Golf Course Structure and the Influence of St. Andrews


Many golfers take for granted the structure employed by most golf course designers when they are designing a course and there is no exception for the more than 100 golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area. For almost everyone on a North Myrtle Beach golf course today, the idea of a “front nine” and a “back nine” is almost second nature. However, once this is thought about, one may wonder what caused this structure to be the prevalent one in today’s golf courses, as 18 and nine seem to be rather strange numbers to settle on.

During the mid-1700s, the golf courses had varying numbers of holes. The well-known courses of the time had anywhere from five to 22 holes. The first to reach the now-accepted 18 holes was The Old Course at St. Andrews. The Old Course consisted of 12 holes, 10 of which were played twice for a total of 22 holes. However, the golfers at St. Andrews decided to condense the first four holes into two, creating a course of 10 individual holes and a round of 18 holes, as eight holes were played twice. The idea of 18 separate holes was created when St. Andrews punched another set of holes into the eight greens that were played twice, effectively creating 18 distinct holes. One set of holes was played as the “outward nine” and the other set was played as the “inward nine.” This is how the idea of a front nine and back nine was created.

Most golf courses adhere to this structure closely, although the idea of double greens has not found widespread use anywhere besides Scotland. Even though this idea has not found traction, many other features introduced by St. Andrews have caught in today’s golf environment. For example, the idea of an outward nine and inward nine has led to most golf courses labeling their scorecards with “OUT” and “IN” when referring to front nine and back nine scores. Also, due to the double greens at St. Andrews, different colored flags were used for the front, or outward, nine and for the back, or inward, nine. This feature was adopted by many other courses, even though it is normally not necessary for these courses as they do not feature double greens.

St. Andrews also set the size of the hole in 1891 to the modern-day diameter of 4.25 inches, due to the size of the first golf hole cutter, built in Musselburgh, Scotland in 1829. St. Andrews is the location of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the European ruling body of golf (equivalent to the PGA in the United States) as a result of this history. The Old Course is still standing today, and avid golfers still make it their life goal to travel to Scotland and play it at least once. Until then, enjoy the readily available tee times and the natural beauty found on the Myrtle Beach golf courses and championship golf courses sprinkled throughout North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.