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Golf clubs are used to hit a golf ball. Each club is composed of a shaft with a lance (grip) on the top end and a club head on the bottom. "Long" clubs are those meant to propel the ball a comparatively longer distance and "short" clubs a comparatively short distance. Typically, the actual physical length of each club is longer or shorter, depending on the distance the club is intended to propel the ball. The "driver" is the largest-headed and "longest" club. Woods are slightly shorter but still comparatively large-headed clubs, used for long-distance fairway shots. Woods are now typically made of metal; the traditional name "woods" remains in general use but is gradually being replaced by the term "fairway metal." Next shorter in length are the irons, the most numerous and versatile class used for a wide variety of shots. Hybrid (golf) clubs which embody characteristics of both woods and irons in varying degrees, are increasingly being used in preference to long irons in many places because of they are easier for the average golfer to use. Last but not least, putters are used to roll the ball across the green into the cup.

A maximum of 14 clubs is allowed in a player's bag at one time during a stipulated round. The choice of clubs is at the golfer's discretion, although every club must be constructed in accordance with parameters outlined in the rules. (Clubs which meet these parameters are commonly called "conforming.") Violation of these rules can result in disqualification.

The exact shot hit at any given time on a golf course, and which club is used to accomplish the shot, are always completely at the discretion of the golfer; in other words, there is no restriction whatsoever on which club a golfer may or may not use at any time for any shot.

Golf balls are spherical, usually white (although other colours are allowed), and minutely pock-marked by "dimples" that decrease aerodynamic drag by decreasing air turbulence around the ball in motion, thereby allowing the ball to fly farther.

A tee is allowed only for the first stroke on each hole.

Many golfers wear golf shoes with metal or plastic spikes designed to increase traction, thus allowing for longer and more accurate shots. A golf bag is used to transport golf clubs. Golf bags have several pockets designed for carrying equipment and supplies such as tees, balls, and gloves. Golf bags can be carried, pulled on a two-wheel pull cart or harnessed to a motorized golf cart during play. Golf bags have both a hand strap and shoulder strap for carrying, and sometimes have retractable legs that allow the bag to stand upright when at rest.

Golfers start with the non-dominant side of the body facing the target. At address the body and club are positioned parallel to the target line. The feet are commonly shoulder width apart for middle irons and putters, narrower for short irons and wider for long irons and woods. The ball is positioned in the center of the players stance for short irons and putters, more to the front for middle irons and even more for long irons and woods. The golfer chooses a grip. The golfer chooses a stroke appropriate to the distance:

The drive is used in long distance shots.
The approach is used in long to mid distance shots
The chip is used for relatively short distance shots around the green. The goal of the chip is to land the ball safely on the green allowing it to roll out towards the hole.
The putt is used in short distance shots on or near the green. The goal of the putt is to get the ball in the hole or as close to the hole as possible.

A hole is classified by its par; the number of strokes a skilled golfer should require to complete play of the hole. For example, a skilled golfer expects to reach the green on a par-four hole in two strokes (This would be considered a Green in Regulation or GIR): one from the tee (the "drive") and another, second, stroke to the green (the "approach"); and then roll the ball into the hole in two putts for par.