Golf Course Architecture and Design:

In the United States design varies widely, with courses such as the entirely artificial Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, where a course complete with waterfalls was created in the desert, and on the other end of the spectrum, Rustic Canyon outside of Los Angeles, which was created with a minimal amount of earth moving resulting in an affordable daily green fee and a more natural experience.

While no two courses are alike, many can be classified into one of the following broad categories:

  • Links Courses: the most traditional type of golf course, of which some centuries-old examples have survived in the British isles. Located in coastal areas, on sandy soil, often amid dunes, with few artificial water hazards and few if any trees. Traditional links courses, such as The Old Course at St. Andrews or Machrihanish, are built on "land reclaimed from the sea," land that was once underwater. Linksland is sometimes said to "link" the beach to the arable land; however, the more likely etymology is from the Middle English for "hill." It was historically suitable primarily for grazing sheep.
  • Parkland Courses: typical inland courses, often resembling traditional British parks, with lawn-like fairways and many trees.
  • Xeriscape Courses: Similar to parkland courses, though these courses reduce irrigation requirements by utilizing native, naturally growing plants and ground cover as the rough and around the teeing box. Typically, the native landscaping should require minimal or similar watering requirements.
  • Heathland Courses: a more open, less-manicured inland course often featuring gorse and heather and typically less wooded than “parkland” courses. Examples include Woodhall Spa in England and Gleneagles in Scotland.
  • Desert Courses: a rather recent invention, popular in Australia, parts of the USA and in the Middle East. Desert courses require heavy irrigation for maintenance of the turf, leading to concerns about the ecological consequences of excessive water consumption. A desert course also violates the widely accepted principle of golf course architecture that an aesthetically pleasing course should require minimal alteration of the existing landscape. Nevertheless, many players enjoy the unique experience of playing golf in the desert.
  • Browns Courses: Akin to sand courses (see below), but much more involved in terms of using layers of tar and gravel below the sandy surface layer, to give firmness and support and ensure a consistent bounce/roll. Common in arid parts of the Indian Subcontinent. The world's highest course of any type is a 9-hole browns course in Leh, Ladakh (J&K), maintained by the Indian Army. It is at 11,600 feet. Being beyond the Great Himalaya in an extension of the arid Tibetan Plateau, the region lies in a rain shadow, which would make a greens course impossible to water. Mixed courses that have both brown and green holes are called 'browns-greens' courses; e.g., the green and the central fairway may be grass, but the tee and rough would be brown.
  • Sand Courses: instead of a heavily irrigated 'green', the players play on sand; holes are less 'involved' than browns courses (see above), and are for the casual golfer.
  • Snow Courses: another rather recent invention; golf being played on snow, typically with an orange colored or another brightly colored ball. Can be played in Arctic or subarctic regions during winter.
  • Par 3 Courses: The course consists entirely of holes with Par 3. These are considered a good test of iron shot precision and short game, as the driver is rarely used.
  • Executive Courses: A course which generally is smaller than the typical 18-hole course, designed to cater to the fast-paced, executive lifestyle.