Different Types of Golf Courses Explained

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Imagine stepping onto a golf course and being transported to a different world. Picture yourself standing on a fairway that winds through towering trees, the sunlight filtering through the leaves creating a mesmerizing pattern on the ground.

As you prepare to take your swing, you can’t help but wonder: what other enchanting worlds are out there, waiting to be discovered? If you’re curious about the different types of golf courses that exist, this article is your gateway to a world of diverse landscapes, unique challenges, and unforgettable experiences.

From the rugged coastal links to the tranquil parklands, and everything in between, get ready to embark on a journey that will change the way you see the game.

Links Courses

Links courses, renowned for their challenging layout and unique coastal terrain, are considered the most prevalent and oldest types of golf courses. These true links courses are mainly found in Scotland, Ireland, and England, where the coastline provides the perfect setting for this style of golf.

The sandy soil, firm ground, good drainage, and absence of trees and water hazards make links courses ideal for the sport. The lack of obstacles allows players to focus on the natural challenges presented by the rolling landscapes and unpredictable winds. The Old Course at St. Andrews and Royal Troon are prime examples of famous links courses that have hosted major championships.

The layout of links courses is known for its strategic design, with undulating fairways and deep bunkers strategically placed to test the golfer’s skill. The fast greens, often with subtle breaks, add another layer of difficulty to the game. The coastal terrain presents golfers with unpredictable winds that can drastically affect the trajectory of the ball, making club selection and shot execution crucial.

The true links experience is further enhanced by the breathtaking views of the ocean and the rugged beauty of the surrounding landscapes.

Parkland Courses

Moving away from the challenging coastal terrain of links courses, let’s now explore the intricacies of parkland courses, where lush grass and towering trees create a captivating golfing experience. Parkland courses are built inland, offering a stark contrast to the windswept dunes of links courses. The design of these courses takes advantage of the natural beauty of the landscape, incorporating the existing trees and vegetation to create a visually stunning and challenging golf course.

One of the defining features of parkland courses is the abundance of trees. These towering giants not only provide a picturesque backdrop but also serve as obstacles, strategically placed to test your accuracy and shot-making skills. The dense foliage creates narrow fairways and demands precision from the tee to avoid getting tangled up in the branches.

In addition to the natural elements, parkland courses often include man-made features such as bunkers and ponds. These additions not only enhance the visual appeal of the course but also add strategic elements to the game. You’ll need to navigate the bunkers strategically and factor in the presence of water hazards when planning your shots.

The meticulously manicured fairways and greens of parkland courses provide a firm ground for your shots, ensuring consistent ball roll and better control. Good drainage systems are also in place, allowing you to enjoy the game even after heavy rainfall.

As you explore the parkland course, you’ll appreciate the attention to detail in its design. The architect’s aim is to create a layout that both challenges and rewards players of all skill levels. From the placement of trees and bunkers to the careful consideration of the course’s flow, every aspect is meticulously planned to create an engaging and enjoyable golfing experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or just starting out, a parkland course offers a delightful mix of natural beauty and strategic challenges. The lush grass, towering trees, and meticulously designed features combine to create a golfing experience that’s both visually stunning and mentally stimulating.

Desert Courses

Desert courses, found in arid climates such as the American southwest and the Middle East, are built in natural desert areas with sandy dunes and minimal grass. These courses blend seamlessly with the desert terrain, offering a unique golfing experience in a natural landscape.

Here is what you can expect when playing on a desert course:

  1. Sand Dunes: Desert courses are characterized by their sandy soil and the presence of sand dunes. These dunes add an element of challenge to the game, requiring golfers to navigate their shots over and around the undulating terrain.
  2. Minimal Grass: Unlike traditional golf courses, desert courses have minimal grass on the tee box, fairways, and greens. Instead, the natural sandy soil dominates, creating a rugged and raw aesthetic.
  3. Lush Oases: Despite the desert surroundings, desert courses often feature lush green oases strategically placed throughout the course. These areas are meticulously maintained through extensive irrigation, providing a stark contrast to the sandy backdrop.

Playing on a desert course offers a unique golfing experience that embraces the natural beauty of the desert landscape. With sandy dunes, minimal grass, and lush oases, these courses provide a challenging and visually stunning setting for golfers to enjoy.

Heathland Courses

As you move from the sandy dunes of desert courses, your next golfing adventure awaits on the undulating terrain of heathland courses found in Britain. These courses, inspired by the famous links courses, offer a unique challenge to players seeking a different golfing experience. Heathland courses are characterized by open, uncultivated land with low-growing vegetation and sandy soil, creating a natural and rugged setting.

One of the defining features of heathland courses is the presence of gorse and heather, which are strategically incorporated into the layout. These plants not only add aesthetic beauty to the course but also serve as obstacles that demand accuracy and precision from golfers. Unlike the meticulously manicured fairways and greens of parkland courses, heathland courses have a more natural and rugged feel, with the vegetation acting as a natural hazard.

In Britain, there are notable heathland courses such as Woking Golf Club and Sunningdale Golf Club. These courses have gained recognition for their challenging layouts and picturesque landscapes. The undulating terrain of heathland courses provides a variety of elevation changes, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the game.

If you’re looking to test your skills on a course that embraces the natural landscape and offers a different golfing experience, heathland courses in Britain are the perfect choice. With their uncultivated land, gorse and heather obstacles, and undulating terrain, these courses provide a unique challenge for golfers seeking a break from traditional parkland or links courses.

Woodland Courses

Woodland courses, characterized by their dense tree coverage and natural forest settings, offer golfers a unique challenge that demands strategic shot placement and accuracy. Playing on these courses requires skillful navigation through the tree-lined fairways, as accuracy is crucial to avoid blocked shots.

Here are some key features of woodland courses:

  1. Pine trees: Woodland courses are often home to majestic pine trees, which create a picturesque backdrop and add to the challenge of the game. The towering trees can obstruct your shots and make it necessary to carefully plan your strategy.
  2. Undulating terrain: Woodland courses are known for their rolling landscapes, with hills, valleys, and slopes. The undulating terrain adds an extra layer of difficulty to the game, requiring precise shot execution to navigate the course successfully.
  3. Coarse grasses and well-manicured fairways: The fairways in woodland courses are meticulously maintained, offering a contrast to the rougher, coarser grasses found in the surrounding areas. The well-manicured fairways provide a striking contrast to the dense tree coverage, making the course visually appealing.

Playing on a woodland course provides a unique golfing experience, with the natural beauty of the forest setting and the challenges posed by the tree-lined fairways. To succeed on these courses, golfers must demonstrate accuracy, strategic thinking, and precise shot placement.

Downland Courses

Located in the South of England, downland courses offer golfers a challenging experience with their hilly terrain and unique features. These courses, such as the Goodwood Downs Golf Club, are characterized by their undulating landscapes, which present golfers with a variety of elevation changes and blind shots. The rolling hills and valleys of downland courses make them distinct from other types of courses, providing a different kind of challenge for players.

One of the key features of downland courses is the sand valleys that dot the landscape. These sandy areas not only add to the aesthetic appeal of the course but also present players with strategic challenges. Golfers must carefully navigate their shots to avoid these sand valleys and ensure they stay on the fairway.

Downland courses often feature par-3 holes that require precise shot placement due to the elevation changes. Players must carefully judge the distance and account for the uphill or downhill slopes to achieve the desired results. The unique terrain of downland courses also means that golfers may encounter blind shots, where they can’t see the landing area or the green from their tee.

With their hilly terrain and challenging features, downland courses offer a taste of links-style golf in the South of England. Golfers who enjoy a test of skill and strategy will find these courses to be both rewarding and memorable.

Sandbelt Courses

Sandbelt courses, found in the sandbelt region outside Melbourne, Australia, are known for their sandy soil that allows for undulating greens and steep-edged bunkers. These courses offer a unique playing experience, combining the challenges of strategic shot placement with the natural features of the area.

Here are three notable sandbelt courses that showcase the best of this region:

  1. Royal Melbourne Golf Club: Designed by renowned architect Alister MacKenzie, this course features two championship layouts, the East and the West. The West Course, in particular, is known for its exceptional bunkering, with deep, steep-faced sand traps that demand accuracy off the tee and precision around the greens.
  2. Kingston Heath Golf Club: Another gem in the sandbelt region, Kingston Heath is consistently ranked among the top courses in Australia. Its fairways are lined with native vegetation and the bunkers are strategically placed to test golfers of all skill levels. The course’s undulating greens, framed by towering eucalyptus trees, provide a challenging yet picturesque setting.
  3. Metropolitan Golf Club: With its rolling fairways and strategic bunkering, Metropolitan Golf Club is a true test of golfing skill. The course demands accuracy off the tee, as the bunkers and natural hazards come into play on almost every hole. The greens are fast and undulating, adding an extra layer of complexity to the game.

Sandbelt courses offer a unique golfing experience, with their sandy soil, undulating greens, and steep-edged bunkers. The combination of natural features and strategic design make these courses a favorite among golfers in the sandbelt region. Whether you’re a professional or an amateur golfer, playing at courses like Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Kingston Heath Golf Club, or Metropolitan Golf Club will challenge your skills and provide a memorable golfing experience.

Stadium/Championship Courses

Stadium/Championship courses, designed to host golf tournaments, are meticulously crafted to meet the demanding requirements of professional play. These courses are often 18 holes, long, and challenging, providing a true test of skill for the world’s top golfers.

One example of a stadium course is the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This course is famous for its iconic par-3 17th hole, which features an island green and attracts thousands of spectators during PGA Tour events.

Another renowned championship course is TPC Scottsdale, located in Arizona. It’s known for its rowdy atmosphere and the famous par-3 16th hole, also known as the ‘Coliseum,’ where thousands of fans create an electric atmosphere during the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

TPC River Highlands in Connecticut is another stadium course that hosts the Travelers Championship. Championship courses are meticulously designed and maintained to challenge players with strategically placed hazards, undulating greens, and tight fairways. These courses often demand precision and strategic thinking, testing the skills of even the most experienced golfers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Classification of a Golf Course?

A classification of a golf course is based on its location, design, and features. Different types include links courses near the sea, parkland courses with trees and manicured fairways, and desert courses in arid regions.

What Does TPC Mean in Golf?

TPC stands for Tournament Players Club. It represents a brand of golf courses operated by the PGA Tour. TPC courses are known for hosting professional tournaments and providing challenging experiences for players.

What Is the Difference Between a Links Course and a Regular Course?

A links course is located near the sea, with open layouts and rolling landscapes. A regular course could be a parkland course built inland with manicured fairways and greens. The main difference is the location and design.

What Is a Golf Course With No Trees Called?

A golf course with no trees is called a “Links course.” Links courses are known for their firm ground, good drainage, and lack of trees. They offer unique challenges and are characterized by sandy soil, undulating landscapes, and hazards like gorse bushes and pot bunkers.


In conclusion, the world of golf offers a wide range of courses to suit every golfer’s preferences. From the dramatic and challenging links courses to the serene and picturesque parkland courses, there’s something for everyone.

Whether you prefer the oasis-like experience of desert courses or the natural beauty of heathland and woodland courses, the diversity of golf courses is truly remarkable.

So, grab your clubs and explore the fascinating world of golf courses, where excitement and adventure await.

What are the different types of golf courses?

This article explains the various types of golf courses. Traditional courses include links courses, which originated in England and Scotland, and heathland courses, which are similar but located inland. Unique terrain courses include desert courses with sandy terrain and extreme temperatures, and mountain courses that take advantage of natural elevation changes. Tournament courses, such as championship courses, are renowned for hosting professional tournaments. Unique design courses include parkland courses with trees as hazards and par-3 courses consisting solely of par-3 holes. Shorter courses, like executive courses, are shorter in length and focus on the short game.