The weather is perfect. You don’t have any weekend plans. Perhaps this is the day you finally head over to Buffalo Dunes Golf Course here in Garden City to see what this game of golf is all about. Who knows? You might just find your next great passion.

For true fans of the game, golf is the greatest invention in the history of mankind. For the rest of us, we are left wondering why a person would spend their entire Saturday trying to hit a tiny ball into a tiny hole. To answer this question, we did a little research about the game in case you were interested in getting started.

This is part one of our two-part series on golf. This article will cover the basics of the game while part two will explain how to better enjoy the game as a spectator.

Basic Structure

The game begins in the tee box, which is the beginning of the course segment that includes a fairway, various penalty areas, a putting green, and finally, a hole.

The goal of each player is to use a club to hit a small ball into the hole using as few strokes as possible. The player who makes it to the end of the course by taking the fewest total number of strokes wins the game. Sounds simple, right? Sure, but just don’t confuse “simple” with “easy.”


Like many sports, golf courses require players to wear specific clothing to participate. Your shirt must be collared and tucked in, you must wear pants or shorts that extend to the knee, and you must wear golf shoes with socks. When in doubt, look around at the other players to see what they’re wearing.

As you improve, you may add other pieces of gear to your outfit such as gloves, a visor, etc.


The golf club is the instrument you use to hit the ball around the course. As a rule, you cannot carry more than 14 clubs in your bag. You can carry less — you can even carry just one — but you must not have more than 14. Typically, players carry a mix of clubs to be used in different situations they will encounter on the course.

The Tee Box

The game begins when you place a ball on a tee in the Tee Box, which is marked by two tee box stanchions. You can set the ball back from the tee box markers a maximum of about two club lengths. Be sure to place the ball behind the markers to avoid a penalty.

Once your ball is in place, you will use your driver to hit your ball into the fairway and begin your progression toward the hole. The driver is a specific type of club used for making long-distance shots.

If you’re a total beginner, your caddy (the person you may hire to help you carry your clubs) can give you advice about which club to use and how to hit the ball for this particular hole. However, it’s important to remember that your caddie (or anyone else) cannot line up your shot for you.

If by some freak luck your ball goes into the hole on your first stroke, you have scored a “hole in one,” and you can proceed to the next hole on the course. But don’t expect that to happen any time soon!

The Fairway

Assuming your drive was reasonably successful, your ball will end up in the fairway, which is the long stretch of course between the tee box and the hole. From here, each player will take turns hitting their respective ball as they try to progress toward the hole. The better you are, the fewer strokes it will take to finish.

Play Order

Play order is generally determined by the distance each ball is from the hole following the initial drive. The ball furthest from the hole should play first. However, this isn’t always the case so be sure to figure all that out with your group before you begin.

Hitting the Ball

When hitting on the fairway, you have to be sure you hit the ball with a clean stroke. You’re not allowed to push, scoop, bump, or otherwise move the ball. Only clean strikes are allowed.

As a general rule, once the ball is in play, you can only touch it with your club, and each touch of the ball counts as a stroke. You can remove objects around your ball but you cannot move the ball itself. You must play the ball from wherever it happens to land.

You also cannot hit a ball that is moving. You must hit the ball only after it has come to rest following your previous stroke. Sometimes this means watching your ball roll helplessly down a hill, but those are the rules.

And finally, make sure the ball you hit is really yours. If you hit the wrong ball, you will get a two-stroke penalty, so make sure to check first.

Penalty Areas

Since golf course designers want to be sure your game is challenging, they have included penalty areas throughout the fairway. Penalty areas are either sand or water traps that create a challenge to be avoided, or if you are unlucky, a challenge to escape from. Another hazard includes going out of bounds into the woods or whatever environment surrounds the course.

Regardless of where the ball lands — and assuming it is accessible — you have to play it from where it lies. You also cannot test or otherwise disturb the sand in a sand trap. You have to hit the ball exactly as you found it. Of course, this is part of the challenge. Many beginner (or even advanced) players can blow their game struggling out of a single sand trap. It’s all part of the fun.

Penalty Drop

Sometimes you shank your shot so badly, the ball flies out of the confines of the course. In that case, you have three minutes to find the ball or it is considered lost. At this point, you drop a new ball on the fairway as close as possible to where your ball went out of bounds. You are charged an extra stroke for taking this “penalty drop.” As odd as it sounds, penalty drops must be made from knee height.

Putting Green

Eventually, you will make it to the green, which is the area immediately surrounding the hole. At this point, you will switch to your putter and try to tap the ball with just the right amount of force to get it into the hole. As with everything in golf, this is much harder than it looks.

On the putting green, you are allowed to move your ball out of the way if it is disrupting the shot of another player. You will set a small marker on the ground in place of your ball until it is your turn to putt.

Once you successfully putt your way into the hole, you have completed this section of the course. Repeat this feat nine or 18 times, and you will have completed your first round of golf.


Golf is an enjoyable, challenging, and sometimes frustrating game played by millions around the world. Of course, this article barely scratches the surface of all the details and knowledge built into this game. Rules have been developed for every possible scenario you could encounter out on the course. For now, this article should be enough to get you started.

If you are in Garden City and would like to begin your golf journey, head over to Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, which is ranked as the top municipally-owned golf course in Kansas. Located about six miles south of Garden City, you can play anytime, year-round (assuming it’s not raining and/or the course isn’t covered in ice). You can contact the course at (620) 276-1210 or here.

We hope you found this article useful. If you would like to see more great content about things to do around Garden City and Finney County, check out the articles on our site.

Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau

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