Golf’s different course types explained – including a possible seventh

St Andrews Golf

Golf has six widely recognised different types of course – and there is a type not widely recognised that could be considered its own class.

Here we briefly detail what makes a course fall into one category or another.


The most well-known form of golf course is the links course. The phrase comes from the Old English word hlinc, which means “rising ground” or “ridge,” and it refers to a sandy region on the coast. While many courses claim to be links, refer to themselves as links-style, or use the term links in their title, the category is narrower. True links courses may be found predominantly in Scotland, Ireland, and England. The course must hug the shore, with sandy soil beneath.

Many more courses are links-style and can be found anywhere from coastlines all over the world and even further inland.

Iconic Open championship venues are usually links courses with St Andrews the most famous example.

Parkland course

Parkland courses are usually constructed inland, away from the sea. These courses frequently include a lot of trees and lush grass. You’ve definitely seen enough of parkland courses if you follow the PGA Tour. Parkland courses are so named because they appear and feel like you’re playing golf in a park. Parkland courses are often well-kept and full of man-made elements like excavated bunkers, ponds, and built-up rough.

Augusta is a great example of a parkland course.

Heathland course

Because they are patterned on links courses, these inland courses are typically more open than parkland courses. The courses are sometimes overgrown with gorse and heather and may not appear as finely maintained as classic parkland courses. While the majority of them have few trees (mainly pine trees), several have had trees grow in over time. When people were searching for locations to play golf other than links land, heathland was found to offer conditions that lent well to course construction. The topography is frequently undulating in the same manner that links are, and the sandy soil is comparable as well.

Sunningdale Golf Club is a famous example of a heathland course

Sandbelt course

The sandbelt area of Australia is home to some of the world’s most treasured golf courses, however, its remoteness sometimes cause them to get lost in the shuffle.

The sandbelt region, located just outside of Melbourne, Australia, is home to some of the world’s best golf courses. The soil in this location is unexpectedly sandy, making it ideal for golf.

Royal Melbourne Golf Club is arguably the paragon of sandbelt courses.

Stadium course

These are generally purpose-built courses intended to stage big PGA Tour events or regular events on other professional tours.

These courses are designed to accommodate spectators with more ease than some other courses and will feature bleachers or even stands on certain holes.

TPC Sawgrass is one such theatre of golf and one that is playable for the general public as well.

Bushveld course

Strictly speaking, most Bushveld courses conform to the specifications of a parkland course.

However, while Parkland courses give the impression that man has tamed nature for his leisure a bushveld course barely holds back wild elements whether that is vegetation or animals.

Bushveld courses are typically found in Southern Africa and are often built into pre-existing nature reserves. Many of these courses eschew bunkers given the obstacles posed by acacia trees and wild grassland ‘rough’.

While the courses and Leopard Creek and Sun City might arguably be included in this category wilder offerings like Skukuza hit closer to the heart of what a bushveld course is.