Why Do Some Holes on the Golf Course Have Two Cups?

By M.L. Rose
Red flags fly on the shared greens of the back nine holes at St. Andrews Old Course.
Red flags fly on the shared greens of the back nine holes at St. Andrews Old Course.

A golf green with two holes is a sight more common at a miniature golf facility than a real golf course. Nevertheless, there are courses -- including one of the world’s most famous venues -- where players can gaze out to the green and see two different-colored flags flying.

St. Andrews History

The most famous shared greens are on the world’s most legendary course, the St. Andrews Old Course in Scotland. In 1764, the course still had 22 holes, with golfers playing 11 holes on the way out and the same ones on the way in. At that point, however, the decision was made to eliminate four holes, resulting in an 18-hole layout. In the next century, however, golf’s rising popularity created traffic jams on the course with players going out meeting players coming in. To solve the dilemma, two holes were cut into each green. Golfers playing the front nine shot at the white flags while golfers coming in aimed at the red flags.

St. Andrews Today

In its current layout, four of St. Andrews’ holes feature solo greens: the first, ninth, 17th and 18th. The other seven greens are shared, with the hole numbers of each shared green adding up to 18. For example, hole No. 2 shares a green with hole No. 16. On all but one of the twin greens, the green is approached from opposite sides by players on the front and back nine. The green shared by holes 7 and 11, however, is approached from approximately the same direction. Indeed, approach shots on both holes, if timed correctly, would crisscross in front of the green.

Protecting the Green

Some courses place two holes in their greens during certain times of the year to spread foot traffic to different areas of the green, thereby avoiding damage to the grass. At the Golf Club at Creekmoor in Raymore, Missouri, for example, groundskeepers use double cups late in the season when the ground is frosty. Golfers are supposed to rotate the flag between the cups so the following group plays a different hole location. At 27-hole Broken Arrow Golf Club in Lockport, Illinois, meanwhile, the North Course was purposely designed with double greens, allowing golfers to choose which of two flags they want to aim at.

PowerPlay Golf

PowerPlay golf is not played with a hockey stick. Rather, it’s a new twist on the Stableford system. Each round consists of nine holes. Players receive one point for a bogey, two for a par, and so on, up to five for a triple birdie (or albatross). Each green contains two holes, including an easier location marked with a white flag and a more difficult pin placement featuring a black flag. On any three of the first eight holes players may shoot for the black flag, scoring double points on those holes. On the ninth hole, players may choose either flag. Players aiming for the black flag receive double points for a par or better, but lose three points by scoring a bogey or worse. Golfers must always announce their intention to shoot for the black flag on a particular hole before teeing off.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

Photo Credits

  • Stuart Franklin/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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