Many golfers wear special shoes. The shoes can be spikeless or with spikes attached to the soles. The spikes can be made of metal or plastic (plastic spikes are also known as "soft spikes") designed to increase traction thus helping the player to keep his/her balance during the swing, on greens, or in wet conditions. In an attempt to minimize the severity of spike marks made on greens, many golf courses have banned metal spikes, allowing only plastic spikes during play.
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Ball washers may be used to clean golf balls. Various designs exist, and many golf courses provide stand-mounted ball-washers near the tee box of each hole. Some courses even have ball and club washers on each golf cart. According to strict rules, the ball is not allowed to be cleaned between a player's tee shot and the ball's landing on the green, except to the degree necessary to inspect the ball for damage that would make it unplayable. Once the ball has landed on the green, the player may pick up and wipe off the ball to remove attached dirt or debris that would impede the ball rolling along the green, and between holes the ball may be thoroughly cleaned.
Golf carts are vehicles used to transport golf bags and golfers along the golf course during a round of golf. Hand carts are designed to hold only the bag, and are used by players while walking along the course to relieve them of the weight of the bag. Carts that carry both player and bag are more common on public golf courses; most of these are powered by a battery and electric motors, though gasoline-powered carts are sometimes used by course staff, and some courses and players are beginning to explore alternatives such as bicycle-drawn carts.
Rangefinders allow a golfer to measure exact distance to the hole from their current position; they are illegal according to Rule 14-3 of the rules of golf, but the USGA allows individual course clubs to institute a local rule permitting rangefinders, and they are common among recreational golfers. The typical rangefinder is an optical device that is aimed by sighting the scope on the flag and using the calibrated gauge in the optics to estimate the distance based on the flagstick's apparent height. Other rangefinders estimate range using a calibrated focus or parallax control; the user sights the target, brings it into focus, and reads the distance mark on the control. Newer laser rangefinders operate by simply sighting any target and pressing a switch to take a very precise distance reading using an invisible laser. Newer golf carts often include GPS tracking which, combined with an electronic map of the course, can serve a similar function.
Golf club sets are a great and easy way to get started in the sport of golf. Most golf sets will come complete with nearly everything you need to hit the course right away. Golf club sets offer a full complement of clubs including a driver, one or more fairway woods, one or more hybrids, an iron set, and a putter. All golf sets include a golf bag to carry all those clubs, and most will also include headcovers for the woods to protect the clubheads.
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Sunday bags are commonly advertised as "minimalist" carry bags; they have very light weight and flexible construction allowing the bag to be rolled up or folded for storage without clubs, and have storage pockets for the essentials of play (clubs, balls, tees) but often lack more advanced features like segregated club storage, insulated pockets for drinks, stand legs etc.
A player usually carries several clubs during the game (but no more than fourteen, the limit defined by the rules). There are three major types of clubs, known as woods, irons, and putters. Woods are played for long shots from the tee or fairway, and occasionally rough, while irons are for precision shots from fairways as well as from the rough. Wedges are irons used to play shorter shots. A new type of club called a hybrid combines the straight-hitting characteristics of irons with the easy-to-hit characteristics of higher-lofted woods. A hybrid is often used for long shots from difficult rough. Hybrids are also used by players who have a difficult time getting the ball airborne with long irons. Wedges are played from difficult ground such as sand or the rough and for approach shots to the green. Putters are mostly played on the green, but can also be useful when playing from bunkers or for some approach shots. Putters have minimal loft, forcing the ball to stay on the putting surface when struck. The most common clubs to find in a golfer's bag are the driver, 3-wood, numbered irons from 3 to 9 (with hybrids commonly replacing the 3 and 4 iron), pitching and sand wedges, and a putter. Players commonly also carry a 5-wood, and/or additional wedges such as a gap or lob wedge.
Originally, golf balls were made of a hardwood, such as beech. Beginning between the 14th and 16th centuries, more expensive golf balls were made of a leather skin stuffed with down feathers; these were called "featheries". Around the mid-1800s, a new material called gutta-percha, made from the latex of the East Asian sapodilla tree, started to be used to create more inexpensive golf balls nicknamed "gutties", which had similar flight characteristics as featheries. These then progressed to "brambles" in the later 1800s, using a raised dimple pattern and resembling bramble fruit, and then to "meshies" beginning in the early 1900s, where ball manufacturers started experimenting with latex rubber cores and wound mesh skins that created recessed patterns over the ball's surface. Recessed circular dimples were patented in 1910, but didn't become popular until the 1940s after the patents expired.
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