Golf is one of the oldest existing codified sports, with the origin of the modern game usually traced to 15th century Scotland. In 1744 the first Rules of Golf were established by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and ten years later the Society of St. Andrews Golfers was formed. The latter organization became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and is regarded as the governing authority of the sport, including the administration of the Rules of Golf.
In 1764 the Old Course at St. Andrews was reduced from 22 holes to 18 holes, which would become the recognized standard around the world. Since then, the competition format of the game has hardly changed. Scottish officers who practiced the sport spread it around the world as part of the British armed forces. Today there are more than 30,000 golf courses and the sport is played by more than 60 million people.
Golf first appeared on the Olympic program at Paris 1900 with men’s and women’s individual stroke play tournaments. At St. Louis 1904 the women’s event was replaced by a men’s stroke play team event while the men’s event was contested as a match play tournament, won by Canadian George Lyon. Four years later Lyon sailed to London intent on defending his Olympic title at the 1908 Games but the tournament was cancelled due to a lack of entries. Lyon was offered a symbolic gold medal which he declined.
Golf would disappear from the Olympic Games for more than a century until the 121st IOC Session in October 2009 when members voted to re-introduce golf to the Olympic program at Rio 2016. The sport will make its Pan American Games debut at Toronto 2015.
Stroke play is one of golf’s most utilized competition formats in which the total number of shots that a player takes to reach the end of the course is counted. Like most major tournaments, the Olympic events will feature 72 holes (ie: four rounds of the same course with varied hole placement each round). The player with the fewest number of strokes at the end of four rounds is the winner. If there is a tie for one of the podium places, a three-hole playoff will determine the medallists. Players’ scores are generally given in relation to par, which is the number of strokes that it should take a player to complete each hole and, consequently, the course. Players aim to have a score under par.