Why Is Golf 18 Holes? [Will It Change]

Golf as we know it today, tends to be played over 18 holes. But it wasn’t always the case that a golf course included 18 holes.

So why does a golf course have 18 holes? Let’s take a look.

Why Is Golf 18 Holes?

Why Is Golf 18 Holes?

Why Is Golf 18 Holes?

A golf course is 18 holes because, in 1764, golfers at St Andrews decided to reduce the number of holes from 22 to 18, shortening the first four short holes into two holes.

As the oldest and first course to have 18 holes, other courses in the late 19th century began to copy St Andrews and change their set-up to 18 holes as well.

Up until that point, a typical golf course didn’t have 18 holes. Most of the early golf courses had fewer than 10 holes, often without a defined order and golfers would play the course two or three times. For example, in 1851, Lanark golf course had six holes and they were played three times to have a full round of 18 holes.

The first Open Championship venue, Prestwick, which opened in 1851 was designed as only 12 holes. Later it shared the championship in rotation with St Andrews and Musselburgh, which had 18 holes and 9 holes respectively and a total of 36 holes were played for the tournament.

The general consensus was that competition over an 18-hole course was the better choice. Therefore in 1882, Prestwick decided to follow St Andrews in having a full 18 holes of golf.

Despite these courses following the lead from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, it didn’t actually become the norm for golf clubs to have 18 holes until the start of the 20th century.

As a result, the reason we now play 18-hole golf courses is really just down to chance and a product of circumstance rather than any ruling.

Playing golf usually happens over an 18 hole golf course.

Will Golf Courses Always Be 18 Holes?

Yes, it’s most likely golf courses will always remain 18 holes from now on. The game is always changing and adapting, however, the number of holes has been created through a long history and is now the universal format played today in the golf world.

Most golf courses have 18 holes and this has become the standard number to be built. With over 38,000 golf courses in the world, it would be very difficult and costly to now change how many holes a golf course should be.

The argument for changing the number of golf course holes is because of the length of time it takes most golfers to play 18 holes. An average round of golf can take up to 5 hours, depending on the course difficulty and this can often be too long for the average golfer.

Of course, there’s ways of speeding up golf like to play ready golf or just doing 9 holes instead of 18 holes. Hence why I don’t believe there’s any need to change the number of holes in golf.

Final Thoughts

Although it hasn’t always been the case, a standard round of golf is played over 18 holes and it all started back in 1764 thanks to the Old Course at St Andrews.

Despite an urban legend, the number doesn’t actually relate to the number of drink shots in a bottle of whisky, but this does make a good story and it doesn’t mean you can’t try that the next time you’re out playing.


Why are there only 18 holes in golf?

A golf course has only 18 holes because in 1764, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews changed the number of holes from 22 to 18 holes, which was then followed as the general norm for other golf courses.

Why are there eighteen holes?

There’s eighteen holes on a golf course because it became the norm in the late 19th century for golfers to play that amount of holes, despite the number of holes actually on the golf course. St Andrews were the first to incorporate 18 holes on the golf course and other courses began to follow shortly after.

Are there 19 holes in golf?

A golf course usually has just 18 holes and the 19th hole is a slang term used to describe the clubhouse or bar where golfers go for a drink following their round of golf.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

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