5 Different Types of Golf Courses

5 Different Types of Golf Courses

There are five main types of golf courses found around the world: links, parkland, desert, heathland, and sandbelt. Each type of course has unique characteristics and is found in very different locations. Although these course names are often thrown around in the golf world, some golfers may not be aware of the differences.

Links Golf Course

Links golf courses were first found in Scotland. The country is regarded as the “home of golf,” and the first courses were all links-style courses. Links courses are seen all over Scotland, and there are many more around the world.

In the United States, Pebble Beach is classed as a links course. It is possibly the most famous links course in the US and hosts PGA Tour events each year.

St. Andrews in Scotland is the most famous links course of them all. The links-style golf course is far older than its counterpart, the parkland. According to the BBC: “links courses are all about being one with nature.” It is this attempt to be one with nature that gives the look and feel of the course. The links’ look is very natural, and golfers play to the contours of the land.

Many links golf courses are found in coastal areas. Pebble Beach, which is located in California, overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The coastal location helps to create the hills, ridges, and fairways.

Golfers on a links course will play on sandy terrain that receives plenty of wind blowing off the ocean. The ridges and slopes on the links course are not man-made, or at least, only some are created by man. Most of the features on the golf course are all-natural rather than influenced by humans. Due to the lack of human modification of a links golf course, golfers may experience far more difficult shots. At times, there may be blind shots. In addition, players may hit shots uphill or downhill toward the green.

Another major difference between links and parkland is the openness of the course. Links are wide open without trees lining fairways. There is also a lack of water hazards. It is often said that links courses are far more difficult for golfers to play due to the layout of the course. There is also a wind element that blows the ball around and can cause scores to climb during a golf tournament. Once a golfer gets the ball near the cup, they can expect a very fast playing green.

Many people claim that links courses are the true test of a golfer’s ability. They are difficult to play, unforgiving, and have elements that make playing far tougher than parkland.

Parkland Golf Course

As golf moved away from the coastline, courses became very different. By going inland, courses became far greener, and trees became a feature of these new courses. Due to the courses resembling parks, they became known as parkland golf courses.

Perhaps the most famous parkland course in the world is Augusta National. Augusta is a perfect example of the parkland style, and golf fans can see the parkland course type at every Masters tournament.

While a links course is largely natural, a parkland course is one that has been manicured and heavily constructed by a course architect.

A parkland course will have flat fairways compared to the rolling ones on a links course. The flat, well-manicured fairways make for gentle bounces. The fairways are also very forgiving.

Although Pebble Beach is an example of a links course that hosts a PGA Tour event, many of the courses that have tournaments are parkland. Myrtle Beach is another links-style course. However, over the years, the course has added more parkland features.

Desert Golf Course

Although links and parkland golf courses are the most commonly found styles around the world, desert courses are becoming more prevalent in areas with a more arid climate. A desert golf course is built in an area with a natural desert. It is constructed amongst the sand dunes and natural desert features. The only grass found on this type of golf course is on the tee box, fairways, and putting greens.

These courses are mostly found in the American southwest and in the Middle East. These courses are built to blend the local area with the gorgeous greenery of golf courses found in other parts of the world.

Heathland Golf Course

A heath is an area of open land characterized by low-growing vegetation such as heather, gorse, and coarse grasses. The soil is sandy and firm, and the terrain is gently undulating—both of which are ideal for golf. Healthland courses, primarily found in Britain, are not as carefully manicured as other courses and thus require less maintenance.

Many of the finest courses in Britain are heathland courses. Some of the most prestigious include Sunningdale Golf Club, Woodland Spa, Alwoodley Golf Club, and Walton Heath.

Sandbelt Golf Course

Sandbelt golf is synonymous with one thing, the group of eight golf courses in the sandbelt region of Melbourne, Australia. These world-renowned courses are built on loamy soil with undulating terrain. They are carefully designed with lightning-fast greens and steep-edged bunkers. The mild climate of the region means that they can be played year-round.

The sandbelt courses have hosted many championship tournaments, and one course, the Royal Melbourne, is consistently ranked as one of the top ten golf courses in the world.

If you want to learn even more about the history of golf and how to get started with a career in golf, contact College of Golf today at 888.355.4465 / 561.478.5500.


  1. The species of trees are whatever grows naturally in that area and climate.
    Pine trees (Coniferous) are vertically narrow, but you cannot flight a ball through them. Deciduous trees, such as Oak & Walnut, are more wide, but you can get a ball through them if you are lucky.
    Species like Cypress & Palm will be found in humid coastal areas near salt or brackish water.

  2. It was interesting when you explained how parkland golf courses are greener and feature more trees. My brother is interested in learning more about country club governance so he can potentially purchase one. I’ll pass along this terminology in case it’s helpful when he’s evaluating potential golf courses soon!

  3. How might you differentiate between a heavily wooded course, those with severe hazards (forest) flanking fairways versus a parkland which would traditionally have areas to miss?
    Example: Augusta – Parkland Pikwood National – Wooded

    With the emergence of Sand Valley and Rodeo Dunes can the sand belt classification be used stateside?

  4. While I won’t dispute that this information is generally accepted, I must say though – creating a type of golf course style merely because there are 8 of its type in one isolated area of Australia, seems a bit of a stretch. One can imagine that using that as a guide, there could possibly be 30 different styles of golf courses (alpine mountain style; veld style; Rocky coastal style; Tropical style; Plain style; woodland style; …

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