What Makes A Great Golf Course?
When you’re trying to find the perfect golf course for your playing style, it helps to understand what makes one course different from the next. For those without much playing experience, it’s easy to assume golf courses mostly offer the same sorts of challenges, with some being harder than others because of personal strengths and weaknesses in the game.
But the reality is, golf courses come in a variety of specific course types that share characteristics you may or may not enjoy. Let’s start by covering some of the elements that make up a great golf course.
Having a mixture of hole styles will keep your game from getting redundant. Ideally, the course will treat you to a mix of hole designs. Each should play differently, with some requiring minimal shots while others require four or more, along with unique challenges like bunkers, water obstacles, false fronts, and slopes toward or away from the green.
The particular mix of variety a course has lends it a personality that can keep you coming back again and again.
The typical player doesn’t finish under par every time that they play, nor do they play on the pro tour. Because of this reality, the best golf courses aren’t so difficult that only championship players can tackle them.
With that in mind, golf courses shouldn’t be overly simplistic, either. Courses that lack challenge don’t motivate players to improve their game. The best courses strike a balance between difficulty with playability—rather than leaving you feeling defeated, they stretch you to take your game to the next level.
Culture Of The Course
Quality courses have management teams that set etiquette standards and hold players to those standards, maintaining the classiness of the game and playing environment. Classy doesn’t have to be stuffy, though. A course environment can be comfortable without lowering standards, balancing long-held traditions with modern casual comforts.
The best golf courses are both well-designed and welcoming, encouraging you to return time after time. So what are the characteristics that differentiate each type of course?
Characteristics Of Each Type Of Golf Course
Municipal courses are owned by local towns or governments, and the best thing about them is they typically have discounts for locals, making moderately priced golf games possible.
While municipal courses aren’t hard to find, sometimes the course conditions are not quite as good. Many municipal courses have limited budgets, so if you’re seeking pristine playing conditions, these probably aren’t for you. But if you simply love the game and don’t require frills, a municipal course can provide more time on the green for less green.
Private golf courses only allow members to play the course, and because they have initiation fees and dues, they tend to be one of the more expensive types.
However, private golf club memberships typically come with other amenities in addition to golf, such as a restaurant, pools, tennis, and more.
Regulation courses are a standard minimum length, ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 yards, with several sets of tees for players of all handicaps.
The typical regulation golf course has a par of 70, 71, or 72, made up of a combination of several par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s, and allows you to play either nine or 18 holes per round.
Par 3 Courses
Par 3 courses are made up of nine or eighteen holes of short par 3s, with most holes easily being hit in only one shot.
These courses are perfect for players just starting out and those who have trouble with their short game. Par 3 courses are also great for kids learning to play the game. With a par 3 course, kids can play right from the tee box on every hole.
Executive golf courses are longer than par 3 courses but shorter than a regulation course, with a few par 4s mixed in with some par 3s. The typical total par will be around 60 on an executive golf course. These courses can make you feel as though you shot a really low score.
Learning to play well on an executive course can help you become a better player on regulation golf courses when it’s time to take the longer clubs out of the bag.
Stadium golf courses are also called championship golf courses, and many have two or three golf courses as part of one facility. Playing on stadium golf courses with low scores means you’re a pretty solid player.
These courses, such as TPC courses, do a good job of providing room for spectators and a tournament setup. Generally, these courses are best for those who can hit the ball a long way and consistently score well.
These courses are built partly in the forest and are the typical golf courses that most Americans are familiar with. The fairways will have trees, and greens will have sand traps flanking them. There can also be some water hazards to contend with.
Parkland courses make up the majority of golfing and are hence essential to learn to play well. If keeping the ball out of the trees is tough for you, it could be a long day at a parkland golf course.
Links-style courses appeal to golf traditionalists and provide players with a unique look that have numerous slopes and bunkers but lack trees.
Links courses are some of the oldest around, and if you are going to play a links-style golf course, be prepared for large greens that demand expert green reading skills. You’ll also need to be able to hit out of a pot bunker. Having skills with lower knockdown type shots make it far more enjoyable to play a links course.
Many courses in the United States feature a links-style design, but the authentic ones are really found overseas.
Ocean courses give you a view of the water at least, and some even require you to play a shot or two out over the ocean.
One thing to remember about ocean courses is they can have fast-changing weather conditions, so be ready to deal with a lot of wind and plenty of salt spray from the ocean.
Desert courses are typically in hot and dry climates, sometimes lined with cacti and other plants you’ll want to avoid. These courses tend to give you lots of roll in the fairways and are typically on a rather flat piece of land with numerous man-made hazards.
Large waste areas, bunkers, and oversized plants are just a few of the challenges that you may have to contend with here. Desert courses provide a totally unique experience, and many can be found in Arizona and Nevada.