What is a golf course

Did you ever wonder why golf is played on a golf course? And why it is called a golf course? If you think about it, a golf course is perhaps the most integral aspect about the game of golf. Unlike a cricket ground, football stadium or a badminton court, a golf course is the most ‘un-standardized’ playing surface. It makes golf a unique game that is meant for the true connoisseur.  

By definition, a golf course is a large area of land with a series of nine or 18 holes, used for playing golf. If you do want to understand what a golf course is, perhaps reading a dictionary won’t help. Read this blog instead.

So… A golf course is nothing but a collection of holes. To be precise, a golf course consists of 18 holes. Sometimes, such a golf course is also referred to as a ‘full-sized’ golf course. The size of a golf course is determined by the amount of distance you cover as you play all 18 holes. By regulation, on a full-sized course, it is about 5000 to 7000 yards.

The term ‘par’ for a golf course determines the number of strokes a golfer is expected to perform to complete one play on a golf course. If you’re a seasoned player, one full sized golf course will require about 60-80 strokes as you navigate through all the holes across the course. Therefore, the terms par-70, par-71, par-72 are the most common for 18-hole golf courses.

Now each of these courses also contain certain elements to the holes known as teeing areas, fairways, putting greens, plus rough, bunkers and penalty areas. All of this is typically occupied over 100-300 acres of land.

Let’s hold it right there and understand the terms ‘teeing area, fairways, putting greens, plus rough, bunkers and penalty areas.’

What is golf course


Yes, it is the ‘cup’ into which we are trying to place our golf balls. But also, it refers to the area from tee-to-green element of a golf course.

Teeing area

Each of the 18 holes on the golf course need to have a starting area. This area is called the teeing area. It simply means that in this area, you are allowed to handle your ball and place it on top of a golf tee. There are markers embedded into the golf course denoting the teeing area. Typically, there are different colored markers to two or multiple tee markers. Your scorecard will have a line that corresponds with these markers. It signifies the yardage (length) that you are playing. If there is a tee marker in blue, you will need to mark your scores on the blue line in your scorecard.

On average, you will find at least two tee markers per hole in-between which you are expected to play your shot. Remember, not behind, not in front, in-between!


The fairway is the path from the teeing area or the starting point of the ‘hole’ to the ending point of the hole (putting green). As compared to the other parts of a golf course, the fairway is a closely mown area that connects teeing area to the putting green of a golf hole. Ideally, this is where you want to aim as you shoot the golf ball off from the tee.

Putting Green

Putting green or simply, The Green, is usually an oval or oblong shaped area where the flagstick and hole are located. Many a times, they are placed at a place elevated from the fairway to increase the difficulty of the course. They may also have contours and undulations. But you can also find them almost in level with the fairway. Since greens are designed for putting, they have the shortest grass.

Once you successfully drop the ball into the cup where the flagstick is located on the green, the play for that hole is over.


Now, every area that is outside the bounds of fairways or greens is called the rough. ‘The Rough’ signifies the tall, unmanicured grass in this area. In an ideal game, you never want to place your ball in the rough. If you do, it is tougher for you to hit a good shot.

Based on the difficulty of a golf course, the rough areas can be slightly maintained or not maintained at all. The worse the grass in these roughs, the harder it is for you to place your shot.


To add more challenges to the court and give the game of golf an interesting twist, some areas on a golf course are hollowed out into pits. They are either filled in with sand or other fine particles and can be located anywhere from several meters away from fairways to just inches from greens.

They are shaped in all sizes; however, the most average size is around 250 to 1000 sq.ft. There are no rules or regulations in the rulebook of golf. The size and structure of bunkers is solely at the discretion of the designer.

If you guessed it already, bunkers are designed to toughen the game. If you are a beginner, bunkers are nearly impossible to play out of. Try to avoid bunkers as much as possible.

Penalty Area

Sometimes, a pond, creek or any other water body can be installed in a golf course. Such an area can be classified as a penalty area because the ball is irretrievable. Once you hit the ball into water, it is lost. You will find water bodies either in such a position that you must hit the ball over it, or sometimes alongside the fairway, making it more likely for you to place the ball into water.

At times, a golf course is designed around a natural water body adding more depth to the game. Water bodies in a golf course also add to the aesthetic of the entire field.

Connecting all these areas over several hectares of land, you can also find pre-paved pathways around the golf course. These pathways are meant for the golf carts. As you hit your shots and look for the ball, you can use golf carts to navigate your distance.

If you find white markings on a course, those areas and beyond are usually out of bounds. Should you hit your ball in these areas, there is a 1 stroke penalty and you are required to replay the shot from the original position.

Basically, this is a golf course and its elements.

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