Golf courses can be classified in several different ways. Among other
things, golf courses can be categorized by ownership, setting and
length. Understanding the different categories of golf courses will
help you know what to expect when you show up for a tee time. This
article will introduce you to the necessary basics about the types of
golf courses, so you'll know exactly what a military pitch and putt in
a heathland setting will be like.
Golf courses can be classified in several different ways. Among other things, golf courses can be categorized by ownership, setting and length. Understanding the different categories of golf courses will help you know what to expect when you show up for a tee time. This article will introduce you to the necessary basics about the types of golf courses, so you'll know exactly what a military pitch and putt in a heathland setting will be like.
Types of Golf Courses by Ownership
Because most golf courses operate to make money, the most common classification is by who owns them and how they make a profit. Though some of the categories overlap, knowing what each term means is a good start to understanding golf courses.
|Kananaskis Golf Course in the Canadian Rockies is an example of a Mountain Golf Course. Photo Credit: Jason Kasumovic|
- Private golf courses only allow members of their club, organization or community to play on their facilities. If you are not a member, you cannot play unless you are invited to play by someone who is a member.
- Public golf courses can be played by anyone who can afford the greens fees. They can be operated by a private organization or a civic organization.
- Semi-private golf courses allow members access at any time but restrict public use to certain days or times. The term is often used to make golf courses seem more exclusive (Richardson).
- Municipal golf courses are a type of public course that is owned and operated by a local government. Anyone who can afford the greens fees can play on them (Richardson).
- Daily-fee golf courses are public courses that charge on a daily basis for use of their facilities. Municipal, resort, residential, military, private estate and industrial golf courses may be daily-fee courses.
- Resort golf courses are owned and operated by a resort or hotel. They may be public courses, or they may only allow guests to use their facilities (Graves).
- Residential golf courses are owned and managed by a community. They are usually private or semi-private, reserved for community members only.
- Military golf courses are owned and operated by the military for the military. They can be public or private, but their main purpose is to serve military personnel and their families (Richardson).
- Private estate golf courses are owned by an individual or family and are located on their private estate. They are private courses that you can only gain access to by means of a personal invitation from the owner.
- Industrial golf courses are owed and operated by a private business. The courses are private, and only employees of the company are allowed to use the facilities (Graves).
- University golf courses are owned and operated by a college or university. They can either be private or public courses (Richardson).
Types of Golf Courses by Setting
Golf courses are also named and categorized by the type of vegetation and scenery they are set in. While the type of ownership gives you an idea of what to expect about the clubhouse and club regulations, the setting categorization will let you know what to expect once you are out on the course.
- Parkland golf courses are characterized by lush, manicured turf, favorable weather and a few accent trees (Douglas). They are the
typical type of golf course found in the U.S.
|Glen of the Downs Golf Course in Ireland is an example of a downs course. Photo Credit: Bjorn Johansson|
- Links golf courses are seaside courses that look like the east of Scotland where the game of golf originated (Hamilton). They are grassy open expanses, with rolling hills, deep roughs and no trees.
- Heathland golf courses are inland courses that are characterized by low growing shrubs, gentle slopes and few to no trees. They are made to resemble the inland golf courses of England and Scotland (Hamilton).
- Downs golf courses are made to resemble the English downs and are characterized by gentle slopes and grassy plains (Graves).
- Oceanside golf courses border the ocean, but unlike links courses they are well above sea level (Graves).
- Forest golf courses are surrounded by dense woods.
- Mountain golf courses usually aren't in the mountains, but do have views of mountains.
- Prairie golf courses are usually located in the flatlands of the midwest U.S. They are flat with few trees and have views of the prairie.
- Desert golf courses are usually located in the arid regions of the southwest U.S. They are heavily irrigated courses that allow you to play in the desert.
Types of Golf Courses by Length
Although there is no standardized way to categorize golf courses by length, there are several somewhat subjective categories that they are placed in. The categories have more to do with the style of play than the actual yardage.
- Full-length golf courses are what most people think of when they think of playing golf. Unless otherwise noted, a golf course is probably full-length. They can be either 9 holes or 18 holes and usually range from 5,000 yards to over 7,000 yards -- 4,572 meters to 6,400 meters -- and holes can range from 80 yards to over 600 yards -- 73 meters to over 550 meters (Schempp).
- Executive golf courses are designed for golfers who don't have time to finish a full-length course or who enjoy a faster paced game. Executive courses usually have only 9 holes, and each hole is much shorter than that of a full-length courses.
- Par-3 and approach courses consist entirely of par three holes. Holes on an approach course are the same size as the par-3 holes in a full-length course. Approach courses can have nine or 18 holes and are a great way to work on your short game (Amick).
- Pitch and putt golf courses are similar to par-3 golf courses, except their lengths are even shorter; most are less than 90 yards. They are a great way for beginners and juniors to gain experience and for experts to sharpen their short game.
- Cayman golf courses are smaller scale courses that require a special golf ball, called a Cayman ball, while playing. The Cayman ball reduces your hitting distance by about one-half, allowing you to take full swings with your regular clubs as if you were at full-length golf course (Amick). Cayman courses are designed to give the full golfing experience in less time and enable golf courses to be built where there normally wouldn't be enough space.
Golf is a difficult enough sport to learn even without all the confusing jargon about the types of golf courses. However, to be truly proficient at the sport, you must play well and understand every aspect of the game, including the types of golf courses. Practice will help you improve your game, but only memorization will help with this part.
Amick, William W. "Building a Par 3 Golf Course." Amickgca.com. http://www.amickgca.com/par%203.htm (accessed July 25, 2006).
Amick, William W. "Cayman Golf Courses." Amickgca.com. http://www.amickgca.com/cayman.htm (accessed July 25, 2006).
Douglas, Nigel B. Golf Course Design, Modern Day Issues and Experiences. (England: Authors OnLine Ltd., 2004), 89.
Graves, Robert Muir and Geoffrey S. Cornish. Golf Course Design. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1998), 41.
Hamilton, David. The Scottish Golf Guide. (Edinburgh: Canongate U.S., 1995), 13.
Richardson, Forrest L. Routing the Golf Course: The Art & Science
That Forms the Golf Journey. (New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 2002),
Schempp, Paul. Golf: Steps to Success. (Illinois: Human Kinetics Publishing, Inc., 2005), xi-xii.