Golfing in the Woods: Parkland Courses

parkland golf course
The tree-lined fairway and lush, carpet-like green of a hole on a parkland golf course. David Cannon / Getty Images

According to the Professional Golfers' Association, golf courses are either desert, linked or parkland courses, wherein parkland courses are those types golf course categorized by their design elements and natural setting with many trees and lush greens.

In the early days of golf, all courses were links, set along coastlines, open to the wind, sandy and treeless, but eventually, golf moved inland, and courses built away from coastal areas tended to be much more pastoral in setting and design: greener, lusher, lots of trees — they were "park-like," hence the term "parkland course."

A parkland course is a golf course in a lush, inland setting, one with well-manicured and watered fairways and rough and greens. There might be plenty of elevation change around such a course, but even if there is, a parkland course's fairways are generally flat, lacking the knobs and knolls and weird bounces of links fairways.

Most PGA Tour courses are parkland courses, but the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, where the annual Masters Tournament is held, is the parkland course that other parkland golf courses aspire to be.

The Different Types of Golf Course Designs and Settings

Since the popularity of golf spread across the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century, a number of golf courses have subsequently opened away from the treeless beachlines to dense forests and dry deserts, yielding three different types of golf course settings and designs: the original links course, the parkland course, and the dessert course.

A links course is built along a coastline and generally features plenty of sand and very few trees, with open breezes flowing in off of the ocean or racing down the open fields on the opposite side of the course; interestingly, golf first developed on the links of Scotland.

Parkland courses, as mentioned, are much lusher and often watered both naturally and by the golf club to provide lush grass and plenty of trees, which makes the course look like a park; interestingly, most courses on the PGA Tour are parkland courses.

The final type of design and setting is the dessert course, built in a natural desert where the teeing ground, fairways, and putting greens may be the only grass in the area and are most often found in the American southwest and in oil-rich countries in the Middle East.

Interestingly, in recent years ice and sand courses have also developed where there is no green or other vegetation surrounding the golf course at all and players must adjust to the new setting to sink their balls in the hole with no easy shots.

Examples of Parkland Courses

The most famous example of a parkland course on the PGA Tour is the host of the annual Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, founded in 1933 and still considered one of the toughest and best-designed courses in the professional circuit.

Many championships and PGA Tour tournaments are held at parkland courses though, with fewer and fewer linked courses playing host to the tournaments as more and more of these clubs move inland, into the woods.

Now, even traditionally links course clubs like ones in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are catching up with the trend of the lusher, better-designed parkland settings, forming their own parkland courses lined with trees and offering lush, green fairways and thick roughs.