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Why do golf courses have 18 holes and what exactly is the 19th hole?

The story behind why golf courses are how they are goes back a long way, and originates in Bonnie Scotland.

Joseph McMahon
The story behind why golf courses are how they are goes back a long way, and originates in Bonnie Scotland.

People will tell you interesting myths about how 18-hole courses became the standard, but sports historians say it was just a design choice made after the first modern golf course made some changes to its plan.

Golf has been around for more than 500 years.

The game of golf was first played in Scotland in the 1400s. It was back in 1764 that the first course with 18 holes was built at St. Andrews. This changed the way the game was played. King William IV gave the club a name change in 1834. It is now called the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and the Open Championship will be held there for the 30th time in 2022.

But why are there 18 holes?

Why not 16? Or 20? The place where modern golf began, St. Andrews, is said to have had 22 holes at first. Later, some rebuilding work was done, and some of the smaller holes were joined together to make bigger ones. In the end, there were 18 holes. At the time, other courses had different setups, like the Prestwick Golf Club, which only had 12 holes.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews thought that 18 holes were enough.

By the middle of the 19th century, golf fields usually had 18 holes. In 1858, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews made the rules official: “One round of the Links, or 18 holes, is considered a match, unless otherwise specified.”

There are 18 holes because, according to a story, a bottle of whisky had the same number of shots as holes, so there was just enough for a shot on each hole. It turns out this is just a myth, but it does have to do with the Holy 19th hole, which is like the third half in rugby.

So, what is the 19th hole of golf?

The 19th hole is the clubhouse bar or drinking hole, where bets are settled, and scores are checked over a drink with playing partners after a round.


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