Why does a golf course have eighteen holes?


Why does a golf course have eighteen holes?
© Getty Images Sport - Mike Mulholland / Stringer

One of the fundamental notions of golf is that a course has 18 holes. But what is the reason behind this choice? If you ask a Scotsman or an Irishman this question, they will most likely tell you that the reason is clear: there are exactly 18 "shots" in a bottle of whiskey.

Golf, 18 holes

In reality, the number of 18 holes in a "round" of golf has quite random origins and dates back to a period when golf was not yet well codified, and each Scottish club played according to its own rules. Until the mid-19th century, each course had a different number of holes, simply dependent on the best layout on the club's property.

Initially, the prestigious St. Andrews course also had 22 holes. However, in 1764, the first and last 4 holes were joined, forming what is now known as the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th, coincidentally arriving at the number 18. The 18-hole golf "round" rule was first defined in the R&A Rules of Golf in 1858, but initially applied only to St.

Andrews. It was only through the influence and importance of the Old Course and the R&A that the 18 holes became established as the standard, leading all other clubs to modify or reconstruct their courses to follow this example.

However, in recent years, the boom in golf tourism has led to the construction of many high-quality par 3 courses with a number of holes other than 18. Some of these courses, such as Bandon Preserve at the famous Bandon Dunes resort or The Sandbox at Sand Valley, offer an excellent experience despite having a different number of holes.

So, while for romantics 18 holes will never go out of fashion, in some cases a course with fewer holes but of higher quality can be a good idea, especially in an era where the playing experience and the quality of the design are increasingly important.

The Rules of Golf are a set of standard rules and procedures by which the sport of golf should be played. They are jointly written and administered by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the governing body of golf throughout the world, outside of the United States and Mexico, which are the responsibility of the United States Golf Association.