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10 Different Types of Golf Course Layouts Explained

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For the avid golfer, few pleasures can exist to rival the feeling of stepping onto a lush green golf course. And if you’re looking to test yourself on the greens, we break down 10 different types of golf course layouts that you can explore the next time you tee off. 

The novelty of sport lies in its inclusivity. From pros and amateurs to those starting out, it embraces all. In golf, the serene surroundings are a draw that few disciplines can offer. A lush green golf course is the perfect setting for those looking to step up in their quest for excellence. For the casual player, however, it is very often a respite for jangled nerves in this age of frenetic pacing. 

The challenges on offer dawn quickly after initiation, with the harsh fact being that there are more bad days than good ones in this extremely cerebral sport. Yet, the urge to keep returning despite setbacks is one of the reasons why golf course architecture has evolved over time.   

Championship courses aren’t for everyone, and it is here that the imagination of the designers and architects, driven by smart business sense, came into play. It is through the hands of these architects that tracts of land are laid out, catering to all skill sets. 

The human imagination knows no bounds, so set it free and visualise the layouts as we embark on a journey to discover the different golf course layouts and designs across the globe.  

Exploring 10 types of golf course layouts 

Links Course

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Golf originated in Scotland, and so did the links layout. Links courses are designed on confined stretches of sandy areas between the coastline and farmland. They complement the pristine nature of land strips along the Scottish and Irish coastlines, and include the landscape’s slopes and curves, with the fairways often possessing an innate roll to them. These courses have a limited number of hazards and hardly any trees, as they are built around the existing landscape rather than forcing changes to the location.  

Although enthusiasts argue that authentic links courses may only be found in the region where they originated, courses developed in the links tradition can be found all over the world. Links courses continue to be popular in Ireland and the United Kingdom, particularly in Scotland. 

Par 3 Course 

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A par-3 course is one that has only par-3 holes. These are sometimes referred to as pitch-and-putt courses. Par 3 courses are excellent for newcomers to the sport as well as golfers who struggle with their short game. Typically, their shorter length distinguishes them from regular-length courses.  

The shorter distances, along with a more laid-back ambience than regular courses, result in much quicker play, fewer strokes, and lower scores. The number of holes on a par-3 course can range from 9 to 18, and each hole has a par-3 rating. A par-3 course may occasionally include a par-4 or even a par-5 hole. 

Parkland Course 

golf course layout
(Image: The Belfry Hotel & Resort)

As opposed to links courses, parkland courses are typically found far from the coast. Most golf courses in the United States boast parkland layouts. They are distinguished by their beautiful landscapes, studded with trees and abundant foliage, and embody an atmosphere of teeing off in a tranquil park as the name suggests. These courses are meticulously maintained and enhanced with man-made features such as bunkers, water hazards, and thickened roughs.  

Parkland golf courses typically remain lush with greenery due to regular hydration, and are primarily found inland with little to no wind blowing across. The East Lake Golf Course layout in Atlanta, Georgia, is renowned for its gentle contours and tranquil atmosphere, and is a classic parkland layout. 

Heathland Course 

golf course layout
(Image: Hotchkin Course/Woodhall Spa)

Heathland courses are comparable to links courses in style; however, these layouts are often located away from the coastline. They are inland golf courses, but unlike parkland courses, they are more open. These courses stand out for their widespread gorse and heather, which gives them a less manicured and more natural appearance than the immaculate parkland courses. Many heathland courses have gradually experienced a growth in tree cover over time after being initially sparsely covered by them.  

The gorse’s seasonal colour changes also provide for some fantastic visuals. Developed in an effort to broaden golfing terrains beyond the conventional links, heathland courses mimic the latter’s distinctively undulating topography and sandy soil. 

Desert Course 

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As the name suggests, desert golf courses are located in arid regions. They are surrounded by sand, yet not wholly comprised of it. The distance between the main playing field and the desert’s expanse could be anywhere between 5 and 50 yards. They are predominantly flat, with fewer surprise elements and obscured shots than other golf course types.  

Tee boxes, fairways (which may be a little rough), and greens are the only areas with grass on a desert course. Here, the grassy portions are artificial; therefore, their aesthetics can vary. These are often found in dry and arid landscapes like the America Southwest and the Middle East. 

Executive Course 

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An executive course has many par-3 holes, which give it some similarity to a par-3 course. However, both are unique in their own ways, with a full set of 18 holes on an executive course being a rather common occurrence. Most of the holes are par 3, with only a few par 4 or par 5 holes. Executive courses are perfect for professionals who need to return to work or are taking a break after a long day at the office. These courses were initially created by businesses for their employees, especially for high-ranking personnel who are likely to enjoy a quick morning or afternoon game.  

Today, executive golf courses no longer carry the same air of exclusivity they once did. They are not restricted to a particular business audience and are available for public use. These courses are also a wonderful option for beginners or anyone looking to complete an 18-hole round in a shorter time. The Springfield Golf Course layout in the United States is possibly the most well-known executive course with a unique blend of desert-style holes. 

Championship Course 

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These are sometimes known as stadium courses or regulation golf courses with carefully-planned layouts. Many golf complexes around the world include two or three golf courses in one location. These facilities may also include an 18-hole and a 9-hole golf course. Whenever these clubs stage tournaments, they are usually played on the 18-hole course, which is regarded as more difficult and is commonly referred to as the “championship course”. Championship courses typically feature 18 more challenging holes, a fair length, and spots with excellent vantage points for the audience.  

Many Golf courses have hosted Major Golf tournaments. The notoriety of the course determines its ‘championship’ status, regardless of whether these comPetitions are for amateurs or professionals. One of the most renowned championship courses in the world is the Thana City Golf course layout in Bangchalong, Thailand. 

Private Course 

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Such courses are privately owned and can only be accessed by golfers who pay a membership fee. Membership costs might vary based on the caliber of the golf course and clubhouse. The majority of private clubs let members invite friends, but nobody other than members can book a tee time in these clubs.  

Private golf courses tend to be less crowded than public courses due to limited access. They also often feature dining facilities and an array of other amenities exclusive to members. The Mar-a-Lago golf course layout in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently one of the best-rated private courses in the world. 

Public Courses 

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As the name implies, a public golf course is accessible to everyone, so players of all ages and skill levels are welcome to play. A municipal course and a daily fee course are two different subtypes of golf courses that are often found as part of a public course.  

Municipal courses are owned by the city or local county and are open to all citizens, whereas daily fee courses are privately owned, more expensive to play, and often more upscale than municipal courses. 

Resort courses 

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Like a daily fee course, a resort course is managed by a hotel or resort and is usually open to the general public. However, it’s likely that hotel guests will receive discounted rates. The ‘stay and play packages’ are another awesome aspect of many resort courses. The cost of playing golf is essentially included in the accommodation tariff.  

Many resorts provide unlimited play, allowing guests to stay at the accommodation and play as much golf as they want. Resort courses are an amazing opportunity to travel, experience a new place, and try out diverse golf course facilities. 

(Main and featured image: Royal Aberdeen Golf Club)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

How many parts does a golf course have? 

While there are many different types of golf course layouts, every course has five major parts, namely: tee, fairway, rough, hazards and green. 

What is 18 holes of Golf called? 

Playing 18 holes of golf is called a standard round. Standard 18-hole courses range in length from 6,500 to 7,000 yards, with individual holes ranging from 100 to 600 yards in distance. Some courses feature only nine holes, which are played twice in a given round. 

What is a golf course map? 

The process of digitally documenting all the aspects that make each golf course distinctive is known as golf course mapping, primarily to record distance information. A team of mappers must physically set out on the course and laboriously trek to each key spot to document the data. 

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