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Grouping Golf Courses by Type

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Golf Course Types by Setting/Design

A third way of grouping golf courses by type is to group them according to their geographical setting and/or the architectural elements of their design (those are often the same things, since courses are often designed to fit into their natural surroundings). There are three main types of courses when grouping by setting and/or design:
  • Links course: A links course is one built on sandy coastline that is open to the wind with few or no trees, but with plenty of tall coastal grasses. Links courses generally feature large, slow greens and firm, fast fairways; the rough and even the fairways might not be watered except by nature; and the golfer has the option to run his ball along the ground up onto the green. There are often large and deep bunkers. Golf first developed on the links of Scotland.

  • Parkland course: A parkland course is one that is lushly manicured with verdant fairways and fast greens, with plenty of trees, and typically located inland. So named because of the park-like setting. Most PGA Tour courses are good examples of parkland courses.

  • Desert course: A course built in the desert, natch, where the teeing grounds, fairways and putting greens are lush but might be the only grass in the area. Seen from above, desert courses appear as ribbons of green running through seas of sand or rock and cactus. Desert courses are most associated with oil-rich emirates of the Middle East and with the American Southwest.

An issue in categorizing courses by setting/design is that many courses do not fit entirely, or even easily, into one or other groups (aside from desert courses, which are pretty easy to spot). Some may mix elements of both parkland and links. And then there are several other, smaller, less well-defined ways to label courses by setting/design, including heathland courses (interior courses that are well-manicured but lean more toward grass-and-shrub than to tree-lined, associated with England) and sandbelt courses (interior courses built on sandy soil that can resemble parkland or links, most closely associated with parts of Australia and the American Carolinas).

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