Why are Golf Courses 18 Holes in Length?
Like many developments throughout golf history, the standardization of 18 holes as the length of a "regulation" golf course did not happen as the result of a momentous decision agreed upon by many.
And again, like many developments in golf, the standardization of 18 holes can be credited to St. Andrews.
Prior to the mid-1760s - and right up until the early 1900s - it was common to find golf course that were comprised of 12 holes, or 19, or 23, or 15, or any other number. In fact the first British Open took place at Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland when the competitors played three rounds over the then 12 holes course.
Then, around 1764, the links at St. Andrews, Scotland - what we now know as The Old Course converted from 22 holes to 18 holes.
The reason? Well, everyone knows 18 holes are easier to take care of than 22!
Eighteen holes did not become the standard until the early 1900s, but from 1764 onward, more courses copied the St. Andrews model. Then, in 1858, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews issued new rules.
In 1858, the R&A issued new rules for its members; Rule 1 stated 'one round of the Links or 18 holes is reckoned a match unless otherwise stipulated'. We can only presume that, as many clubs looked to the R&A for advice, this was slowly adopted throughout the golfing world. By the 1870s, therefore, more courses had 18 holes and a round of golf was being accepted as consisting of 18 holes.
Our course, established in 1906 was a 9 holes course until the new nine were opened for play in 1993. It would be interesting to find out which current members were with us when we were a 9 holes course.
Our course drains so well now that it might surprise you to know that during wet winters we either played competitions over 10 or 12 holes. We played the first four holes and the 9th and maybe also the 8th.
The old 1st is now the 10th, the old 2nd is the 9th, the old 3rd is the 1st and the old 4th was played from a tee behind the current 1st tee to a green, out the gap in the trees to a green to the left of the pathway as we walk to the current 11th tee. The 8th green was about 10 yards to the right of the current 11th green and the 9th is the current 18th.
The other three holes were down along the river and were prone to heavy flooding before the committee in the mid 1960’s, led by the late Dick Norris installed a drainage system to catch the water before it flowed down to the river.
We are very indebted to Dick Norris and his colleagues at that time as we now have the driest inland golf course in Leinster.