Explaining 'Hole Locations' on Golf Greens

Golf putting green with hole location marked by flagstick

Hole location (singular) is exactly what it sounds like: The location of the hole on a putting green (front, middle or back; left, center or right). But "hole locations" plural is typically used in one of two ways:

  1. To refer to the collective holes on all the greens of the golf course. A golfer might ask, "How are the hole locations today?" Meaning, are the holes in difficult positions? Cut close to the edges of the greens? Close to hazards? Or are they in easy positions, away from hazards, more in the middles of the greens?
  2. To refer to the areas of a putting green where a golf course typically places its holes. Every golf course maps its greens to identify sectors of each green where the cup will be placed. The course then rotates the flagstick around each such section of the green — it rotates its "hole locations," in other words. Golf courses typically identify three to six "hole locations" per green, in this sense.
Synonyms for the term "hole locations" include hole placements, pin placements and pin locations. And it is, of course, the flagstick that shows golfers where a the hole/cup is currently located on a putting green.

Why Golf Courses Rotate Hole Locations

Golfers talk about hole locations among ourselves, but we also hear about hole locations on television broadcasts. The Masters is a good place to hear talk of hole locations. Because it's played at the same course every year (Augusta National Golf Club), and that course's hole locations (definition No. 2 above) remain consistent over time, Masters announcers often say things like, "The pins are in their traditional Sunday hole locations." The way a golf course rotates its hole locations is something golfers can recognize if they play the same course frequently enough.

But why do golf courses change hole locations? It is typically done each round of a golf tournament; or, for daily play, every day or at least every other day. What is the purpose to moving the cup to different parts of the green?

The answer is mostly about golf course maintenance, with a little variety-for-golfers thrown in. As for the variety part: Changing hole locations means that golfers who play a course frequently get to play to different parts of the green, meaning they get to consider different types of approach shots. It's simply a matter of preventing golfers getting bored of aiming at the exact same spot on the green every time. And in tournaments, it's about presenting slightly different challenges and opportunities to the golfers in the field on each day of play.

But mostly, rotating hole locations is part of the plan for maintaining healthy putting green surfaces. If the cup/flagstick was in the exact same spot every day, then that spot would be trampled on by golfers day after day after day, wearing down the grass, compacting the soil. That would be very unhealthy for the grass, and would, in short order, most likely kill the grass around the hole.

By rotating the hole locations, golf course maintenance staff are spreading out that foot traffic on the putting green. That provides recovery time to the hole locations used yesterday, the day before that and the day before that.

Photo credit: "A Scenic Golf Hole" by DrGBB is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

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