Even though golf is quite a simple game, there is no shortage of variations on the concept and different ways to play.
The basic golf game is generally referred to as stroke play – tournaments work using the stroke system, and it is the most widely-played version of the game. In this game, for every shot you make under or over the par of each hole, you have one point either subtracted from or added to your score. For example, if hole 1 is a par 4 and you take five shots, then your score is +1. If you then move on to hole 2, a par 5, and take 3 shots, scoring an eagle, your new score is –1 – that’s one minus two. This means that you’re aiming to end up with a score far into the minus numbers, with the lowest score winning.
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Stroke play is heavy on maths and low on excitement, however, because it was designed for a large number of golfers playing at the same time. If you are just playing head-to-head against a few friends, it is far more interesting to play for skins. With skins, the person with the lowest score on each hole wins the hole, and the person who wins the most holes wins the match. Skins is often played for money, with players paying a certain amount to enter the game and a share of the prize money being awarded to the winner of each hole.
For children, there are two alternative rule sets: pitch and putt and crazy golf. Pitch and putt is the more serious of the two, resembling a much smaller version of a normal golf course where the player only needs to take one shot onto the green and then putt the ball into the hole. In crazy golf, however, the green is the whole course, and each hole is littered with strange obstacles, often based around a theme. While the game is fun for a family on holiday, it’s not going to turn your kids into pro golfers any time soon – although it might inspire them to take up real golf.