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How far should golf holes be placed apart?

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Like everything else in golf design (or for that matter architecture or urban planning, where houses are bigger, lots are bigger, and roads are wider) things have gotten larger. Not only are holes getting longer to account for the increased shot length of our best players, they are getting wider, to account for the increased width of shots by our worst players!

The following table is an estimate of the use for different centerline spacing in golf course design:

Typical Centerline Spacing

INADEQUATE
175
PAR 3 HOLES
EXECUTIVE COURSES ONLY
MINIMUM
200
STANDARD FOR EXECUTIVE COURSES
1960 ERA STANDARD FOR REGULATION
PRESERVES INADEQUATE BUFFER
ALLOWS FOR VERY NARROW FAIRWAYS
NARROW
225
1970 ERA STANDARD FOR REGULATION
PRESERVES LITTLE OR NO BUFFER
ALLOWS NARROW FAIRWAYS ONLY
ADEQUATE
250
1980 ERA STANDARD FOR REGULATION
PRESERVES SOME TREE BUFFER
ALLOWS MEDIUM FAIRWAYS
AVERAGE
275
1990 ERA STANDARD FOR REGULATION PRESERVES ADJACENT TREE BUFFER
ALLOWS WIDE FAIRWAY
GENEROUS
300
PRESERVES SIGNIFICANT TREE BUFFER
ALLOWS FOR CROSS SLOPE GRADING
ALLOWS WIDE FAIRWAYS
AMBIANCE
325+
PRESERVES FEEL OF SECLUSION
ALLOWS SEVERECROSS SLOPES
ALLOWS VERY WIDE FAIRWAYS

The following is evident:

Tighter spacing is best used only for par-3 holes and executive-length golf courses.

Par-4s or par-5s on regulation courses require wider spacing. Full tee shots can be expected to go farther astray than reduced-length shots on shorter holes.

Wider spacing allows for golfer-friendly wide fairways, while maintaining an adequate buffer of trees, mounds, or bunkers.

Wider centerline spacing is required in areas where cross slope exceeds 15-20 percent, to flatten the fairway from side to side to achieve fair play conditions.

The widest spacing is required when more than one of those conditions is present, or when the desired goal is to provide a feeling of seclusion between golf holes.

Wider spacing is needed to preserve significant tree mass between holes.

Jeffrey D. Brauer and his firm, GolfScapes, have designed 40 golf courses and remodeled 80. Canterberry Golf Course in Parker, Colo., and Giants Ridge are rated among the best affordable public courses in the United States, while his Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was a Golf Digest best new course winner, Champions Country Club is rated 5th in Nebraska and TangleRidge Golf Club is 12th in Texas. President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects during its 50th anniversary year in 1995-96, Brauer also designed Colbert Hills Golf Club at Kansas State, which opened in June 2000 as the cornerstone golf course for The First Tee program as well as the first collaboration between the PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. To contact Jeff, call him at 817-640-7275 or send him an email at jeff@jeffreydbrauer.com.