Woodrow Wilson, former US President, in one of his wittier moments defined it as "A game in which one endeavours to control a (small) ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose".
Another wit called it "A good walk, spoiled".
Despite this more and more people are turning to golf & once started, find it fascinating. Once you hit a perfect drive you will be a convert for life. The game is characterised by good sportsmanship and etiquette.
To enjoy the outdoors all year round, in good company and compete against others and the golf course. You can play against other golfers of differing ability on an equal level because of the handicap system.
To find a recreational golf partner, you can use the Find Sport Partner section on Totally Sporty. Simply put in your postcode and will show you golf players in your area who you can play a round with.
Beginners and improvers should take a series of golf lessons from a qualified golf coach at their nearest golf club or driving range.
Golf lessons are important as a correct swing will show you how to turn properly and stop you getting into bad habits. A full list of registered pros is maintained by the Professional Golfers' Association (www.pga.info) Telephone 01675 470333.
In the London area, Hounslow Heath Golf Club is currently offering a series of 6 group beginners' lessons for £100 every Thursday evening (call 020 8570 5271 for the next start dates and times) Northwick Park Golf Club has a special offer of 5 hours of individual beginners' lessons for £80 (call 0208 4226697) Furthermore the Central London Golf Centre has a series of beginner and improver classes on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings.
After you have had some lessons, then you should think about buying some equipment. Second hand sets are available at most golf club shops and you should get advice about buying them from your golf teacher. Your height, weight and age will all count towards finding you the right set.
It's often easiest to start with a half-set ( 7 clubs), which typically comprise a couple of woods (these days they are made of metal or graphite), 2 or 3 medium/short irons, a sand iron and a putter. These will enable you to drive from the tee, hit the ball from the fairway or rough, pitch the ball onto the green, or if you miss, chip it near the hole and then putt out for your score. As the game consists of eighteen holes, you will then compare your total gross score against par for the course, to see how many more strokes you took. Don't be disheartened - over time you will improve as your technique does.
Over time you may find the occasional birdie (one stroke under par), or eagle( two strokes under) or that very rare bird, the albatross! (three strokes under)
Use the Find a Sport Club/Venue directory on Totally Sporty to find your nearest golf club in London. There are currently over 150 golf clubs in London to choose from. Here you will find lots of useful information on the club, including whether it is membership based or open to the public, the number of holes and information on any driving range facilities.
There are a number of golf driving ranges dotted around London, where you will be able to practise before venturing onto the nearest public golf course. For example, Richmond Park in South West London has two attractive courses near Roehampton Gate. For a full guide to all courses in Britain & Ireland The Sunday Telegraph Golf Course Guide by Peter Alliss is well worth buying. Not only will you find interesting courses outside London, ideal for weekends away, but the prices and conditions are listed as well as directions to get there.
James Bond creator, Ian Fleming was a keen golfer and a member at Royal St George's, Sandwich, and set a scene from Goldfinger there.
Check out www.getintogolf.org and get started. Good luck. You never know, one day you may even become a touring professional like Tiger Woods or Laura Davis!