What 'Horses for Courses' Means in Golf

Have you ever heard a golfer or golf broadcaster use the expression "horses for courses"? Do you know what it means when used in a golf context? It's an old expression that comes out of Great Britain and originally did emerge from the horse-racing scene.

In golf, "horses for courses" essentially just means that some golf courses favor certain types of golfers, while other types of golfers will prefer different types of golf courses. In other words, when a golfer can match his or her particular skill sets to a golf course whose layout and design favor those skill sets, that golfer will have a better chance of performing well. Makes sense, right?

If there is a golfer in your group who is not so great, but who always seems to play better on Golf Course X that your group sometimes play, you might say, "oh well, horses for courses," to explain why you owe her money each time you play Golf Course X. That course just suits her game.

Horses for courses is a term that moved from horse racing (where, literally, they were talking about horses that were best-suited for specific race courses) into the general British lexicon, then spread out from there.

The generic hourses-for-courses definition that appears in the Cambridge Dictionary is this: "Used to say that it is important to choose suitable people for particular activities because everyone has different skills."

In professional tournament golf, the expression is applied to golfers who tend to win a lot on a specific golf courses. On the PGA Tour, for example, Tiger Woods is a definitely a horse for these courses: Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and Firestone. He had eight wins on each of those three golf courses. Jack Nicklaus might be the Golden Bear, but he was a horse for the course at Augusta National, a course that perfectly suited his power game and where he won six times. Alex Ross won six times on Pinehurst No. 2 in the North and South Open, and Sam Snead won six times at Bayshore Country Club where the Miami Open was played.

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