can still find some of the most popular golf courses in the world in Scotland. Today, more and more people are becoming interested in playing golf. In fact, most places today have golf clubs that you can visit if you want to experience playing the popular sport.

How is Golf Played?

golf rules

The Objective of the Game

The aim of golf is quite simple. You only need to get the ball from the starting point of any hole to the green and eventually into the hole in as few shots as possible. The “hole” pertains to the physical hole marked by a flag where the ball must fall into and the whole area from the starting point to the green. This can be considered one unit of the course, with a standard course having 18 separate holes played in turn.[3]


Stroke play is the most common scoring method in a game of golf. This scoring method adds the total number of shots a player takes to get the ball into each hole. At an amateur level, this is usually one round or a set of 18 holes. On the other hand, professionals usually play four rounds, starting on a Thursday and finishing the tournament on Sunday.

In golf, the score is expressed as under or over par. Par pertains to the number of shots a good golfer would expect to finish a provided hole in, with one always permitted for the tee shot and two puts or shots played on the smooth area around the hole called the green. Therefore, being under par is good because you have completed the hole in fewer shots than expected.

In addition to stroke play, there is another main scoring method called match play. In this method, whoever completes each hole in the least number of shots wins that hole. The overall winner is the one with the most holes. An example of results is “3 & 2,” which means one player has three holes in front with only two left to play.

Aside from that, there are also what is called “Stableford,” skins, and other scoring methods that are not usually used in competitions but only in amateur play.[3]

Golf Rules

  • The ball must be hit using standard clubs from the start of each hole to the green and ultimately into the hole marked by a flag.
  • Players should strike the ball in turn with the furthest away from the hole going first. At the beginning of a new hole, whoever took the least shots on the preceding hole will go first.
  • For a lost ball, the penalty is one stroke. This includes balls that were struck out of bounds or into water hazards. Players are given five minutes to search for the ball. If the ball goes out of bounds or into the water, the player will play again from the original starting point.
  • Only 14 clubs can be used by the players.
  • Players are not permitted to ask for guidance from anyone other than their caddy or partner player.
  • Players are not allowed to move, break, or bend anything fixed or growing, and the ball should be played as it is found.
  • On the putting green, players are allowed to mark, lift, and clean the ball, as long as it is replaced exactly where it was.

Important Equipment Used in Golf

Equipment Used to Play Golf

For those who are new to golf, one of the important steps before you can play is finding the right equipment. In the game of golf, there isn’t too much equipment needed. You only need to have the basic ones to be able to play well. Here are the important equipment needed for golf:

Golf Clubs

row of golf clubs

Any golfer should start with finding golf clubs. A golf club consists of a shaft, a grip, and a clubhead. It is used to propel balls towards the holes on a golf course.[4] A usual set of golf clubs come in a bag of 14. Most beginners in golf usually buy a full set of new or used clubs. Most of the time, golf club sets include a driver, two or three woods, several irons, a pitching or sand wedge, and a putter. But there are also other clubs that you can buy individually, such as specialty wedges and hybrid clubs.[5]

Golf Balls

a pile of golf balls

You can find a wide variety of golf balls on the market. These include balls that are designed to aid driving distance, while others are made to improve accuracy. For newbies, buying a couple of boxes of golf balls to start is necessary since the first trip to the links is probable to end up in a few lost balls via slices, hooks, and water hazards.[4] Most golf balls are made from synthetic materials. They usually have a dimple pattern on their surface. These patterns are for better aerodynamics, helping to facilitate the spin of the ball and elevation when it is hit by the club.[5]

Golf Tees

a golf ball on a tee

On a golf course, every hole features a tee box. Tees are commonly made of wood or plastic. They are stuck in the ground to elevate the golf ball’s position. This makes it easy for the player to hit the ball. They are only allowed to be used when players are making the first stroke of each hole.[4]

Golf Bag

a golf bag containing golf clubs

After you purchase golf clubs, balls, and tees, you need something that will hold all of them when you play. There are lots of options in the market when it comes to golf bags. There are low-cost bags with basic features, and bags with intricate designs and various pockets. For those who are new to golf, buying a set of clubs with a bag included might be the best option.[5]

Different Types of Golf Clubs

different types of golf clubs

We’ve mentioned earlier that golf clubs are among the important pieces of equipment when playing golf. There are various types of golf clubs that you can find in a typical golfer’s bag. Golf clubs are divided into five categories: woods, irons, hybrids, wedges, and putters. Read on to learn more about them.

Wood Golf Clubs

The “woods” category of golf clubs includes the driver and the fairway woods. Today, club heads are no longer made of wood but are still called woods. These pertain to the clubs with the largest heads and longest shafts. Golfers can swing these clubs the fastest due to being lightweight. These clubs are used for long shots, including strokes played from the teeing ground or starting point.[6]

Iron Golf Clubs

examples of iron golf clubs

Irons come in numbered sets that range from 3-iron to 9-iron or pitch wedge. Compared to woods, irons have smaller clubheads, especially front to back, where they are thin. Most of them have solid heads, while some are hollow. They also have angled faces referred to as “loft” etched with grooves that help grip the golf ball and impart spin. Iron golf clubs are commonly used on shots from the fairway or for tee shots on short holes. The loft increases while the length of the shaft decreases, and the number of the club goes up.[6]

Hybrid Golf Clubs

Hybrid clubs only became mainstream around the turn of the 21st century, even though they existed many years before. You can think of its clubhead as a combination of wood and iron. They are numbered like irons, and the number pertains to the iron they replace. This is because hybrid clubs are considered “iron-replacement” clubs. Many golfers find this type of club easier to hit than the irons they replace. However, golfers usually use hybrid clubs to replace the long irons.[6]


Wedges include the gap wedge, pitching wedge, lob wedge, and sand wedge. They are their own type of golf club, but at the same time, they have a sub-set of irons as they have the same club heads as irons. They are just more angled for more loft. They are the highest-lofted golf clubs. They are used for shorter approach shots into greens, pitches and chips around greens, and playing out of sand bunkers.[6]


using a putter golf club

Among the golf clubs, putters are the most specialized. They are also the type of club that comes in the widest variety of shapes and sizes. They are used for putting, and as well as for the last strokes played on a golf hole, for knocking the golf ball into the hole. All putters, no matter the size or shape, are made to start the ball rolling smoothly with less backspin to avoid skidding or skipping.[6]

Golf Attire

man wearing the proper golf attire

In the game of golf, aside from the equipment, the attire is also an important aspect. Whether the golf courses you frequent are private or public, the rules regarding what to wear are the same. With this, what do you think is appropriate to wear when playing golf? Read on to learn more about it.


A golf shirt should be worn when playing golf. It is a pullover shirt with a collar and short sleeves. The length is a bit longer than regular polo shirts to stay tucked in even after repeatedly swinging at the ball. Avoid picking ones with loud, splashy patterns when choosing a golf shirt. An understated look will allow the focus to stay on your game rather than what you wear.[7]


In golf, pants always work well. You can choose between linen, cotton, khaki, or wool pants. However, try to avoid wearing jeans unless you know they are acceptable. On the other hand, women can wear a skirt, skort, capri pants, or culottes.[7]


During warm weather, golf players can also wear shorts. Bermuda-length shorts are perfect. However, avoid wearing short shorts, cutoffs, and gym shorts when playing golf.[7]

Golf Shoes

a pair of golf shoes

This is actually considered part of golf’s equipment. Golf shoes are needed to stabilize the swing of a player. They also allow for traction when walking and keep the player comfortable even for several hours of play. Golf shoes feature spikes on the soles. Many courses today require soft spikes made of hard rubber or plastic and not traditional metal. There are times when sneakers and running shoes are allowed on golf courses. However, you still need to check with the management where you will play. Boots, sandals, and street shoes should be avoided when playing golf.[8]


It is also important to wear socks when you golf. Wearing them will keep your feet dry and comfortable. There are many different kinds of socks for golf that you can choose from. Some golfers wear ankle-length socks, while others choose more traditional tube socks. There is no specific type of socks for golf, but make sure that what you choose will compliment your clothes.[8]


Men and women usually wear baseball-style hats or visors while playing golf. This is essential as they protect the player’s eyes from the sun. Straw hats are also sometimes permitted. It is best to avoid wearing other headgear, such as beanie caps, fedora-style hats, and cowboy hats, as they are not generally appropriate for wearing on a golf course.[8]

Different Types of Golf Courses

an empty golf course

Golf courses are usually categorized in three ways, by access, by size, or by setting and design. Not all golf courses are available for all golfers. Some golf courses are private clubs, while some restrict access in other ways or provide preferential treatment to specific golfers over others.[9] Here are the different types of golf courses by access:

Different Types of Golf Course

Public Courses

When a golf course is public, it means anyone who wishes to play golf is welcomed. There are municipal golf courses that are owned by cities or counties and run for the benefit of the local citizens. There are also daily fee courses that are open to everyone but are owned privately and are more expensive than municipal courses.

Resort Courses

There are also golf courses that are part of a resort property. Most of the time, these include luxurious hotels, spas, and some restaurants. Most resorts are public but may also limit public access by asking guests to stay at the resort to play on its golf courses.

Semi-Private Courses

When a golf course is semi-private, it sells memberships and also allows non-members to play. Members might be given access to other club amenities or rewards.

Private Courses

Private golf courses are those that are only open to golfers who are willing to pay a membership fee to join the club.

Golf courses can also be grouped by size.[9] This refers to the number of holes and the types of holes it has. Here are the different types of golf courses by size:

18-Hole Course

The 18-hole golf course usually has par-4 holes with a mix of par-3 holes and par-5 holes. It is the standard golf course.

9-Hole Course

This type of golf course has mostly par-4 holes and a few par 3s and 5s. But it is only made of 9 holes instead of 18 holes in length.

Executive Course

An executive golf course is either 18-hole or 9-hole. However, it is always shorter and quicker to play. It has more par-3 holes and fewer par-4 and par-5 holes. This type of course is set up to allow golfers to finish their rounds in less time.

Par-3 Course

In this type of golf course, all the holes are par-3 holes. It is shorter in length compared to an executive course. It is also much faster to play.

Approach Course

This type of golf course is even shorter than a par-3 course. It is designed for experienced golfers to practice pitching and chipping. It can also be used by beginners. Most of the holes in this type of golf course are shorter.

Lastly, golf courses are also categorized by their geographical setting or the architectural elements of their design. There are three main types for this, which are links, parkland, and desert.[9]

Links Course

an example of a links golf course

This one is built on a sandy coastline that is open to the wind. There are only a few or no trees at all, but lots of tall coastal grasses. Most of the time, it features large, slow greens and firm, fast fairways. It also often includes deep bunkers.

Parkland Course

a parkland golf course

Parkland golf courses are mostly lushly manicured with green fairways and plenty of trees. It is usually located inland. Most PGA Tour courses are examples of parkland courses.

Desert Course

a desert golf course

This kind of golf course is built in the desert, where the teeing grounds, fairways, and putting greens are lush but might be the only grass in the area. When viewed above, it appears as ribbons of green running through seas of sand, rocks, and cactus. This type of golf course is mostly found in the Middle East and the American Southwest.

Golf By the Numbers

a golf ball holding a pie chart

In this part, we will give you information about golf’s different statistics and numerical data. This includes the number of golf courses by country, the number of golf players in the United States, the richest golf players, the golf players with the most career wins, the import and export trade value of golf balls, and the value of the golf equipment imports and exports.

Number of Golf Courses by Country

In 2019, the world was home to almost 40,000 golf courses. Based on a 2019 study by Golf Around the World by R&A, 78% of the world’s golf courses are found in just 10 countries: the United States, Japan, Canada, England, Australia, Germany, France, Korea, Sweden, and Scotland.[10] You can check out the graph below for more details:

Number of golf courses by country 2019

Around 51% of the world’s golf courses are in North America, with the United States boasting 43% of golf courses in the world. In Europe, England is the number one golfing country and is home to 2,270 golf courses.

Number of Golf Players in the United States

The graph below shows the number of participants in golf or on a golf course in the United States from 2006 to 2019.

Golf by numbers

The number of participants in golf in 2019 amounted to around 24.3 million.[11]

Richest Golf Players in the World

Based on the PGA Tour’s list of career money leaders, the top and richest golfer in the world is Tiger Woods, with more than $120 million.[12] He’s followed by Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, and Vijay Singh. You can check out the graph below for the top 10 richest golfers in the world.

10 Richest Golfers in the World

Golf Players with the Most Career Wins

Here is the list of the top 10 golf players with the most career wins in the world:

Golf Players with the Most Career Wins

According to PGA Tours, Sam Snead, in rank T1 with 82 wins, is the top golf player with the most career wins. He was followed by Tiger Woods with the same number of wins, Jack Nicklaus with 73 wins, Ben Hogan with 64 wins, and Arnold Palmer with 62 wins.[13]

Golf Players with the Most All-Time Major Wins

In addition to the golfers with the most career wins, let us also look at who has the most all-time major wins in the industry.

Golfers with the Most All-Time Major Wins

According to, there were only 14 golf players who have ever notched at least 6 major wins. On top of their list is Jack Nicklaus with 18 major wins, followed by Tiger Woods with 15 major wins and Walter Hagen with 11 major wins. Gary Player and Ben Hogan each have 9 major wins, while Tom Watson has 8 major wins. Arnold Palmer and 4 other golfers have 7 major wins. Last on the list were Phil Mickelson, Nick Faldo, and Lee Trevino, who all have 6 major wins.[14]

The Import and Export Trade Value of Golf Balls in the US 2015-2020

Another statistic about golf that we can take a look at is the import and export of golf balls in the United States. How much do you think golf balls’ trade value is in the U.S.? Take a look at the graph below:  

Value of Golf Ball Imports and Exports in the United States 2015-2020

According to Statista, in 2020, the value of golf balls that were imported to the United States was around $204 million, while around $106 million were from golf ball exports.[14]

Golf Equipment Imports and Exports Value in the US 2015-2020

In addition to golf balls and clubs, other golf equipment like bags, tees, and shoes are also imported and exported to the United States. Check out the graph below for the value of golf equipment imports and exports in the U.S. from 2015 to 2020.

Value of Golf Equipment Imports and Exports in the U.S. 2015-2020

The statistics above show the value of U.S. golf equipment imports and exports from 2015 to 2020. The value of golf equipment in 2020, excluding golf balls and clubs, imported to the U.S. stood at around $420 million.[15]

15 Interesting Facts About Golf

placing a ball on the tee

If you are eager to learn more about golf, we’re here to help you. Here are some of the most interesting facts about golf that you should know.

  1. The modern-day golf that we know today was invented in Scotland in 1457.
  2. Between the years 1457 and 1744, golf was banned in Scotland not only once but thrice. This was because the government believed it interfered with military training.
  3. Professional golfer Tiger Woods was interested in golf when he was only six months old. He practiced regularly and made his first hole-in-one at the age of eight.
  4. There is a 12,500 to 1 chance of making a hole-in-one.
  5. Golf balls were originally made of leather and feathers.
  6. Before golf tees were invented, players would shape mounds of sand and place the golf ball on top. It was in the 1920s when tees were popularized.
  7. The longest putt was an astounding 375 feet.
  8. Caddies originated in France, where French students would carry clubs for golfers to earn extra money.
  9. The highest golf course in the world can be found in Peru. The Tuctu Golf Club is 14,335 feet above sea level.
  10. The most southerly golf club in the world is Scott Base Golf Club in Antarctica.
  11. Celine Dion owns Le Mirage Golf Club in Quebec.
  12. The Open Championship is the oldest golf tournament in the world which was founded in 1860.
  13. Lou Kretlow holds the record for the longest hole-in-one. He achieved it at a 427-yard course back in 1961.
  14. Golf was the only sport that was played on the moon. A 6-iron was used by Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. to play golf on the moon.
  15. If you choose to walk all eighteen holes instead of riding in a golf cart, it is equivalent to walking around four miles.


Golf is indeed among the most popular sports in the world. It is a sport that hones different skills, such as thinking, mental alertness, and physical fitness. In addition to that, it is also one of the best social events for most people, especially businessmen. It is a sport where men usually hang out with their friends and discuss interesting matters as they play. We hope this post helped you learn more about golf.


[1] Goodner, J. R. (2021, June 24). Golf. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

[2] Johnson, B. (2020). The history and origins of golf. Historic UK. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

[3] User, S. (2019). Golf rules. Golf Rules: How To Play Golf | Rules of Sport. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

[4] ActiveSG, E. (2020). Equipment required for golf. ActiveSG. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

[5] Hale, C. (2020, September 29). What equipment do you need for golfing? USA Today. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

[6] Kelley, B. (2019, May 22). What are the various types of golf clubs and how are they used? TripSavvy. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

[7] Post, P. (2020). Golfing attire. Emily Post. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[8] Berner, D. W. (2020, September 29). Golf attire etiquette. USA Today. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[9] Kelley, B. (2019, May 24). These are the 3 main ways of categorizing golf courses. LiveAbout. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[10] Heath, E. (2019, June 25). How many golf courses are there in the world? Golf Monthly Magazine. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[11] Lange, D. (2021, March 10). Golf: Number of participants U.S. 2019. Statista. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[12] PGA Tour, E. (2021). Career money leaders: PGA tour stats. PGATour. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[13] PGA Tour, E. (2021). Most career wins (top 50): PGA Tour stats. PGATour. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[14] Fitzgerald, M. (2021, June 22). Golfers with most all-time major wins: How tiger woods, Phil Mickelson compare to past legends. Sportsnaut. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from

[15] Tighe, D. (2021, May 3). Golf balls import and Export Trade Value U.S. 2015-2020. Statista. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[16] Tighe, D. (2021, May 3). Golf Equipment Import and export trade value U.S. 2015-2020. Statista. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[17] Valentin, B. (2021). Welcome to the Panther Run Blog! 10 Surprising Golf Facts You Haven’t Heard Before | Panther Run Naples FL. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

[18] Haggin Oaks, E. (2020, June 30). 15 interesting things you probably don’t know about golf … #7 may surprise you! Haggin Oaks. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from


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