Golf equipment

Golf equipment

Golf equipment encompasses the various items that are used to play the sport of golf. Types of equipment include the golf ball itself, implements designed for striking the golf ball, devices that aid in the process of playing a stroke, and items that in some way enrich the playing experience.

Balls

The minimum allowed diameter of a golf ball is 42.67 mm and its mass may not exceed 45.93 g. The first type of golf ball was the featherie, made out of leather and feathers. Modern golf balls have a two-, three-, or four-layer design constructed from various synthetic materials. The surface usually has a pattern of 300-450 dimples designed to improve the ball's aerodynamics. The method of construction and materials used greatly affect the ball's playing characteristics such as distance, trajectory, spin and feel. Harder materials, such as Surlyn, usually result in the ball's traveling longer distances, while softer covers, such as Urethane, tend to generate higher spin, more "feel" and greater stopping potential. Golf balls are separated into three groups depending on their construction: two-, three-, or four-piece covers. Generally four-piece golf balls tend to be the most expensive, though price is no assurance of quality. As of 2006 there are golf balls that utilize RFID technology, which allow golfers to locate errant shots easily using a handheld homing device. RFID transponders are also used in certain computerized driving ranges to calculate distance and accuracy of shots.

Clubs

A player usually carries several clubs during the game (but no more than fourteen, the limit defined by the rules). There are three major types of clubs, known as woods, irons, and putters. Wedges are irons used to play shorter shots. Woods are played for long shots from the tee or fairway, and occasionally rough, while irons are for precision shots from fairways as well as from the rough. A new type of wood known as a "hybrid" combines the straight-hitting characteristics of irons with the easy-to-hit-in-the-air characteristics of higher-lofted woods. A "hybrid" is often used for long shots from difficult rough. Hybrids are also used by players who have a difficult time getting the ball airborne with long irons. Wedges are played from difficult ground such as sand or the rough and for approach shots to the green. Putters are mostly played on the green, but can also be useful when playing from bunkers or for some approach shots. The putter has minimal loft, forcing the ball to stay on the putting surface while struck.

Shafts

Golf shafts are used between the grip and the club head. The profile of the golf shaft is circular in shape and is usually thicker at the grip end than at the club head end. Any strong and light material may be used to make the golf shaft. Almost all shafts today are made of either graphite or tempered steel, although other materials either have been used (the first shafts were made from hickory wood) or have been tried (like titanium and aluminum). The tapering of the shaft is important to some players - the shaft can be smoothly tapered or it can be tapered in steps.

The rules of golf allow the shaft of the putter to be bent in some specific ways, but all the other club shafts must be straight.

Other equipment

Golf bags

A golfer typically transports golf clubs in a golf bag. Golf bags are nylon or leather and are cylindrically constructed around a plastic frame. Golf bags have several pockets designed for carrying various equipment and supplies required over the course of a round of golf. Golf bags can be carried, pulled on a two-wheel pull cart or harnessed to a motorized golf cart during play. Golf bags have both a hand strap and shoulder strap for carrying, and sometimes have retractable legs that allow the bag to sit upright when at rest.

Ball markers

When on the green, the ball may be picked up to be cleaned or if it is in the way of an opponent's putting line; its position must then be marked using a ball marker (usually a flat, round piece of plastic or metal, generally a coin). Most of the gloves have small ball markers attached to them.

Golf carts

Golf carts are vehicles used to transport golf clubs and/or golfers along the golf course during a round of golf.

Gloves

Golfers also often wear gloves that help grip the club and prevent blistering. Normally only one glove is worn, and it is on the left hand for a right handed player, or the right hand for a left-handed player. The increased grip and control allows for harder swings to be made with more control, increasing distance.

Towels

Most golf bags have a ring to which a player can tie or clip a golf towel, used to wipe hands and clean balls and club faces. Some of these towels can be quite specialized, with a carabiner or other clip to attach it to the bag with a grommet used on the towel for durability, and incorporating rougher materials in certain sections of the towel for club and ball cleaning with softer weaves elsewhere for drying hands and balls. Other cleaning products abound, from motorized ball cleaners to an array of brushes for various types of clubs as well as balls and shoes.

Shoes

Golfers wear special shoes with inter-changeable spikes attached to the soles. These can be made of metal or plastic (plastic spikes are also known as "soft spikes") designed to increase traction thus helping the player to keep his/her balance during the swing, on greens, or in wet conditions.

Pitchfork

A pitch mark repair tool (or pitchfork) is used to repair a pitch mark (depression in the green where a ball has hit the ground). Some tees contain such a tool at the end, for pure convenience when on the green. To repair a pitch mark, one pushes the tool next to the mark and pushes gently inwards from all sides, loosening the compacted turf to allow rapid regrowth of grass, and then flattens the mark with the smooth flat bottom of the putter to smooth the putting surface.

Tees

A tee is an object (wooden or plastic) that is pushed into or placed on the ground to rest a ball on top of for an easier shot; however, this is only allowed for the first stroke (tee shot or drive) of each hole. Ordinary golf tees resemble nails with a small cup on the head and are usually made of wood or plastic. They are generally very inexpensive and quite disposable; a player may damage or break many of these tees during the course of a round. The length of tees varies according to the club intended to be used and by personal preference; longer tees (3-3.5") allow the player to position the ball higher off the ground while remaining stable when planted, and are generally used for modern drivers. They can be planted deeper for use with other clubs. Shorter tees (2-2.5") are suitable for most other clubs and are more easily removed than a deeply-driven long tee.

Many variations of golf tees have been designed and tried. The "step tee" is similar to the standard spike tee, but with a sharp increase in shaft thickness at a predetermined point below the top, and is designed to be inserted up to this step for more consistent ball height on tee shots. A recent development is the "brush tee", which positions the ball off the ground using a circular arrangement of flexible bristles (similar to that of a toothbrush, only longer) rather than a rigid spike. The bristles bend easily, so they inflict a minimum of interference on the swinging club or the ball at impact. They also are more durable, and the wide base in which the bristles are set provides a constant height similar to a step tee.

Alternately, the rules allow for a mound of sand to be used for the same function, also only on the first shot. Before the invention of the wooden spike tee, using sand was the only accepted method of lifting the ball for the initial shot. This is rarely done in modern times, as a tee is easier to place, hit from, and recover, but some courses prohibit the use of tees either for traditional reasons, or because a swing that hits the tee will drive it into or rip it out of the ground, resulting in damage to the turf of the tee-box. Tees also create litter if discarded by golfers when broken.

Ball washers

Ball washers may be used to clean golf balls.

Other aids

Other tools exist to aid the golfer in various ways.

  • Ball retrievers are telescoping poles with a device at the end that scoops up and traps golf balls, and are used for reclaiming a ball from a water hazard.
  • Rangefinders allow a golfer to measure exact distance to the hole from their current position; they are illegal according to Rule 14-3 of the rules of golf, but the USGA allows individual course clubs to institute a local rule permitting rangefinders, and they are common among recreational golfers. The typical rangefinder is an optical device that is aimed by sighting the scope on the flag and using the calibrated gauge in the optics to estimate the distance based on the flagstick's apparent height. Other rangefinders estimate range using a calibrated focus control; the user sights the target, brings it into focus, and reads the distance mark on the focus control. Newer "laser rangefinders" operate by sighting any target and pressing a switch to take a very precise distance reading via radar. Newer golf carts often include GPS tracking which, combined with an electronic map of the course, can serve a similar function.
  • Stroke counters help a player keep track of the number of strokes he or she has made during a hole, an entire round, or both. The simplest devices are thumbwheels or "clickers" that a player advances by one after each stroke and provide a total for the player to write on their scorecard after each hole; newer variations have various degrees of computational power added and can keep score for multiple holes, total scores, and keep track of over/under par statistics. These more advanced counters are generally referred to as "electronic scorecards". Counters by themselves are allowed under strict rules, but some multi-functional devices incorporate additional banned features like rangefinders and as such the entire device becomes illegal.
  • Specialized golf attire is designed to be unrestrictive to a player's range of motion and to keep the player cool while being fashionable (though jokes about tacky, loud or otherwise unfashionable golf clothes abound).
  • Positional guides encompass a wide variety of devices meant to improve a player's stance or swing. Lasers attach to the shaft of a putter and project a "putting line" onto the ground. Specialized tapes attach to the clubhead and provide clues as to how the head is hitting the ground or the ball for future correction or club adjustment. These are also illegal in tournament play, but are invaluable while practicing.
  • Adhesive clubface surfaces attach to the face of irons or woods and create extra backspin to reduce roll or make the face of the club softer for more consistent shorter-distance shots. These are illegal in competitions.
  • Clubhead covers protect the clubs from striking each other and from weather and incidental damage while in the bag, make clubs more identifiable at a glance, and provide a personal touch to a player's clubs.

References

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