One of the joys of golf is playing different courses worldwide, each with unique landscapes, designs, and challenges. As a beginner, understanding course layouts, standard features, and hazards helps you navigate each hole and make smart strategic decisions.

Follow this introductory guide to golf courses to understand the diversity of challenges the game offers.

Types of Golf Courses for Beginners

Golf course architectures vary widely based on terrain and design strategy:

  • Located along coastal sand dunes and meadowlands often amid naturally rugged, windy landscapes. Firm, fast, undulating turf surfaces.
  • Iconic “links style” courses like St Andrews feature few trees, punchbowl greens, pot bunkers, and rolling terrain. Natural, open designs.
  • Firm, bouncy turf allows shots to be creatively played along the ground. Wind adds a testing element demanding shot versatility.

Parkland Courses

  • Inland courses are constructed within wooded areas, parks, or undisturbed natural settings. Lush green landscapes.
  • Tees, fairways, and greens emerge organically from trees. Gentle contours and elevation changes.
  • Parkland courses place a premium on aerial trajectories and accuracy to navigate trees while allowing curved shot shapes.

Stadium Courses

  • Modern style featuring raised greens surrounded by sculpted mounding and bunkers. Providing amphitheater viewing experiences.
  • Penal, risk-reward designs requiring precision and course management. Mistakes are magnified.
  • Narrow fairways, closely mown areas, and forced carries place a premium on driving accuracy and recovery ability.

Executive Courses

  • Condensed 9 or 18-hole layouts averaging under 6,000 yards. Ideal for beginners, casual play, and junior golfers.
  • Wider fairways and more forgiving short holes build confidence. Topped with large, receptive greens.
  • The fast pace and inexpensive green fees make executive courses perfect for introducing new players, practicing, or playing quick rounds.

Golf Courses for Beginners: Layouts and Components

While every course has a unique identity, common components define the progression and challenges of each hole:

  • Tees: Starting areas vary in distance to accommodate different skill levels. Markers identify tee locations.
  • Fairway: Mown grass between tee and green where much of the hole is meant to be played. Wider than rough areas.
  • Rough: Thicker grass and vegetation flanking the fairway, making errant shots harder to hit. Penalizes wayward shots.
  • Hazards: Bunkers, water, and out-of-bounds areas protect the hole strategy and add risk-reward challenges.
  • Green: Closely mown short grass area around the hole where putters are used. Sloped and contoured to add complexity.
  • Hole Locations: Changed daily to alter approach angles and difficulty. Marked by the flagstick and cup cut into the green.
  • Doglegs: Holes directionally shaped left or right to present unique angles to tee and approach shots. Requires strategy.
  • Par: Stroke count indicates the number of shots to reach the green and complete the hole. Typified as 3, 4, or 5 strokes.

Understanding these core components helps you assess holes and determine innovative strategies as you learn each new course.

Golf Hazards: Bunkers, Water, and Trouble

In addition to length, hazards present the main challenge on any hole. Common hazards include:


  • Shallow pits filled with sand. Require an explosion shot. Can be placed in fairways or guarding greens.
  • Waste, pot, and grass bunkers present different looks and difficulties. Rake after use and enter/exit near low points.
  • Bunker strategy depends on carry distance, lie severity, and precision needed on the next shot. Consider the best ways to escape.

Water Hazards

  • Any water features like lakes, streams, creeks, or fronting oceans. Must be carried or navigated.
  • Lateral water runs parallel to holes. Carry distance is a main concern. Approach carefully if green is near water.
  • Fronting water requires forced carries to reach the green. Need to fly it on the full shot.
  • Consider hazard options like laying up short, attempting a heroic carry, or taking a penalty drop.

Dense Rough

  • Thick grass around fairways penalizes errant shots and causes obstruction.
  • Balls sink to the bottom, and grass blade impact can twist the club at impact.
  • Rough above-green complexes present a short-game challenge for chips, pitches, and recovery shots.
  • Fairway position, stance, trajectory, and managing contact become priorities from the rough.

Trees and Forests

  • Tree-lined holes add beauty but require straight shots and precise shaping. Keep the ball in play.
  • Trees block direct lines to greens, forcing shaping or lower trajectory shots under a canopy.
  • If trees likely prevent you from finding an errant shot, hit a provisional ball.

Learning to assess hazards, weigh risk-reward, and manage trouble are essential skills to navigate courses strategically.

Golf Course Maintenance and Care

While natural beauty shapes the course routing and flow, consistent year-round playing conditions require meticulous care and maintenance:

  • Greenskeeping: Mowing, fertilizing, aerating, rolling, and replanting to maintain ideal green speeds, health, and appearance.
  • Bunker Grooming: Raking, edging, and sand replenishment keeps bunkers uniformly playable. Proper drainage prevents washing.
  • Fairway Care: Regular mowing, fertilization, and grass irrigation keep fairways lush and consistent lies.
  • Vegetation Management: Select tree trimming to open sightlines and sunlight. Undergrowth is maintained for playability and course views.
  • Water Conservation: Responsible irrigation, native grass, drainage improvements, and computerized sprinklers minimize water usage.
  • Winterization: Greens were tarped, cups moved forward, and tee areas were protected to prevent damage in extremely cold climates during the offseason.

While you likely appreciate pristine course conditions as a player, understanding the immense efforts behind course grooming will help you do your part to care for the golf landscape.


Part of golf’s appeal is the endless variety of course landscapes and design challenges awaiting each hole. As your game improves, be ready to apply your growing shot-making skills and course management creativity to navigate the diversity of golf courses. Seek to balance conservative strategy and smart risks based on your abilities. Study hole layouts and landmarks before playing. And bring the proper clubs to manage the unique hazards you’ll encounter.

As you continue exploring new courses, revisit your core swing fundamentals. If challenges arise, see our Golf Swing for Beginners guide. Solid mechanics provide the repeating foundation that enables shot-shaping creativity once applied to the course. With a strong motion ingrained through practice, you’ll have the tools to meet each unique challenge.

A great course architect once said he aimed to “try to give perceptive players a chance to display their talents.” Be ready to embrace the opportunity!

Frequently Asked Questions

Ans: Links courses feature few trees, natural rugged terrain, and wind. Parkland courses snake through forests and gentle topography. Stadium courses have penal mounding, forced carries, and risk/reward.

Q2. Should beginners start on an executive or full-length 18-hole courses?

Ans: Beginners should first start on par-3 and executive courses to build confidence and learn shorter clubs. Then, graduate to complete courses as skills improve.

Q3. What are common hole lengths and pars for each set of clubs?

Ans: Driver holes range 400+ yards as par-4 and 5s. Par-3s are under 250 yards for long irons, mid-irons are on 200-yard holes, and short iron wedges are on 100-yard par-3s.

Q4. How can beginners estimate yardages while learning courses?

Ans: Use hole par as a guide: 100 yards per each iron descended, 200 yards for fairway woods, and estimate 250 drive. Compare to marked sprinklers.

Q5. What causes grainy lies in the fairway or greenside rough?

Ans: Grain occurs when grass blades lay in a uniform direction, usually growing towards sunlight. Clubface slides along the grain on impact, reducing spin and controlling the trajectory.

Q6. Why is course management important for beginners?

Ans: Planning smart shots around hazards and trouble requires control and risk assessment beyond beginner skills. Laying up and managing trouble is key.