One of golf's biggest competitions is coming to France for the first time: the Ryder Cup will take place from 25-30 September. The competition pits the twelve best male golfers in Europe and the U.S.A. against each other every two years. And the Junior Cup is for the 12 best under-18-year-old players from each continent, male or female.
The U.S. teams are the current holders of both cups, so the Europeans have their work cut out in tournaments that can boast some of the top talent in the world.
The European Junior Ryder Cup team will include Danish twins Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard. The junior competition will take place at Disneyland Paris on 24-25 September and, like the adult Cup, include matches played in pairs and singles. The team includes players from Austria, Britain, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Golf has a reputation as a luxury sport in many countries, including France. But in Scotland, home of the oldest established course at St Andrews, it's more egalitarian. (It must be said that irrigation, an expensive item in a golf course's budget, isn't much of a problem in Scotland.) Edinburgh has six municipal golf courses within the city open to all, as well as private club courses. In the U.S.A., golf is a common high-school sport, in the top ten for both boys and girls. And like many sports, it offers the opportunity to win a scholarship to university.
It's very much an equal-opportunities sport, with a "handicap" system that allows players of different levels to enjoy games together. It can be played at any age and by either sex. Although it's not exactly a cardio-vascular workout, it gets players walking for extended periods and out in the fresh air.
Tempted to watch a match or even try playing? You'll find the basics below:
- A standard golf course has 18 holes.
- To start a round, players “tee off” — they place the ball on a small piece of plastic that looks like a “T”, and hit it with a club.
- There are two types of golf clubs: irons (metal clubs for precise shots near the hole) and woods (wooden ones for long shots, from the tee for example).
- Golf is one of the only sports where the lowest score wins: the objective is to hit the ball the minimum number of times to get it into all 18 holes.
- Each hole has a “par”: the typical number of shots a player takes to get the ball in the hole. If a player takes one shot less than par to finish the hole, it is called a “birdie”. If the player takes one shot more, it’s called a “bogey”.
- The ultimate achievement in a round of golf is a “hole in one”: when a player strikes the ball from the tee and it goes straight into the hole, which can be hundreds of metres away.