Perhaps after a tough golf day, you have asked yourself why golf is so long; who was the cruel person who made 18 holes of cursing and frustration? Or maybe you are the kind of person who gets to the 18th hole and feels disappointed that a sport would be so limiting. The answer will probably confuse you.
The most common answer is that a round of golf is 18 holes because that is the same number of shots in a bottle of whiskey. Sadly, that has been disproven to be the real reason for 18 holes. 18 holes in one bottle of whiskey seem intimidating, although undoubtedly, some people would be up for the challenge. I’m sure those final few holes would be fun to spectate, regardless of the potential hazard and drunk golfer poses.
Golf was almost 22 holes?
The original St. Andrews course was 22 holes, and since it was seen as the gold standard for golf courses, many clubs tried to copy it. The original system consisted of 12 holes with 10 played twice. Why just 10? Well, that is how it was decided to be best played at the time. However, in 1764 some golfers agreed that the first four holes were too short and that they should be consolidated into two. Since these were played twice, that shortened the course length to 18 holes. It would be some time until other golf courses followed suit with 18 holes.
The progression to 18
St. Andrews was seen as the gold standard of a course at the time, so people eventually grew to expect golf to consist of 18 holes. How these courses worked varied from place to place, but some did 3 rounds of 6 holes, and others were two rounds of 9 holes. Even in 1851, Prestwick was built to be a full round of 12 holes. Over time 18 holes became the gold standard for a round of golf, and courses began being made for 18 to match St. Andrews.
Many local courses can be played as either 18 holes or 9 depending on the player, and since it seems pretty arbitrary as to why we have 18 holes, why not play as you wish? After all, golf is supposed to be a sport that is fun and easy for everyone, so why force yourself to grind out 18 if 9 holes are more for you? Many golf groups are dedicated to not even keeping score, so enjoy yourself. Play golf however you choose, so if you want to bring a bottle of whiskey for 18 shots, then have some fun.