The answer is straight forward, but the history behind it dates back over half a millennium.
A standard round of competition golf is 18 holes. For a casual round of golf, it’s usually determined by how many holes are on the golf course, but it’s actually as many holes as YOU want to play. If you are OK with 6 or 9 or even 15 holes, then that’s your round. It’s perfectly fine to do that.
Most Golf Courses have 18 hole courses, or 9 hole courses, sometimes both. In competitions on a 9-hole course, the players will sometimes play two laps of the course, often with different Tee Box positions for the second lap.
Pitch and Putt and Par 3 courses are often 9 holes but there are some venues that have 18 holes.
At one of the courses I play regularly, Wrag Barn in Wiltshire, the 13th hole is pretty close to the club car park. It’s not uncommon for us to start out with the intention of playing 18 holes, but actually stopping after we’ve played 13 holes.
This usually happens if we’re pushed for time or running out of light, or one of us is playing badly, but most of the time it happens when the course is busy and the pace of play is slow going.
Golf Has Not Always Been Played Over 18 Holes
About three centuries ago, the number of holes in a full round of golf had no general standard, and different courses varied purely based on preference.
In 1764, St Andrews’ golfers began to play a full round of golf that had 18 holes by playing a 10 hole golf course with 8 of the holes being played twice, and it would still be a few hundred years before other golfers would begin adopting the system.
The Old Course at St Andrews, in Scotland, is also known as The Home of Golf due to the fact that golf was first played there in the early 1400’s.
The primary drive behind the universal shift to the 18-hole golf course system is said to be a result of influential participants of the golfing community at the time, such as prominent members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
The number of physical holes on the course remained 10, but 8 of them were played twice to make a full 18-hole round of golf. From there, other golf courses just followed suit and the 18-hole round started becoming the standard.
There’s a great website I found called Why 18 Holes which is looking at proposals to change the number of holes away from the standard 18.
They look at the reasons why this would be good for the game, and suggests going back to the roots of the game where each club is different; and they have the amount of holes that works for them and their players. It’s a good read and a site I encourage you to visit.
Here a video from Golf Course Architect Edwin Roald’s presentation at the 2015 FEGGA Conference in Portugal.
Not All Golf Courses Have 9 or 18 Holes
Some golf courses are not limited to only 9 or 18 holes, some have many more than 18 and to give you some good examples, here are some of the courses that I play at.
|Golf Course||18 Hole Course||9 Hole Course||Other Courses||Total Holes|
|Bowood PGA GC||✔||Academy Course||21|
|Cumberwell Park||✔✔✔✔||Par 3 Course||45|
|The Players Club||✔✔||Water Course||45|
HOLES PLAYED IN Amateur Club Competitions
Most Golf Clubs will run Competitions for their Members over 18 holes. These are played in a variety of scoring formats, which I cover later.
The Main exception is usually the Golf Clubs Board Competitions which are often played over 36 holes, often with a cut after the first round has been completed.
Board Competitions are the more prestigious events throughout the season, such as the Club Championship or The Chairman’s Trophy, Presidents Putter etc.
The winners of these competitions have their names added to the Honours boards, which is a list of all past winners, and these are usually found hanging in the club house.
For most Members it’s a thrill to get their names added to these boards where everyone can see how good they were.
How Many Holes Are Used In Strokeplay Or Stableford Competitions
Strokeplay and Stableford are the names of two different golf scoring systems and these can both be played over any amount of holes, as each scoring system is not related to the amount of holes played, but rather the scores achieved on each hole.
They are likely played over 18 holes, but sometimes 9 holes if it’s an early morning or late afternoon Members roll-up, or when time is a factor.
Check out the articles I wrote about how long it takes to play a round of golf:
How Many Holes Are Used In Matchplay Competitions
Match play is usually played over 18 holes, but depending on the outcome of the game can easily finish sooner or can sometimes take more holes.
Each time a player wins a hole, they are said to be UP, Down Or Level in the match, so if they win the first hole they are one-up, conversely if they lose the first hole they are one-down; if the first hole is a tie the score is level
The idea is to be UP in more holes than there are remaining to play of the standard 18 holes.
For example, you manage to win several holes and go three-up in your match, if you can maintain that until the end of the 16th hole, you will win the game.
This is because you will be three-up with only two holes remaining and therefore your opponent can no longer win the match.
If the match remains Level after the scheduled 18 holes, then it’s usual to play additional holes until the match comes to a conclusion.
Holes Played In Professional Competitions
Professional Tournaments are typically played over 72 holes, which is one round of golf (18 holes) per day and is played over four days. These competitions usually have a cut after two rounds, with the final two days competed for by the top players in the field.
On the PGA Tour the cut has usually been the top 60 and ties and the European Tour more recently it has been 65 and ties. These cut lines change every now and again so just know that it’s less players for the last two days.
I’ve heard Caddies joking that they have the weekend off after being asked how their player is getting on, and they’ve missed the cut.
Player’s missing the cut in Professional golf is not a good thing as the tournament prize money is rally made by competing highly over all four days, making regular cuts will help these top players gain world rankings and enable them to qualify for the biggest tournaments..
18 Holes is A Standard Round In Competitions
So just to recap,
- A standard round of competition golf is 18 holes.
- A 9-hole course can be played twice in competition golf
- In a casual round it’s actually as many holes as YOU want to play
- 18 Holes became popular after The Old Course at St Andrews changed in 1764.
- Four rounds are played, for a total of 72 holes, in a Professional Tournament.
- It can take around 3 hours for rookies to complete a 9-hole course while adept players will do it in half the time, without a golf cart
I hope this guide has been helpful and I wish you all the best for your next round of golf
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