Why do golf courses have 18 holes and what exactly is the 19th hole?
The story behind why golf courses have 18 holes goes back a long way in Scotland
People will tell you some interesting myths about how 18-hole courses came to be the standard of the game, but according to sports historians, it was a mere design decision made after the first modern golf course made some changes to its layout.
The game of golf was invented in Scotland as early as the 14th century. The first course with 18 holes was built at St. Andrews in 1764, which established a new standard for the game. The club was honored by King William IV in 1834 and therefore became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, where the 2022 Open Championship will be held for the 30th time.
But why 18 holes? Why not 16? Or 20? The story goes that St. Andrews, the birthplace of modern golf, originally had 22 holes. Later, some remodeling work had been done and some smaller holes merged together to become larger holes and the total ended up being 18. At the time, other courses had different layouts, such as Prestwick Golf Club with only 12 holes.
By the mid-19th century, the standard was for golf courses to have 18 holes and in 1858, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews formalized the rules and stated, “One round of the Links, or 18 holes is reckoned a match, unless otherwise stipulated.”
Legend has it that the reason for 18 holes is that a bottle of whiskey contained the same number of shots as holes on a course, thus providing just enough drink for a shot on each hole. Unfortunately, this turns out to be nothing more than an urban legend, but it is related to the sacred 19th hole, similar to the third half in rugby. The 19th hole refers to the clubhouse bar or the watering hole, where bets are settled and scores are checked while enjoying a post-match drink with playing partners.