How Often are the Holes Changed at Golf Courses?

Golfers are a greedy bunch. Sometimes we forget about just how much work goes into preparing and maintaining a golf course. We just rock up to the first tee, expecting everything to be perfect like they get on the PGA Tour. The tee boxes should be flat and the fairways cut, the bunkers raked and the greens immaculate.

But when it comes to getting those immaculate greens, a huge part of a greenkeeper’s job is moving the hole location. Maybe they move it ten feet. Maybe they move it to the furthest end of the green!

If you’ve ever wondered why this is, then wonder no more. In this article, I will try to answer all questions about the changing of holes. Including how often holes are changed, why they are changed and any rules surrounding these changes.

How Often are the Holes Changed at Golf Courses
Pvt pauline, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are There Any Rules About When the Hole Should be Changed?

There are no rules around when a hole should be changed, however, there are rules around when a hole cannot be changed. This occurs during tournament play. When a tournament is ongoing, all players must play the same course or, in other words, all tee boxes and pin positions must remain the same.

In the professional game, yes the pins are changed but only after the completion of each round. If you’re playing in your Monthly Medal on a Saturday, you can rest easy knowing that the players on Sunday will face the exact same test on the putting surface you did.

The superintendent at your local municipal might only change the hole locations once a week while a country club might get them done twice a week.

Why Do Holes Get Moved?

There are six main reasons that golf courses change hole locations. Protect the green, vary the course and help the pace of play.

Protect the Green

Every golfer is aware of how greens suffer wear and tear the more people that have played. Spike and possibly foot marks start to appear, the greens aren’t running as smoothly. Rotating hole positions helps to protect different parts of the green and gives it time to recover.

Vary the Course

Different hole positions mean a different test. Just changing where a pin is on a green can have a huge effect on how difficult the hole is playing. It impacts everything from approach play to short game to putting.

Help Pace of Play

The game is too slow. Everyone knows it. And in a bid to speed things up, pins might be positioned in the middle or in more accessible places so that the hole plays easier and fewer shots are taken. Tricky pin positions could easily result in holes playing a stroke more difficult than it normally would.

Allow For Bad Weather

If a competition organizing committee is aware that bad weather conditions might strike during the day then they might decide to alter one or two pin locations if they were in a portion of the green that was likely to suffer from flooding. The last thing you want to do have to call off the competition because the Greens have become unplayable. It makes sense to change the hole locations to somewhere that won’t be unplayable due to weather.

Green Conditions

The green staff might move the hole to allow for work that has been done on the green.


If the club is hosting one of its big member competitions or a regional or national event they might decide to move the flags to the most difficult hole locations for each green to test the mettle of the players.

How Long Does It Take to Change the Hole?

Changing a hole on a green doesn’t take that long. First, the greenkeeper uses a hole cutter to cut the new hole. After removing the turf he or she would then insert the cup. The turf from the new hole is used to fill up the old hole and should take a few days to recover.

This should take less than 5 minutes and experienced greenkeepers can probably do it much faster.

Problems With Moving The Hole

If the green staff doesn’t do a great job of moving the hole then it can cause problems later on. If the hole plug isn’t set flush to the surrounding grass then the next time the mower runs over the green the old plug will get scalped and for that small section of grass the ball will run a little quicker. Conversely, if the plug is replaced too low then the grass is likely to grow slightly longer and may again cause problems compared with the rest of the green. If you happen to have a variety of grass that exhibits grain then it’s important to orient the old hole in line with the area being moved to.

What are the Rules Regarding Old Hole Plugs?

“It would have been a great shot last week.”

How often have you heard that? When you walk up to your ball to find it just a few inches from the hole. The wrong hole. And now you’re faced with the problem of this big old hole plug bang in your line. There is zero chance of the ball running as you want it to. It’s just rotten luck. Thankfully, the rules of golf are there to fix your luck!

The rules of golf allow you to repair any damage caused to the green without penalty. To repair it you can use just about any method you want: foot, pitch marker, hand, tee, club. And you are allowed to do this whether your ball is on the green or not.

But what happens if the hole plug has sunk below the surface? Then it is impossible to repair. In this case, the committee should be notified and they can either repair the hole, mark it as GUR or leave it as it is. If the old hole plug is marked as GUR, the player is entitled to relief.

How to change a golf hole

Do Greenkeepers Put the Hole Anywhere They Want?

While it may be first imagined that there aren’t many rules or regulations behind changing a hole, there are actually quite a few criteria that must be met in order for it to be acceptable.

To cover the basics first, a greenkeeper doesn’t simply choose where to put a hole on any given day. They do it after first getting direction from the course director or manager. A hole must have a diameter of 4.25” with a depth of 4” and the cup edge must be at least 1” below the surface of the green.

Now, onto the more specific rules about hole position. The pins should be placed somewhere that gives a “fair result”. In other words, the hole can’t be placed on steep slopes. The hole has to be at least four feet from the edge of the green and if bunkers are in play, they have to be positioned four feet from them also.

The rules also state there should be a two-foot radius around the hole that is as level as possible, again playing into the “fair result” rule. The rules also say that there should be a balance between pin placements at the left, right, center, back and front of greens.

And that’s it. Everything you wanted to know about golf hole placements, their purpose and the rules behind them!

Some clubs with particularly large greens might divide them into quadrants so on any given day on the first tee you might see a sign telling you that the pins are section A, B, C or D. To spread the wear and tear and to give variety the different quadrants will be spread across different parts of each green so quadrant A might be front left on the first, back right on the second, middle on the third et cetera et cetera.

How Often are the Holes Changed at Golf Courses: Summary

So there you have it, depending on the course, the traffic and the time of year you might find the holes changed from once a day to once a week!

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