Guidance on Running a Competition

Hole Positions

Many factors affect the selection of good hole positions, but the primary objective is to reward a good shot.

The following points should be considered:


  1. Take into account, where appropriate, the design of the hole as the architect intended it to be played. Determine the length of the shot to the green and how it may be affected by the possible conditions for the day – wind, rain and the holding nature of the green. In this connection it is recommended that a weather forecast is obtained and, if rain is likely, holes should not be cut where water would accumulate.
  2. There must be enough putting green surface between the hole and the front and the sides of the green to accommodate the required shot. For example, if the hole requires a long iron or wood shot to the green, the hole should be positioned deeper in the green and farther from its sides than would be the case if the hole requires a short pitch shot.

    In any case, it is recommended that generally the hole be positioned at least four paces from any edge of the green. If a bunker is close to the edge, or if the ground slopes away from the edge, the distance should be greater, especially if the shot is more than a pitch.

    Consideration should be given to allowing fair opportunity for recovery after a reasonably good shot that just misses the green. On the other hand, the penalty for failure is something the player must take into account in deciding whether or not to attack a particular hole position. Much will depend upon the standard of the players.
  3. An area of two to three feet around the hole should be as level as possible. Effort should be made to ensure that holes are not positioned within three paces of a very severe slope or ridge or of a recently used hole. If the design of the green dictates that the hole be positioned on a slope, the hole should be cut vertically, not with the slope. A player putting from above the hole should be able to stop the ball near the hole.
  4. Consider the condition of nearby turf, especially taking care to avoid old hole plugs which have not completely healed.
  5. There should be a balanced selection of hole positions for the entire course with respect to left, right, central, front and back positions. For example, beware too many positions on one side or the other of the green with a resulting premium on drawn or faded shots.
  6. For a competition played over several days the course should be kept in balance daily as to the degree of difficulty. The course should not be set up appreciably more difficult for any round – balanced treatment is the aim. The idea of making the course progressively harder round after round is one that should be avoided.

    One form of balanced daily treatment is to select six quite difficult hole positions, six which are moderately difficult and six which are relatively easy. One should also try to keep a balance of using the left and the right of the green. For example, on the first nine there may be four to the right, four to the left and one in the centre. The second nine should be similar. Also, one should vary as much as possible the number of paces from the front edge of the green.
  7. During practice days before a competition it is recommended that holes are positioned in areas which will not be used during the competition so that competition positions will not be damaged by foot traffic.
  8. Anticipate the players’ walking routes. Position holes for early rounds so that good hole positions for later rounds will not be spoiled by players leaving the green. For example, for a four-day event, on the first day, where possible, the hole positions should be close to the exit line to the next tee. On the second day the holes should be in such a position that the players will be walking on or near the first day’s position. This should leave half of the green for the last two days.
  9. In match play, a hole position may, if necessary, be changed during a round, provided that in each match the players play with the holes in the same position.

    In stroke play, Rule 33-2b requires that all competitors in a single round play with each hole in the same position, other than when it is impossible for a damaged hole to be repaired so that it conforms with the Definition (see also the Note to Rule 33-2b).

    When 36 holes are played in one day it is customary for hole positions not to be changed between rounds, but there is no Rule to prohibit changing them. If they are changed, all players should be informed.
  10. The member of the greenstaff who cuts the holes must make sure that the Rules of Golf are observed, especially the requirements that the hole must be 4 1/4 inches (108mm), must be at least 4 inches (101.6mm) deep and that wherever possible the hole-liner must be sunk at least one inch (25mm) below the putting green surface. If a plastic cuff/rim is used, it is considered to be part of the holeliner, so it too must be sunk at least one inch (25mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil makes it impracticable to do so.

The hole must not...

The hole must be 4¼ inches (108mm) and must be at least 4 inches (101.6mm) deep. When a lining is used, it must be sunk at least 1 inch (25mm) below the putting green surface.

It is appreciated that it may not be possible to achieve all the aims stated above, however, using the example of a 72 hole event played over four days, the following method of selecting hole positions may enable the Committee to achieve as many of the goals as possible:

  1. Select the best four hole positions on each putting green, taking into account that a different section of the putting green should be used on each day. These selections should be made well in advance of the competition. The four selected positions should then be ranked 1 to 4, with No 1 being the most difficult position, No 2 the second most difficult, and so on.
  2. All four positions on each green should then be identified by measurement. It is suggested that the starting point for these measurements should be a centre point at the front of the green. This point can be identified by standing at the back of the green, looking down the hole and assessing where a player would play his approach shot to the green if he were playing from the perfect central position in terms of the way the hole was designed to be played. Due to the shape of the green the point so identified may not necessarily be at the very front edge of the green.
  3. Having ascertained this point it should be marked with a small painted T-shape, which will assist in directing the person taking the measurements to the centre of the green. A small paint spot should also be placed at the back edge of the green so that a consistent line can be taken when pacing from the front of the green (see explanatory diagram – Appendix E).
  4. The measurement from the front of the green is then pinpointed by pacing or measuring from the T-shape at the front of the green to a spot at 90 degrees to the selected position. The measurement to the side of the green is taken by pacing from the hole at a 90 degree angle to the side of the green that is nearest (see Appendix E). A method of measuring is necessary so that the position can be located easily when the time comes to use it and also to ensure that all hole measurements are taken from the same spot.
  5. The next step is to decide which of the four positions to use each day. In making these selections, the principles outlined in points (e)-(h) above should be followed as closely as possible, i.e. a balance of positions is sought and possible damage to positions by foot traffic should be avoided. With regard to difficulty, a guide to whether balance has been achieved is if the total of the 18 hole ratings, i.e. No’s 1 to 4, is close to 45.
  6. The final step is to develop a chart containing the position for each hole in each round, i.e. a master plan.

Although this method does require a considerable amount of preliminary work, it does ensure a balance of hole positions on each day. It also means that the task during the competition is one of checking, as opposed to selecting, which will save valuable time during the busy days of the competition.

A common method for marking hole locations is for the person undertaking course set-up to mark the position with a paint dot the day before (for example, on the evening of the last day of the practice rounds). When the hole location is being checked prior to play, the location for the following day is then marked with a paint spot. The member of the greenstaff responsible for cutting the holes is given the hole location measurements the day before and will use these to locate the paint dots and cut the new holes.

Nevertheless, if heavy rain is forecast during the days of the competition, the Committee would be well advised to review the master plan and position holes where puddles of water are least likely to accumulate. Occasionally, such action can save a day’s play in stroke play because Rule 33-2b states that all competitors in a single round must play with each hole cut in the same position. Therefore, the Committee may not alter a hole position after one competitor has played the hole with the hole in a certain position in order to prevent having to suspend play.