Golf course
A golf course comprises a series of holes, each consisting of a teeing ground
Teeing ground
In golf, the teeing ground is the area at the beginning of a hole from which the player's first stroke is taken. When referring to the area, the terms "tee", "tee box", and "teeing ground" are often used interchangeably....

, fairway, rough and other hazards, and a green with a flagstick (pin) and cup, all designed for the game of golf
Golf is a precision club and ball sport, in which competing players use many types of clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a golf course using the fewest number of strokes....

. A standard round of golf consists of playing 18 holes, thus most golf courses have this number of holes. Some, however, only have nine holes, and the course is played twice per round (2×9=18), while others have 27 or 36 holes and choose two groups, of nine holes at a time, for novelty and maintenance reasons. Additionally, par-3 courses also exist, consisting of nine or 18 holes, all of which are a par 3
Par (score)
The word "par" is a term in the game of golf used to denote the pre-determined number of strokes that a scratch golfer should require to complete a hole, a round , or a tournament...

 (strokes for a scratch golfer). Many older golf courses, often coast
A coastline or seashore is the area where land meets the sea or ocean. A precise line that can be called a coastline cannot be determined due to the dynamic nature of tides. The term "coastal zone" can be used instead, which is a spatial zone where interaction of the sea and land processes occurs...

al, are golf links
Links (golf)
A links is the oldest style of golf course, first developed in Scotland. The word "links" comes from the Scots language and refers to an area of coastal sand dunes and sometimes to open parkland. It also retains this more general meaning in the Scottish English dialect...

, of a different style to others. For non-municipal courses, there is usually a golf club
Country club
A country club is a private club, often with a closed membership, that typically offers a variety of recreational sports facilities and is located in city outskirts or rural areas. Activities may include, for example, any of golf, tennis, swimming or polo...

 based at each course, and may include a pro shop
Pro shop
A pro shop is a sporting-goods shop within a public or private-membership amateur sporting activities facility of some kind, most commonly a golf course, where it will typically be located in the country club building...


Teeing area

The first section of every hole consists of what is known as the teeing ground
Teeing ground
In golf, the teeing ground is the area at the beginning of a hole from which the player's first stroke is taken. When referring to the area, the terms "tee", "tee box", and "teeing ground" are often used interchangeably....

, or tee-box. There is usually more than one available box for a player to place their ball
Golf ball
A golf ball is a ball designed to be used in the game of golf.Under the Rules of Golf, a golf ball weighs no more than 1.620 oz , has a diameter not less than 1.680 in , and performs within specified velocity, distance, and symmetry limits...

, each one a different distance from the hole. They are generally as level as feasible, and most are slightly raised from the surrounding fairway. The most common tee areas, in increasing order of length from the hole, are the ladies' tee, the men's tee, and the championship tee. Other common tee-boxes include the junior tee, closer to the hole than the ladies' tee, and the senior tee, generally between the ladies' tee and the men's tee. In tournaments, golfers generally tee off from the box one level further from the "normal" box for their class (men use the championship tee, ladies use the senior or men's tee, and juniors use the ladies' tee).

Each tee box has two markers showing the bounds of the legal tee area. The teeing area spans the distance between the markers, and extends from two-club lengths behind the markers up to the markers themselves. A golfer may play the ball from outside the teeing area, but the ball itself must be shot from within the area. A golfer may place his ball directly on the teeing ground (called hitting it "off the deck"), a manufactured support known as a tee
A tee is a stand used to support a stationary ball so that the player can strike it, particularly in golf, tee ball, American football, and rugby.- Etymology :...

, or any natural substance such as sand placed on the teeing surface.

Fairway and rough

After the first shot from the tee (teeing off), the player hits the ball
Golf ball
A golf ball is a ball designed to be used in the game of golf.Under the Rules of Golf, a golf ball weighs no more than 1.620 oz , has a diameter not less than 1.680 in , and performs within specified velocity, distance, and symmetry limits...

 from where it came to rest toward the green. The area between the tee box and the putting green where the grass is cut even and short is called the fairway and is generally the most advantageous area from which to hit. The area between the fairway and the out-of-bounds markers and also between the fairway and green is the rough, the grass of which is cut higher than that of the fairway and is generally a disadvantageous area from which to hit. On par three holes the player is expected to be able to drive the ball to the green on the first shot from the tee box. On holes longer than par threes players are expected to require at least one extra shot made from the fairway or rough.

While many holes are designed with a direct line-of-sight from the tee-off point to the green, some holes may bend either to the left or to the right. This is called a "dogleg", in reference to a dog's knee. The hole is called a "dogleg left" if the hole angles leftwards, and a "dogleg right" if the hole angles rightwards. Sometimes, a hole's direction can bend twice, and is called a "double dogleg".

Just as there are good quality grasses for putting greens, there are good quality grasses for the fairway and rough. The quality of grass influences the roll of the ball as well as the ability of the player to 'take a divot' (effectively, the ability to hit the ball into the turf and compress it). The fairways on prestigious tours, like the PGA Tour, are cut low, making it harder for players to compress the ball. Mow heights influence the play of the course; for example, the grass heights at U.S Open events are alternated in order to make the golf course difficult. One example of this is the infamous roughs at U.S Opens, which are often 3 to 5 inches tall depending on how close to the fairway or green the said height will be. This makes it harder for a player to recover after a bad shot.

Some variants of grass used for fairways and roughs are bent grass, Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, rye grass, Kentucky bluegrass, and Zoysiagrass. As in putting green grass types, not every grass type works for every climate type.


Many holes include hazards, which may be of three types: (1) water hazards such as lakes and rivers; (2) man-made hazards such as bunkers; and (3) natural hazards such as dense vegetation. Special rules apply to playing balls that fall in a hazard. For example, a player may not touch the ground with his club before playing a ball, not even for a practice swing. A ball in any hazard may be played as it lies without penalty. If it cannot be played from the hazard, the ball may be hit from another location, generally with a penalty of one stroke. The Rules of Golf
Rules of golf
The rules of golf are a standard set of regulations and procedures by which the sport of golf should be played. They are jointly written and administered by the R&A the governing body of golf worldwide except in the United States and Mexico, which are the responsibility of the United States Golf...

 govern exactly from where the ball may be played outside a hazard. Bunkers (or sand traps) are shallow pits filled with sand and generally incorporating a raised lip or barrier, from which the ball is more difficult to play than from grass. As in any hazard, a ball in a sand trap must be played without previously touching the sand with the club.

Putting green

To putt is to play a stroke on the defined putting surface. Usually, this stroke is played on the green with a putter where the ball does not leave the ground. Once on the green, the ball is putted (struck with the eponymous flat-faced club to roll it along the ground) toward the hole until the ball falls into the cup.

The grass
A lawn is an area of aesthetic and recreational land planted with grasses or other durable plants, which usually are maintained at a low and consistent height. Low ornamental meadows in natural landscaping styles are a contemporary option of a lawn...

 of the putting green (more commonly just green) is cut very short so that a ball can roll long distances. The most common types of greens for cold winter, but warmer (not extremely warm i.e. Southern United States) are bent grass greens. A lot of greens are made out of a thin carpet so weather doesn't turn into a big factor on maintaining the golf course. These are considered the best greens because of their ability to be cut to extremely low heights, and their ability to be grown from seed. Bent grass does not have grain, which makes it superior as a putting surface; however, bent grass often gets infested with poa annua, which is a costly and time consuming weed. Augusta National is one of many golf courses to use these types of greens; the original design of Augusta National did not have bent grass greens, however, in the 1980s, the controversial decision was made that changed the greens to bent grass, from Bermuda. This has affected the speed and playing of Augusta National. Many putting greens nowadays have made the decision to change to Bermuda Greens. Most Golf courses made the decision to change when they saw how much business the other courses were bringing in. Another type of grass common for greens is TifDwarf Hybrid Bermuda (other variants exist, but TifDwarf is one of the most common), or simply Bermuda grass. This type of grass is more common in places that do not have cold winters, yet have very warm summers (such as the southern portion of the United States, and the southwestern states). Red Bridge Golf Course was the first golf course in North Carolina to utilize a special bermuda (Mini Verde) A green is generally established from sod which has had the soil washed off of it as to avoid soil compatibility problems and then laid tightly over the green, rolled and topdressed with fine sand. Another common and more economical approach for establishing a putting green is hybrid Bermuda spriggs, which are the stolon of the grass which are raked out at the sod farm and laid out on the green to establish. The best greens are always established vegetatively and never from seed.

A downside to Bermuda greens is the cost of maintenance, and the existence of grain (the growth direction of the blades of grass affects the ball's roll and is called the grain of the green). The slope or break of the green also affects the roll of the ball. The cup is always found within the green and must have a diameter of 108 millimetres (4.25 in) and a depth of at least 10 centimetres (3.94 in). Its position on the green is not fixed and is normally changed daily by a greenskeeper
- Basic work description and duties :A professional who maintains a golf course or country club's grounds. This includes all cultural practices along with setting of pins and marking of hazards for regular club play along with tournament play. Greenskeepers work under the direction of the Golf...

 in order to prevent excessive wear and damage to the turf. The cup usually has a flag on a pole positioned in it so that it may be seen from a distance, but not necessarily from the tee; this flag-and-pole combination is called the pin, or less commonly, the flag stick.

Putting greens are not all of the same quality. Generally, the finest-quality greens are well kept so that a ball will roll smoothly over the closely mowed grass. Excess water can be removed from a putting green using a machine called a water hog
Water hog
A water hog is a machine that removes water from sports grounds. The water hog was invented by Hugh McLaughlin.Driven by a rider, it has a wide, front roller that absorbs the water, transfers it to a storage tank, and allows it to be discharged in a safe location...

. Golfers describe a green as fast if a light stroke to the ball makes it roll a long distance; conversely, a slow green is one where a stronger stroke is necessary to roll the ball the required distance. The exact speed of a green can be found with a stimp meter. By collecting sample measurements, golf courses can be compared in terms of average green speed. It is, however, illegal by the Rules of Golf
Rules of golf
The rules of golf are a standard set of regulations and procedures by which the sport of golf should be played. They are jointly written and administered by the R&A the governing body of golf worldwide except in the United States and Mexico, which are the responsibility of the United States Golf...

 to test the speed of a green while playing by rolling a ball on it, feeling or rubbing the green.


Most courses have only par three, four, and five holes, though some courses include par six holes. Typical distances for the various holes from standard tees are as follows.

  • Par 3 – 250 yards (228.6 m) and below
  • Par 4 – 251–450 yd (229.5–411.5 m)
  • Par 5 – 451–690 yd (412.4–630.9 m)
  • Par 6 – 691 yards (631.9 m) or more

  • Par 3 – 210 yards (192 m) and below
  • Par 4 – 211–400 yd (192.9–365.8 m)
  • Par 5 – 401–575 yd (366.7–525.8 m)
  • Par 6 – 575 yards (525.8 m) or more

Harder or easier courses may have longer or shorter distances, respectively. Terrain can also be a factor, where a long downhill hole might be rated a par four, but a shorter uphill or treacherous hole might be rated a par five. Professional tournament players will often encounter longer Par 3 holes, up to 290 yards (265.2 m), and longer Par 4 holes, up to 520 yards (475.5 m).

Other areas

Some areas of the course are designated as ground under repair ("G.U.R."), where greenskeepers are making repairs or where the course is damaged. A ball
Golf ball
A golf ball is a ball designed to be used in the game of golf.Under the Rules of Golf, a golf ball weighs no more than 1.620 oz , has a diameter not less than 1.680 in , and performs within specified velocity, distance, and symmetry limits...

 coming to rest in this spot may be lifted, then played from outside the G.U.R. without penalty. Certain man-made objects on the course are defined as obstructions (i.e. distance posts, gardens, etc.), and specific rules determine how a golfer may proceed when their play is impeded by these.

Driving range

Often, there is a practice range or driving range
Driving range
A driving range is an area where golfers can practice their swing. It can also be a recreational activity itself for amateur golfers or when enough time for a full game is not available. Many golf courses have a driving range attached and they are also found as stand-alone facilities, especially...

, usually with practice greens, bunkers, and driving areas. Markers showing distances are usually included on a practice range to benefit the golfer. There may even be a practice course (often shorter and easier to play than full-scale golf courses), where golfers practice to measure how far they can hit with a specific club or to improve their swing technique.


A specialty of landscape design
Landscape design
Landscape design is an independent profession and a design and art tradition, practised by landscape designers, combining nature and culture. In contemporary practice landscape design bridges between landscape architecture and garden design.-Design scope:...

 or landscape architecture
Landscape architecture
Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor and public spaces to achieve environmental, socio-behavioral, or aesthetic outcomes. It involves the systematic investigation of existing social, ecological, and geological conditions and processes in the landscape, and the design of interventions...

, golf course architecture is its own field of study. Some golf course architects become celebrities in their own right. The field is partially represented by the American Society of Golf Course Architects
American Society of Golf Course Architects
The American Society of Golf Course Architects is a professional organization of golf course designers in America. Founded in 1946, its members are actively involved in the design of new courses and the renovation of existing courses in the United States and Canada. One of its founders was noted...

, the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects while many of the finest golf course architects in the world choose not to become members of any architect's group, as architect associations are not government sanctioned licensing bodies, but private groups.
While golf courses often follow the original landscape, some modification is unavoidable. This is increasingly the case as new courses are more likely to be sited on less optimal land. Bunkers and sand traps are almost always artificial, although other hazards may be natural.

The layout of fairways follows certain traditional principles, such as the number of holes (nine and 18 being most common), their par and number of chosen par types per course. It is also preferable to arrange greens to be close to the tee box of the next playable hole, to minimize travel distance while playing. Combined with the need to package all the fairways in a compact square or rectangular land plot, they tend to form an oppositional tiling pattern. In complex areas, sometimes two holes share a single tee box. It is also common for separate tee-off points to be positioned for men, women, and amateurs, each one respectively lying closer to the green.

A successful design is as visually pleasing as it is playable. With golf being an outdoor form of recreation, the strong designer is an adept student of natural landscaping, understanding the aesthetic cohesion of vegetation, water bodies, paths, grasses, stonework and woodwork, among other things.

Executive golf course

A special design of golf course is the "executive" golf course (also known as a "par-3" course). This course differs from standard courses in that the majority of holes are Par 3 holes, with one or two Par 4 holes added and sometimes (though rare) a Par 5 hole. The executive course is designed for beginner or older golfers and those who lack the time to play a round on a standard course.

Environmental impact

Environmental concerns
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

 over the use of land for golf courses have grown over the past fifty years. Specific issues include the amount of water
Water crisis
Water crisis is a general term used to describe a situation where the available water within a region is less than the region's demand. The term has been used to describe the availability of potable water in a variety of regions by the United Nations and other world organizations...

 and chemical pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

s and fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s used for maintenance, as well as the destruction of wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

s and other environmentally important areas during construction. The UN estimates that golf courses use about 2.5 billion gallons/9.5 billion liters of water daily. Many golf courses in the world are irrigated with non-potable water and/or rainwater. In 1988, the US Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 prohibited the use of Diazinon on golf courses and sod farms because of negative impact on bird species.

These, along with health and cost concerns, have led to research into more environmentally sound practices and turf grasses. The golf course superintendent is often trained in the uses of these practices and grasses. This has led to significant reduction in the amount of chemicals and water used on courses. The turf on golf courses is an excellent filter for water and has been used in communities to cleanse grey water
Greywater is wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands...

, such as incorporation of bioswale
Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides and filled with vegetation, compost and/or riprap...


Environmentalists and other activists continue to oppose golf courses for environmental reasons, as they occasionally impede corridors for migrating animals and sanctuaries for birds and other wildlife, though courses frequently become havens for native and non-native creatures.

A result of modern equipment
Golf equipment
Golf equipment encompasses the various items that are used to play the sport of golf. Types of equipment include the golf ball itself, implements designed for striking the golf ball, devices that aid in the process of playing a stroke, and items that in some way enrich the playing...

 is that today's players can hit the ball much farther than previously. As a result, out of a concern for safety, golf course architects have had to lengthen and widen golf courses. This has led to a ten percent increase in the acreage required to build them. At the same time, water restrictions placed by communities have forced courses to limit the amount of maintained turf grass. While most modern 18-hole golf courses occupy as much as 60 hectares (150 acres) of land, the average course has 30 Ha (75 acres) of maintained turf. (Sources include the National Golf Foundation
National Golf Foundation
The National Golf Foundation provides golf-business research and consulting services. Founded in 1936 by golf writer Herb Graffis and his brother Joe, who nearly went bankrupt in the process, its original mission was to publish authoritative research useful to investors developing the game of...

 and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America GCSAA.)

Golf courses can be built on sandy areas along coasts, abandoned farms, strip mines and quarries, deserts and forests. Many Western countries have instituted environmental restrictions on where and how courses can be built.

In some parts of the world, attempts to build courses and resorts have led to protests, vandalism and violence. Golf is perceived by some as elitist, and thus golf courses become a target for popular opposition. Resisting golf tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 and golf's expansion has become an objective of some land-reform
Land reform
[Image:Jakarta farmers protest23.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Farmers protesting for Land Reform in Indonesia]Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution,...

 movements, especially in the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...


In the Bahamas, opposition to golf developments has become a national issue. Residents of Great Guana Cay
Great Guana Cay
Great Guana Cay is an islet located in The Bahamas. It is a long but narrow islet which is 9 miles in length. It is located in the centre of the Abaco Islands...

 and Bimini
Bimini is the westernmost district of the Bahamas composed of a chain of islands located about 53 miles due east of Miami, Florida. Bimini is the closest point in the Bahamas to the mainland United States and approximately 137 miles west-northwest of Nassau...

, for example, are engaged in legal and political opposition to golf developments on their islands, for fear the golf courses will destroy the nutrient-poor balance on which their coral reef and mangrove systems depend.

In Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 and elsewhere in arid regions, golf courses have been constructed on nothing more than oil-covered sand. Players may use a roller on the "greens" to smooth the intended path before putting. In Coober Pedy, Australia, there is a golf course that consists of nine holes dug into mounds of sand, diesel and oil, with no grass anywhere on the course. Players carry a small piece of astroturf
AstroTurf is a brand of artificial turf. Although the term is a registered trademark, it is sometimes used as a generic description of any kind of artificial turf. The original AstroTurf product was a short pile synthetic turf while the current products incorporate modern features such as...

 from which they tee the ball. In New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 it is not uncommon for rural courses to have greens fenced off and sheep graze the fairways. At the 125-year-old Royal Colombo Golf Club in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 steam trains, from the Kelani Valley railway, run through the course at the 6th hole.

Extreme golf
Speed golf
Speed Golf is a sport started in California in 1979 by American runner Steve Scott and which involves completing a golf course in the lowest combination of strokes and time...

 is played on environmentally sustainable alternatives to traditional courses. A cross between hiking and golf, the course layout exposes players to a wide range of natural obstacles and challenging terrains.

Based on the growing popularity of the U.X. Open Alternative Golf Tournament the extreme golf course features un-mowed meadows and forest instead of fairways, with "goals" scored on temporary greens (a circle 20 feet, or 6 metres, in diameter).

External links

  • Course Rating Primer at the website of the United States Golf Association
    United States Golf Association
    The United States Golf Association is the United States' national association of golf courses, clubs and facilities and the governing body of golf for the U.S. and Mexico. Together with The R&A, the USGA produces and interprets the Rules of Golf. The USGA also provides a national handicap system...

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