The History Of The Golf Ball Hole And Its Size

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Have you ever skimmed the side of the hole and wished it was just that slightest bit bigger. Or been playing a round of golf and started wondering why the golf hole is the size that it is. 

Below we have all the answers you may need so that next time you’re playing a round and someone asks why the hole is the size it is you can wow the group with your knowledge. 

The History Of The Golf Ball Hole And Its Size

What Is The Diameter Of A Golf Hole

The standard size of a golf ball hole is 4.25 inches (10.795cm) in diameter and a minimum of 4 inches (10.16cm) deep. These are the regulations outlined by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA).

In comparison a standard American golf ball is 1.68 inches (4.2672cm). The UK has a slightly smaller minimum size required with 1.62 inches (4.1148cm). These smaller balls have been nicknamed the ‘British ball’.

Note: You may also be wondering how many dimples are on a golf ball or how much do golf balls weight?

Before Standardization

In the 18th to 19th century, golf ball holes were cut by people known simply as ‘Hole Cutters’. Today they are currently known as Greenskeepers.

These hole cutters would go around the course filling in existing holes and creating new ones by hand with a trowel or knives. Because of this there was no standard hole size and it varied from hole to hole.

The First Standard Hole Cutter

The first standardized hole cutter was created in 1829 at Royal Musselburgh in Scotland. A fitting place for its creation as Scotland is the home of modern golf as it originated there in the 15th century.

This device still exists and is currently displayed in the clubhouse at the course.

Despite this size being common across both the club and the country in general, it would take another 62 years for this size to be made regulation. 


In 1891 the R&A (golf’s only governing body at the time) determined the set of rules which would standardize the size of a golf ball hole. As this size came to be expected across the country it only made sense that it got chosen as the official size.

The exact reason for the size is sadly lost to time. However, a popular story told is that it was made out of some old drainage pipe that was found near the club grounds.

Why Not Make The Hole Larger

The idea to make the size of golf holes large has been brought into conversation many times. Ben Hogan, possibly the best ball striker in all history, was a huge supporter of this idea.

Of course this might’ve just been because a large hole size would put emphasis on the approach shot and would reduce the time needed for putting.

In recent history there has been a push made to increase the size of the hole to 8-inches. For special events, Jack Nicklaus has cut 8 inch holes into his Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio.

There has even been a match that was sponsored by TaylorMade which featured 15 inch holes. This 2014 event sported iconic names in golf such as Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

While it is unlikely this larger golf hole size will ever be adopted by the USGA, that hasn’t stopped some courses from offering differing sizes.

While most professionals will see this larger hole as a break from traditional golf, it is a great addition for those who play golf on a more casual level.

A large hole size will also benefit people who are just starting out golfing or would rather work on improving their long shots over putting. Larger holes will also cut down on the amount of rimmed putts per day.

Why Are Hole Locations Moved

You may find that the holes on your regular golf course sometimes change locations. The main reasons for this is course maintenance and variety.

There are hundreds of shots being made every day  all aimed at the same spot so it makes sense that the surrounding area will see some nicks and marks.

It will also wear down the ground on the green if everyone is consistently shuffling around a small area, and as everyone who golfs knows, it is harder to putt from a worn down dirt spot instead of the smooth grass that is commonly found on the green.

It’s also an effective way to also give the members a change of pace. Many people who golf frequent the same link so changing the hole location will change the way the course plays and provide different challenges from day to day.

David Shelly
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