Golf is a top sport throughout the world and attracts increasing interest as more and more people take it up as a pastime. A highly popular corporate sport, it generates enormous revenue from television and sponsorship with the best professional players earning millions of dollars. American Tiger Woods, who has dominated the men’s game since 1999, is one of the best known sporting figures in the world and has signed multi-million dollar sponsorship contracts.

The most important tournament circuits are in the U.S. and Europe – where the competition extends into Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australasia and both Central and South America – but there are also Australian, African and Asian circuits. Golf is also poised for a boom in China, the world’s most populous nation, where 50 new courses a year are expected to be laid out by 2009. Women’s golf is also becoming more popular and better financed, with big events in the U.S. and Europe.

With its emphasis on the individual, golf can provide good human interest stories. Players are up against themselves as much as their rivals and the psychological drama of a golfer whose putting goes to pieces, for example, can be compelling.

The vagaries of each course, good and bad rounds, weather conditions, rules wrangles, disqualifications, unusual shots and interference from wildlife can all provide copy. A hole in one is very rare and always worth a story. It may attract a bonus payment. Golfers are often good talkers and will discuss their performance after the round so quotes are easy to come by. Off the fairway some have colourful lives, the pressure of competition producing occasional wayward behaviour, and there are constantly stories to be had of rivalries and jealousies between players.

Golf writers should not get bogged down in the minutiae of hole-by-hole description which can lead to dull copy. They should look for the unusual, the masterly, the colourful and the luckless to make good stories. Too much jargon as in any sport can also slow down the flow of a story.

The four biggest tournaments, known as the majors, are the U.S. Masters, always played at Augusta, Georgia in April, the peripatetic U.S. Open in June, the British Open played in England or Scotland in July and the U.S. PGA, held somewhere in the United States in August. These four and most of the other tournaments which run throughout the year are strokeplay competitions, the winner being the player who takes the fewest number of shots to complete four rounds of 18 holes each. Most tournaments start on Thursday and finish on Sunday with one round per day. If two or more players are tied on the same score at the end of the four rounds, they usually compete in a “sudden death” playoff, playing additional holes until one player wins a hole outright. Most tournaments use a “cut”, eliminating players who have scored more than a maximum number of strokes after two rounds, so the field is smaller and rounds completed more quickly on Saturday and Sunday.

For team competitions, such as the Ryder Cup played between Europe and the U.S. every two years, and some other tournaments, matchplay golf is the format. Players, or pairs of players, compete head-to-head and the match is decided by the number of holes won instead of the number of strokes taken. Matchplay can be four ball, with each player hitting his own ball, or foursomes, with teams sharing one ball and taking it in turns to play a stroke.


When covering a tournament, we would generally look for a preview, a mid-round story and a wrap at the end of each round as well as side-bars on individual players who may be well known, expected to have done worse or better or who have had something interesting to say. London Sports Desk will advise the level of coverage required. Coverage is expanded for the big four tournaments and the Ryder Cup, when we provide statistics, profiles, course description, features and other background pieces.

Style points

  • par – standard number of strokes allotted per hole
  • birdie – one under par
  • eagle – two under par
  • albatross – three under par
  • bogey – one over par
  • double-bogey – two over par
  • triple-bogey – three over par
  • caddie – spelt with an ie
  • playoff – one word
  • prize money – two words
  • tee shot – two words
  • approach shot – two words
  • leaderboard – one word
  • matchplay – one word
  • strokeplay – one word
  • wildcard – one word

Tournament players are permitted to have no more than 14 clubs in their bag during a round and these would be a mix of the following: driver, fairway wood, two-wood, three-wood, four-wood, one-iron, two-iron, three-iron, four-iron, five-iron, six-iron, seven-iron, eight-iron, nine-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge, variously lofted lob wedges, one or more putters.

Golf is the only sport for which Reuters uses imperial rather than metric measurement.

For example:

“Tiger Woods drove the green with a tee shot of 320 yards and then made the 30-foot putt for an eagle two.”

The Reuters style of spelling out numbers from one to nine but then writing out as figures from 10 upwards still applies to hole-numbering and par-value in golf.

For example:

“Poor tee shots at the par-three ninth and the par-four 15th cost Sergio Garcia two bogeys”.

The par description of a hole should be hyphenated when used adjectivally.

For example:

“Bob Estes claimed the second win of his career with a one-under-par 70 in his final round of the $3.5 million St. Jude Classic on Sunday.”


“Bob Estes was one over par over the front nine before he stormed home in only 30 strokes.”

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