What Is a 'Composite Course' in Golf?

Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin has a composite course

A composite course, or composite golf course, is, literally, one golf course made up of the parts of two golf other golf courses. In other words, if you take some holes from Course A and other holes from Course B, then play those holes as a single, 18-hole routing, you've just created a composite course.

There are some very famous composite courses at the highest levels of golf, including one of the world's very best golf courses, the Royal Melbourne composite course in Australia, and The Country Club composite course in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Why Combine Two Other Courses to Make a Composite Course?

To be clear, composite courses are only possible when a single golf facility has two our more golf courses on site; or (in far rarer cases) when two different golf clubs have courses that border one another. That geographical proximity is necessary to allow for the combining of holes from one course with those of another. Golfers have to be able to walk the resulting "composite," after all.

But why create a composite golf course at all? What is the purpose?

Let's say a golf club wants to host an important tournament. This golf club has two good golf courses on site, Course A and Course B, 36 holes of quality golf. But it feels (or the representatives of the tournament feel) that neither course on its own is quite up to hosting. Or maybe they are — but the organizers feel an even better golf course is possible, or one that offers better flow for spectators.

That's when a composite course might be created. The resulting composite course might use Course A's front nine and Course B's back nine, or vice-versa. Or it might be a real mix-and-match effort: Take the first three holes of Course A, the next six of Course B, then one from A, two from B, and so on. The holes might be rearranged to play in a different order than they do on Course A and Course B.

Take two golf courses, select holes from both of them and combine to create a good flow and a stronger test of golf, and you have a composite course.

The Most-Famous Composite Courses in Golf

The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.: Major championship venue where Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open and Team USA staged its famous comeback in the 1999 Ryder Cup. Brookline's composite uses 14-and-a-half holes from its Main Course, plus 3.5 holes from its Primrose Course.

Royal Melbourne in Black Rock, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Site of multiple Presidents Cups and Australian Opens plus the 1972 World Cup. Royal Melbourne's composite — which uses holes from its East and West courses (in varying configurations) — is often ranked among the best golf courses in the world. It is also one of the most daunting to set up, with issues involving road closures.

Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisc.: A sister property to the (now) more-famous Whistling Straits, the Blackwolf Run composite course is actually the original, 18-hole golf course that opened in 1988. The holes of that original 18 are now split between two courses that were each expanded with newer holes. To play the composite course, Blackwolf Run just puts those original holes back together in one routing. Se Ri Pak won the 1998 U.S. Women's Open on the composite.

Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.: A site of multiple major championships, including U.S. Opens and PGA Championships, as well as PGA Tour tournaments, Congressional CC has a Blue Course and Gold Course. For its majors, two (sometimes only one) holes from the Gold Course are swapped in for two (or one) holes from the Blue Course, and the order of the holes is slightly tweaked.

Gullane Golf Club in Scotland: One of the venerable Scottish links clubs, Gullane is home to 54 holes of golf, with courses designated No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. When the club has hosted the Scottish Open, the composite course has consisted of 16 holes from No. 1 and two holes from No. 2.

Hong Kong Golf Club: This 36-hole facility, with the Eden Course and New Course, has long hosted the Hong Kong Open. That tournament is now co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours. For the tournament, 10 holes from the Eden Course are combined with eight holes from the New Course to create the composite.

Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.: Site of the 1935 Ryder Cup, 1974 U.S. Amateur, plus several senior majors and, today, in the rotation for the PGA Tour's Northern Trust. Ridgewood has three nines, the East, Center and West. For The Northern Trust, the composite uses holes from each of the nines: Holes 1-7 of the East, 2-6 of the Center and 4-9 of the West.

Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England: This parkland gem near London has an Old Course and New Course and was the site of the 1981 Ryder Cup plus various European Tour tournaments over the years. Its composite course consists mostly of Old Course holes joined by two holes from the New Course.

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Photo credit: "Blackwolf Run, The River Course, Kohler, Wisconsin" by danperry.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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