Golf courses contain a number of holes – usually 18, but sometimes 9 – in an outdoor configuration that has typically been landscaped for the purpose. Playing through these holes in the given order is known as a round. Each hole has a marked teeing ground, fairway, obstacles such as rough terrain, sand traps and water hazards, and a putting green with a pin and cup. Beyond these standard inclusions, there is great scope for golf course architects to create novel, challenging and aesthetically pleasing landscapes for players to experience.
Early golf courses in Scotland were created on soil-covered sand dunes, known as links, located inland from coastal areas. This is the origin of the term ‘golf links’, often used in reference to coastal or sandy courses. Today, golf courses are generally landscaped to echo the rolling, rounded shapes and various grassed and sandy terrains typical of the Scottish landscape that was originally used for the purpose. Although large-scale earthworks have become standard in the construction of golf courses, older course designs are often valued for their greater sensitivity to the natural sites on which they’re built.
Golf tourism has emerged as enthusiasts seek to play on scenic, historic, quirky or otherwise acclaimed courses. For example, The Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland, believed to be the oldest 18-hole course in the world, is something of a pilgrimage site for golf lovers. Another (and completely different) example is the Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club in South Australia, which is entirely devoid of grass – fitting, given its hot desert climate and rainfall rate that’s among the lowest in the country.