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A golf course consists of either 9 or 18 holes, each with a teeing ground that is set off by two markers showing the bounds of the legal tee area, fairway, rough and other hazards, and the putting green surrounded by the fringe with the pin (normally a flagstick) and cup.

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A Ming Dynasty scroll dating back to 1368 entitled "The Autumn Banquet" shows a member of the Chinese Imperial court swinging what appears to be a golf club at a small ball with the aim of sinking it into a hole.Golf is a club and ball sport in which players use various clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible.Golf, unlike most ball games, cannot and does not utilize a standardized playing area, and coping with the varied terrains encountered on different courses is a key part of the game.The world's oldest golf tournament in existence, and golf's first major, is The Open Championship, which was first played on 17 October 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club, in Ayrshire, Scotland, with Scottish golfers winning the earliest majors.Two Scotsmen from Dunfermline, John Reid and Robert Lockhart, first demonstrated golf in the US by setting up a hole in an orchard in 1888, with Reid setting up America's first golf club the same year, Saint Andrew's Golf Club in Yonkers, New York.Traditionally, golfers used mounds of sand to elevate the ball, and containers of sand were provided for the purpose.

A few courses still require sand to be used instead of peg tees, to reduce litter and reduce damage to the teeing ground.

Playing a hole on a golf course is initiated by putting a ball into play by striking it with a club on the teeing ground (also called the tee box, or simply the tee).

For this first shot on each hole, it is allowed but not required for the golfer to place the ball on a tee prior to striking it.

There are other standard forms of terrain in between, such as the fairway, rough (long grass), sand traps (or "bunkers"), and various hazards (water, rocks, fescue) but each hole on a course is unique in its specific layout and arrangement.

Golf is played for the lowest number of strokes by an individual, known as stroke play, or the lowest score on the most individual holes in a complete round by an individual or team, known as match play.

The 18-hole round was created at the Old Course at St Andrews in 1764.