How many Holes in Golf? A Complete Beginner’s Guide

Although it has been a lengthy and diverse journey to get to the standard 18-hole golf course, the majority of modern golfers today accept it as the standard without question. Even now, certain courses still don’t follow this generally accepted practice.

Let’s begin our exploration of the ancient fairways of this beloved sport. We’ll trace the evolution of the course, including how many holes in golf there were, to the widely recognized and mostly cherished 18-hole arrangement there is today.

In this article, we will cover the following;

  • How Many Holes In Golf Are on a Standard Course?
  • Why Are Golf Courses 18 Holes?
  • Alternatives: The 9 Hole Round
  • What Is a 9-Hole Course Called?
  • Do Most People Play 9 or 18 Holes?
  • 9 or 18 Holes: Which Should I Choose?

Let’s dive in!

How many holes in golf?

How Many Holes In Golf Are on a Standard Course?

So, how many holes are in golf? A typical golf course has 18 holes, comprising ten par four holes, four par five holes, and four par three holes. This configuration, nevertheless, wasn’t always the norm. 

These holes are spread across the course, usually in a specific sequence, with varying lengths and challenges. The 18-hole format has become the traditional and most widely accepted standard in golf.

It was officially established around 1764 when the Old Course at St. Andrews transitioned from a 22-hole layout to the now familiar 18-hole design.

lady golfer looking at how many holes are in the golf course

How Many Holes In Golf – Why 18 Holes?

The history of golf can be traced back several centuries to Scotland, where the sport originated. Initially, golf courses consisted of anywhere between 10 and 22 holes. 

How many holes in golf were there originally?

Originally, the St. Andrews Old Course consisted of 12 holes, and golfers would play 10 of those holes twice, resulting in 22 holes for a round. 

In 1764, the St. Andrew’s Course was converted into a 10-hole layout, where eight holes were played twice, resulting in an 18-hole round. 

However, in the mid-19th century, the number of holes standardized to 18, a convention that is still prevalent in most golf courses worldwide. 

golfer swinging wood club

This change is attributed to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which adopted 18 holes as the standard in 1858.

It’s worth noting that other golf courses during that time also had layouts that may seem unusual by today’s standards; let’s take a look at how many holes in golf there were:

Golf CourseDetails: How Many Holes In Golf?
Leith LinksBuilt-in in 1744         
Started with 5 holes     
Later added 2 holes
Bruntsfield LinksStarted with 5 holes     
Expanded to 6 holes in 1818 
Players would play each hole three times for a round of 18
The Old Course at MusselburghStarted with 7 holes
Added another hole in 1832    
Added a 9th hole in 1870                  
BlackheathStarted as a 5-hole course                   
Expanded to 7 holes in 1844
Montrose LinksStarted as a 7-hole course in 1810    
Increased to 14 holes in 1825      
Reduced to 11 holes in 1849 
Expanded to 25 holes in 1866  
Settled back to 18 holes after 1874
golfer posing with iron golf club, the green and golf tee behind him

Alternatives: The 9 Hole Round

The nine-hole round is an alternative format for playing golf that involves completing only nine holes of a traditional 18-hole golf course. It offers a shorter and quicker option for golfers who have limited time or prefer a more condensed playing experience.

In this format, players start their round on a designated starting hole, which can vary depending on the golf course’s setup. They then proceed to play through the next eight consecutive holes to complete the round.

The rules and scoring system for the nine-hole round are typically the same as those used in regular 18-hole golf. 

Players aim to complete each hole using as few strokes as possible, and their scores are recorded accordingly. The total score for the nine holes played determines the final result of the round.

The nine-hole round is often preferred by golfers who are new to the sport, have limited physical endurance, or have time constraints. 

Many golf courses accommodate the nine-hole round format, offering specific tee times and rates for this type of play. 

golf lady posing next to the golf tee

What Is a 9-Hole Course Called?

A golf course specifically designed with only 9 holes is commonly referred to as a “short course.” 

These courses typically feature shorter holes, making them suitable for beginners or golfers who prefer a less challenging experience. 

Playing a nine-hole round on a short course can be a great way to develop skills, gain confidence, or simply enjoy a shorter game.

golfer putting on the green

What is the 19th Hole in Golf?

The clubhouse, commonly known as the 19th hole, is a charming structure nestled at the entrance of a golf course. It serves as a haven for golfers, offering various amenities, including locker rooms. 

It’s the perfect spot for players to relax and relish delectable food and refreshing beverages following an exhilarating round of golf. 

Moreover, numerous golf courses go the extra mile by incorporating additional features like bars, restaurants, and, occasionally, even pools within their clubhouses.

The 19th hole is sometimes even turned into a festival-like setting at golf tournaments, such as the US Senior Open.

golfer taking bunker shot

By becoming a member of a golf course, individuals gain access to the golfing experience and these supplementary amenities. 

In rare cases, “19th hole” can also describe a playoff between two players who have tied in a competitive game. 

In a playoff, the golfers play an extra hole or more to determine the winner of the match. This additional hole(s) is known as the 19th hole.

golfer posing with iron golf club

Do Most People Play 9 or 18 Holes?

There has been a noteworthy upswing in the prevalence of nine-hole rounds of golf within the United Kingdom and Ireland throughout recent years. 

Remarkably, in 2020, a staggering 3.47 million tee times were explicitly reserved for nine-hole play, surpassing the preceding year’s figure of 1.55 million by more than twofold.

This substantial increase in nine-hole rounds can be attributed to two primary factors contributing to its popularity. 

Firstly, there is a growing demand for purpose-built nine-hole courses that cater to the preferences of golf enthusiasts. 

Additionally, the availability of playing nine holes at traditional 18-hole courses has also played a significant role in driving this trend. 

It’s worth noting that club members accounted for a majority of 51 percent in the total rounds played, while the remaining 49 percent were attributed to visiting players.

aerial shot of golf course

9 or 18 Holes: Which Should I Choose?

Here’s a graph comparing the pros and cons of playing nine holes versus 18 holes of golf:

How Many Holes Are In Golf: 9 holes
Less Time
– Playing nine holes takes less time than 18 holes, making it ideal for those with limited time or busy schedules.

Lower Cost
– Typically, playing nine holes is cheaper than playing 18 holes, as you pay for half the holes.

Less Physical Demand
– Playing nine holes requires less physical stamina and endurance, making it suitable for beginners or those who prefer a less physically demanding game.

Practice and Skill Development
– Nine-hole rounds can allow focused practice on specific aspects of your game, such as tee shots or putting.
Less Variety
– With fewer holes, there is less variation in the course layout and challenges you encounter.

Limited Playtime
– If you enjoy spending more time on the golf course, playing only nine holes may leave you wanting more.

Reduced Socializing
– Since the duration of play is shorter, there is less time for socializing with fellow golfers or enjoying post-round activities.
golf green and flag
How Many Holes Are In Golf: 18 holes
Complete Experience
– Playing 18 holes offers a more comprehensive golf experience, covering a full round and allowing you to play all the holes on the course.

Increased Challenge
– An 18-hole round provides a greater challenge due to the longer duration and the variety of holes and obstacles you encounter.

Socializing and Networking
– With a longer playing time, there is more opportunity for socializing and networking with other golfers during and after the round.

Tournament Play
– Most golf tournaments are played over 18 holes, so if you aspire to compete or participate in official events, practicing on an 18-hole course is essential.
Time Commitment
– Playing 18 holes requires a significant time commitment, which may be challenging for those with busy schedules.

Higher Cost
– Compared to playing nine holes, playing 18 holes generally involves higher green fees, equipment rentals, and other associated costs.

Physical Stamina
– The longer duration of an 18-hole round demands more physical stamina and endurance, which can be tiring for some players.

It’s important to consider how many holes in golf you’d prefer to play, available time, physical condition, and budget when deciding between nine and 18 holes. 

golf lady posing on the course

Wrap-Up: How Many Holes In Golf?

In answer to the question “How many holes in golf?”, the transition from six, ten, and 12-hole courses to the standard 18 holes has added vibrancy to the game. 

Although some courses deviate from the norm and have more or fewer than 18 holes, they still attract players intrigued by the uniqueness. 

To add excitement to your golfing experience, consider venturing beyond traditional courses with your playing group and testing your skills on unconventional greens and fairways. Doing so will undoubtedly cultivate a newfound appreciation for golfers of the past.

Next Up: How Many Miles is 18 Holes Of Golf?

Photo of author
After graduating from the Professional Golf Management program in Palm Springs, CA, I moved back to Toronto, Canada, turned pro and became a Class 'A' member of the PGA of Canada. I then began working at some of the city's most prominent country clubs. While this was exciting, it wasn't as fulfilling as teaching, and I made the change from a pro shop professional to a teaching professional. Within two years, I was the Lead Teaching Professional at one of Toronto's busiest golf instruction facilities. Since then, I've stepped back from the stress of running a successful golf academy to focus on helping golfers in a different way. Knowledge is key so improving a players golf IQ is crucial when choosing things like the right equipment or how to cure a slice. As a writer I can help a wide range of people while still having a little time to golf myself!

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