Golf courses with an odd number of holes

Building courses with an odd number of holes beyond the traditional 9-hole or 18-hole loops is trending in golf.
Golf courses with an odd number of holes is becoming a fun modern trend.

When GolfPass broke the news that Cabot Citrus Farms was building a 21-hole routing called 'The 21' north of Tampa at the old World Woods site, it generated a lot of confusion among everyday golfers.

The story spurred more than 400 comments on our Facebook page, debating the merits (and lack thereof) of playing 21 holes in a "single" round. The trend of architects building courses with an odd number of holes has been gaining traction for a decade, but for most golfers, it's a concept as foreign as breaking par.

The sooner golfers realize that the number of holes they play outside of a tournament is just an arbitrary number - much like par - the better off they'll be. Maybe then, they'll have more fun with this silly game.

Conventional nine-hole and 18-hole loops force too many golfers into worrying about score, posting handicaps and the traditional grind of golf (like breaking 50 or 100). Layouts that are 8 holes or 13 or 19 allow golfers to be more free-thinking in how they approach the game. Don't want to keep score? No problem. Want to duke it out in match play with all sorts of side bets? Yes please!

Iceland-based Architect Edwin Roald, founder of Eureka Golf, wants his peers to think outside the box when it comes to the number of holes on a course. He simply asks at his website, "Why 18 holes?"

When laying out a new golf course, or reconfiguring an existing one, avoiding a fixed pre-conceived number of holes provides a great deal of freedom in the design process. Our ability to use land that has been deemed unsuitable in the past, i.e. too small for eighteen holes, is improved dramatically. This is important as suitable land is now harder to find and using damaged land may be the only option for urban golf to exist in the future. This does not always come in the 'right' size and shape. More creative freedom also provides a much greater ability to use existing infrastructure that may be found on site, such as buildings, roads, underground pipes and wires, helping keep costs down and allowing us to charge lower green fees. Free from constraints, we are able to reach new heights in the way we mix golf with other land uses, mostly path networks for other outdoor recreation, as well as wildlife habitats, archaeological sites and other environmentally sensitive areas that should be protected and worked around.
Edwin Roald, Eureka Golf

Building courses with an odd number of holes has become a cool new trend. Let's play the numbers game:

Courses with 21 holes

3 Min Read
January 23, 2023
The new course will complement the redesigned Cabot Barrens and Cabot Oaks courses that will open in December north of Tampa.

Cabot's The 21 is actually two courses in one, a true 11-hole short course called 'Aces' with every hole less than 125 yards, and a slightly more traditional 10-hole routing called 'Ten' with a bunch of short par 4s and one par 5. It should be fun no matter how you play the routing because Designer Mike Nuzzo is going full architect nerd to make it interesting. When The 21 opens this December, it won't be the first 21-hole course in America, however. That distinction belongs to the private Parkersburg Country Club along the Ohio River in Vienna, W.V. The par-73 club essentially offers three practice holes, but members can play them all in one round if they so wish.

Courses with 20 holes

The views around the seventh green at The European Club hijack the senses.

Sometimes the linksland is just too good to stop at 18 holes. That was the case at both the European Club in Ireland south of Dublin and Lost Farm at Barnbougle in Tasmania. Each features two extra par 3s to add even more drama and intrigue to the round. No one would be wrong if they called Irishman Pat Ruddy a mad scientist of golf course architecture. When the former golf-writer-turned-course-designer decided to build his own epic playground, he went up in a helicopter to find the best linksland on the Emerald Isle. His links, which is just as hard as it is gorgeous, has been wowing golfers since 1987. Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw had the same epiphany when building the second course at Barnbougle in 2010. They added holes 13a and 18a as fun par 3s playing less than 133 yards.

Courses with 19 holes

A view from the cliffs of the 19th hole at Payne's Valley.

I've written a lot about courses with bonus "19th" holes. Here's a photo gallery with more than a dozen. The most famous 'bonus hole' opened recently on Payne's Valley, the Tiger Woods design at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. The island green is surrounded by a canyon wall of cascading water falls. It's a special experience, for sure. What I find intriguing is the 19-hole concept has been around since 1929, when Cog Hill No. 2 "Ravines" was built in Lemont, Ill., outside Chicago.

4 Min Read
September 25, 2020
The new 19th hole at Payne's Valley by Tiger Woods is creating a buzz.

A Course with 17 holes

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The Sandbox at Sand Valley Golf Resort

Coore & Crenshaw might have created the world's only 17-hole course when the Sandbox debuted in 2017 at Sand Valley. It's entertaining for how short it is (1,757 yards). Everybody loves the introduction at the first tee, where they can load up on drinks sitting in a canoe loaded with ice and borrow a small carry bag to walk with just a few clubs. With the longest hole at 149 yards, most golfers will only need 8 and 9 irons, a few wedges and a putter.

Courses with 14 holes

The big course and QuickSands short course at Gamble Sands overlooks the Columbia River in central Washington.

Two new short courses that debuted in 2021 have gone the 14-hole route. The QuickSands short course at Gamble Sands in central Washington state is wired for music, giving golfers good vibes whether or not they're playing well. Architect David McLay Kidd created holes ranging from 60 yards to 160 yards on a 25-acre plot of sand. The holes are named "Plinko" (1st), "Crater" (3rd) and "Corkscrew" (9th) based on the shapes of the wildly contoured greens. Thousands of miles away in Tasmania, Bougle Run was created with two par 4s and 12 par 3s by Coore to complement the two world-ranked links at the resort: Tom Doak's Barnbougle Dunes and the aforementioned Lost Farm.

Courses with 13 holes

Although other examples were built earlier, Bandon Preserve's 13-hole routing that debuted in 2012 at Bandon Dunes on Oregon's coast is credited with kicking off the craze of short courses featuring an odd numbers of holes. Preserve, dreamed up by C&C, is considered by many to be the most "fun" course at America's most "fun" golf resort. Golfers can play the whole thing with a putter if they want. A decade later, another really cool 13-hole short course emerged: The Gravel Pit Golf Course in Brainerd, Minn. It was cut from an old quarry by local legend Scott Hoffman, the former longtime superintendent at Madden's on Gull Lake who is best known for designing the Classic at Madden's, a course generally considered the region's best.

Courses with 12 holes

Just a few years ago, Jack Nicklaus touted 12-hole courses as the way to marry playing more golf with the time and financial constraints of the modern world. Did you know that the first Open Championship was played across 12 holes at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland in 1864? The world's most inspiring 12-holer remains off the coast of Scotland, the spectacular Shiskine Golf & Tennis Club on the Isle of Arran. On our side of the pond, there's one 12-hole short course - California's Challenge Course at Monarch Dunes - and at least five other regulation versions - the Bayview Retirees Golf Course and Vermilion Country Club in Ohio; Woodside Golf Course in Michigan, Belmont in Virginia and Railside Golf Club in Illinois. They all ended up with 12 holes for a variety of reasons. Woodside was a nine-holer until Chris Lutztke built three additional holes in 2014. Belmont actually hosted the 1949 PGA Championship before a Davis Love III redesign in 2020-21 shrank the footprint to make room for a putting course and six-hole, par-3 course used by the First Tee of Richmond. Railside used to be 18 holes in Gibson City, Ill.,until new investors bought a portion of the property and created the 12-hole experience in 2017.

A Course with 11 holes

I lived in California's Bay Area more than 8 years before I realized that I had a funky cool 11-hole course just 45 minutes away. The Gilroy Golf Course is awesome and maddening at the same time. Most golfers play nine holes or 18. To play the "full routing", golfers play the first seven holes twice. Where things get interesting is ending each nine. Holes 8 and 9 play on the opposite side of a mountainous hill from holes 17 and 18. Where things get really WEIRD is the 9th and 18th share the same green, so golfers can be teeing off at the same time to the same fairway/green area and inadvertently meet down below wildly elevated tee boxes.

Courses with 10 holes

When the "Ten" opens at Cabot Citrus Farms, it will become at least the sixth U.S. course featuring 10 holes, following the private Kukio 10-Hole Short Course, built by Tom Fazio in 2003 on Hawaii Island, Nebraska's Frederick Peak by Tom Lehman in 2017, The Bootlegger at Forest Dunes in Michigan and The Baths of Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., in 2020. There is another that's quirkier: The Hidden Valley Golf Course in Cottage Grove, Ore., south of Eugene. Its "10th hole" is a separate par 3 that plays alongside the fourth hole but doesn't really fit into the routing. Golfers have to go out of their way to play it.

A Course with 8 holes

Aerial view from Scottish Links Vintage Golf Course at Glenlaurel

In 2013, Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Chris Hurdzan finished the 8-hole, 1003-yard Scottish Links Vintage Golf Course at Glenlaurel Scottish Inn & Cottages in Rockbridge, Ohio, to give guests a golf experience to try.

A Course with 7 holes

McVeigh's Gauntlet Course is a rugged seven-hole layout.

Everything about McVeigh's Gaunlet at Silvies Valley Ranch in remote Seneca, Ore., was meant to be unique, from the rugged 1,200-yard, 7-hole routing to the opportunity for golfers to take "Goat Caddies".

1 Min Read
February 13, 2018
Using animal caddies isn't new in the world of golf, but The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon will put its own spin on the concept by offering goat caddies on its seven-hole McVeigh's Gauntlet course in 2018.

Courses with 6 holes

Aerial view from Origins Golf Club

A pair of six-hole courses in America fit Roald's ethos of being creative with limited land. The River Oaks Golf Course opened in 2004 within a master-planned community in Paso Robles, Calif. Later in 2007, Davis Love III dreamed up the versatile concept of the Origins Golf Club, which can play as a six-hole regulation course or a 10-hole par-3 course at WaterSound in the Florida Panhandle.

A Course with 5 holes

A view of the 14th hole at Hinckley Hills Golf Course.

When I googled the phrase 'five hole golf course', I full expected to find a few random foreign offerings. Surprisingly, I discovered one in America's heartland. The"Buzzard's Nest" is a collection of five par 4s located within the 18-hole layout at Hinckley Hills in Ohio. The website Golf Club Atlas provides more of the backstory here. The course's website notes that "these separate five holes feature par 4 holes to challenge your game when you don’t have time for nine or when 18 are not quite enough." Maybe I should consider Hinckley Hills the world's only 23-hole course? I'm so confused!

A Timeline: Courses with an odd number of holes

Although a handful of classic courses feature an odd number of holes - notably California's Gilroy Golf Course (1923), Chicagoland's Cog Hill No. 2 (1929) and Scotland's famous Shiskine Golf & Tennis Club (late 1920s) - this is mostly a modern trend. The number of holes are in parenthesis.

1987, The European Club, Ireland (20)
1997, Legendary Run, Cincinnati, Ohio (19)
1999, Pacifico at Punta Mita, Mexico (19)
1999, Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, S.C. (19)
2002, Koasati Pines at Coushatta Casino Resort, Kinder, La. (19)
2003, Kukio 10-Hole Short Course, Hawaii (10)
2003, Forest Dunes, Roscommon, Mich. (19)
2003, Indian River Preserve, Mims, Fla. (19)
2004, River Oaks, Pasa Robles, Calif. (6)
2006, The Links at Las Palomas, Puerto Penasco, Mexico (19)
2007, Origins Golf Course, Watersound, Fla. (6)
2007, Buzzard's Nest at Hinckley Hills, Hinckley, Ohio (5)
2009, Challenge Course at Monarch Dunes, Nipomo, Calif. (12)
2010, Lost Farm, Tasmania (20)
2012, Streamsong Blue & Streamsong Red, Bowling Green, Fla. (19)
2012, Bandon Preserve, Bandon, Ore. (13)
2013, Scottish Links Vintage Course at Glenlaurel Scottish Inn & Cottages, Rockbridge, Ohio (8)
2014, Woodside Golf Course, Lansing, Mich. (12)
2017, The Sandbox at Sand Valley, Nekoosa, Wis. (17)
2017, Railside Golf Club, Gibson City, Ill. (12)
2017, Frederick Peak Golf Course, Valentine, Neb. (10)
2017, McVeigh's Gaunlet at Silvies Valley Ranch, Seneca, Ore. (7)
2020, The Bootlegger at Forest Dunes, Roscommon, Mich. (10)
2020, Payne's Valley at Big Cedar Lodge, Hollister, Mo. (19)
2020, The Baths of Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis. (10)
2021, Belmont Golf Club, Richmond, Va. (12)
2021, QuickSands at Gamble Sands, Brewster, Wash. (14)
2021, Bougle Run, Tasmania (14)
2022, The Gravel Pit, Brainerd, Minn. (13)
2023, The 21, Brooksville, Fla. (21)

Courses with 4 holes

Once we get below five holes, we might as well start calling these courses "practice facilities" or "training grounds" for juniors and beginners. Whatever the case, these compact routings do exist throughout the world. For example, the Fox Run Golf Club in Ludlow, Vt., boasts the "Family Fore Practice Course" with holes ranging from 60 to 100 yards. The now-closed Tom Weiskopf course at Reflection Bay Golf Club at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., has been transformed into a four-hole practice loop and practice facility for the High Performance Golf Institute.

Courses with 2 and 3 holes

The backyard, three-hole Hoop Loop was a thing during the pandemic on social media. I'm sure a millionaire or two has probably built fancier versions somewhere. Any of our readers been lucky enough to play one?

Courses with 1 hole

There are probably hundreds of backyard golf courses with a single hole. The most fun one I've found in my travels was a single green at the Bowers Harbor Vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula outside Traverse City in northern Michigan. Imagine the bar bill if you sink an ace? Nice bottles of wine can get expensive.

What's the best odd-numbered golf course you've played? Let us know in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Golf courses with an odd number of holes