Why Does A Golf Course Have 18 Holes?

Why Does A Golf Course Have 18 Holes?

As a player, you might have wondered why a golf course has specifically 18-holes. There are plenty of numbers, but most golf courses have settled on 18-holes to complete a match of golf. Before 1764, there were many different golf courses and some of them had 12 holes, while others would have up to 22-holes.

Nowadays, 18-holes seem to be the standard and you will find that most golf courses that are used as part of the PGA tour will have 18-holes. Occasionally, you might have one hole that can be played twice. However, even this is played from a different angle and the hole might have different fairways to completely change the dynamic.

If you are like us and you are fascinated by the history of golf, you have come to the right place. The article aims to look at why the organizers settled on using 18-holes as the gold standard for playing golf, including which rumors and folklore might have led to it.

Why Does A Golf Course Have 18 Holes

The whole story started back in 1764 on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The course traditionally had 12 holes with 10 of them being played twice to make up 22 rounds in one game. However, it was decided that the first four holes would be combined to make two holes and created the 18-holes game.

While there is debate about why time and maintenance seem to be some of the main reasons why the format might have been changed. William St. Clair of Roslin was the Captain of the course and it is believed that through his influence, changes were demanded to make the course slightly different and reduce the number of holes.

The changes were agreed upon by the Gentleman Golfers present and eventually, this led to the golf course being changed to 18-holes. Later, you could find that most golf courses around the world would use this standard. It was considered that playing 18-holes would consist of a full game of golf.

As part of this standard, the USGA also adapted the rule and when courses are selected for professional tournaments, they should have 18-holes that can be played by golfers. Most statistics are also based on playing a game of 18-holes.

One of the main rumors going around was that it would take around 18-shots to finish 1/5th of Scotch. This would mean that for every shot taken, one round of golf would be completed. While this might be one of the reasons, the story has not been confirmed and is often referred to as folklore by many players.


Nowadays, the standard of 18-holes is important and for a golf course to make it on the calendar, it should meet the requirements of 18-holes. We don’t see it changing in the future, but would love to read some of your comments and folklore on why golf has a mandate of 18-holes to complete a game.

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