How Many Holes in Golf?

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How many holes are really there in a golf round?

The pickle of holes in a golf round keeps getting spicier. You hear about 9 holes, 18, holes, 22 holes, and wonder how many holes really are there in golf. If there is a standard number of holes, who laid down the rule about them?

All the questions start with the number of holes in a golf round.

Be it to start your golf career, be it to become the office know-it-all, or be it to win 21 questions, we will answer the question for you. And tell you how the hole and hole numbers came to be.

Whether or not the norms need to be changed is food for thought.

How many holes are really there in a golf round?

There are usually 18 holes in a golf course. And tournaments typically have 18-hole playing format. 18-hole courses are divided into front 9 holes(1-9) and back nine holes(10-18).

Most modern clubs have two separate loops for front 9 holes and back nine holes. This way the players can rest between conquering the two loops.

However, there are old golf courses like St. Andrews which have forward holes and backward holes in the same loop.

Why are there 18 holes in a golf round?

The early golf courses had a varied number of holes. Some had 5, others 7, and a few had 12.

The 18-hole rule first came to notice when in 1764, the golfers at Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decided on combining the first four short holes into two for a round of 18 holes.

Being the royal seat of golf, the world took notice.

It took a good 100 years to become a standard around the world.

In 1857, St. Andrews went through a complete revamp. On each green, they created two holes, except on the first and return one. Altogether, these created 18 holes. This way, the golfers going forward did not disturb the game of those returning from the 9th hole.

Outgoing holes are marked by white flags and incoming holes by red ones.

By 1882, the most prominent golf clubs had all adopted 18 holes. From 1993 onwards all golf tournaments conformed to 18-hole rounds.

The standard number of holes brought uniformity to golf and allowed countries and teams from various parts of the world to play against each other in a standardized way.

How much time does it take to play 18 holes?

Playing 18-hole requires 5-6 hours. It could be more if the distance between greens and the tee box of the next playing hole is more. This would increase the travel distance of the rounds.

9-hole rounds are more time-smart at 2.5-3.5 hours. That’s enough time to rejuvenate yourself from weekly stress or prove your mettle at the golf course.

What about 9-hole rounds?

9-hole rounds are common amongst weekend golfers and players trying to squeeze in a bit of practice between chores.

But lately, as the competition at the workplace skyrockets, people abhor spending 6 hours glued to the TV to see the outcome of a golf tournament.

Lesser still is the time they want to spend teeing off in the glaring sun.

With the recession, the golf development industry has dried up. The sustained shortage of funds has made it extremely difficult to create and maintain golf courses.

Not just that, it is a good environmental economy to cut down the usual game from 18 to 9-holes.

A lot of golfers scoff at 9-hole games, calling them kid-rounds. But the fact is, if we continue with the colossal waste of resources and time, there is no future where anybody can play golf.

Another issue is the safety precautions at golf courses. Most of the 18-hole courses tread the toes of guidelines with narrower safety margins and fairways.

So the case is strong for 9-hole golf courses. The solution to the scarcity of golf funds is to reduce to the 9-hole course with sufficient practice area/driving range. This would require half the real estate and maintenance charges compared to 18-hole courses.

It’s time to re-evaluate our attitudes towards golf in the modern backdrop.


We emphasize that the current golf round comprises of 18 holes. Most of the golf courses are designed to accommodate this number. This evolved as a standard from clubs who had individual designs of 5, 7, 12, or even 22 holes.

However 9-hole golf is another popular format although most people use it a practice format. There has been a rising awareness about the excesses of the golf industry and the value of 6 hours an 18-hole game demands.

With many advocates for 9-hole rounds, we might be headed towards shorter and more intensive golf tournaments. Leveling up the challenges within 9 holes is going to be the most exciting trial for future golf course architects. So, did you know how many holes are really there in a golf round?


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Dominic J. Leon
Dominic J. Leon. I am a golfer with a deep passion for golf right from my childhood. I have added unbiased product reviews for all the latest golf equipment from the market leaders. Follow me on: Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Tumblr.
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