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A Publication of the National Golf Foundation

Questions, Answers and Insights for Everyone Interested in the Business of Golf

Facilities vs Courses: What’s the Difference?

by National Golf Foundation

May 2019

Since the early 1930’s, the NGF has kept the definitive database of U.S. golf facilities.

The NGF’s facility count has historically looked at “doors” – a business location where golf can be played at one or more golf courses.

So, a property like Bethpage State Park in New York is counted as one facility, but has five unique golf courses all served by a single clubhouse. The Streamsong Golf Resort in Florida is counted as two facilities, but three courses, as the original Red and Blue courses are served by one clubhouse and the property’s newer Black Course has a separate clubhouse of its own.

The fifth hole at Streamsong Black (Photo credit: Nile Young)


The terms “facility” and “course” are occasionally used interchangeably both in and out of the golf industry, but they can be quite different. Throughout the years, many media outlets have taken the NGF’s total number for facilities – there are 14,613 in the U.S. – and conflated that with courses. In actuality, there are 16,693 golf courses in the U.S. that have at least nine holes and, more typically, 18 holes.

So why the difference?

Equipment or apparel companies may look at how many facilities they work with from a sales perspective, trying to get in as many pro shops and clubhouses as possible, while a golf travel business or the public in general might be more focused on courses.

As for the NGF’s 18-hole equivalent number (18-HEQ), this is a measure of supply based on an 18-hole standard. For example, one 18-hole golf course equals one 18-hole equivalent, while two 9-hole golf courses also equal one 18-hole equivalent. Businesses in the turf and course supplier categories will often focus on this measure.

A golf facility with 27 holes can have a variety of measurements.

While it’s a single facility, it might have three separate courses (all nine holes) and is considered 1.5 18-HEQ. This is also why there are “half-course” increments in the NGF’s database of openings and closures, because some facilities might add a second nine-hole course after previously building the first, or downsize from 18 holes to nine.

The NGF originally counted only facilities in its earliest record-keeping, focusing solely on the number of businesses in the game. Because the various measurements mean different things to different stakeholders in the industry, these differences have been highlighted a bit further in the NGF’s latest Golf Facilities in the U.S. Report for clarity and transparency.

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National Golf Foundation

The National Golf Foundation is a community of individuals and golf businesses committed to being the most well-informed advocates for the growth of the industry. With the world’s largest research team dedicated to golf, NGF provides members with the most accurate and objective insights on the game. We help golf businesses better understand their market and grow their businesses. The NGF is the only association for everyone in golf, and we advocate for growth by educating and connecting our members.

NGF Takeaways

The NGF recently released its annual Facilities Report, which provides a comprehensive overview of golf facility supply in the U.S., the world’s best-supplied golf market.

Key data through year-end 2018 includes golf courses in-planning and under construction, new openings, closures, total supply by state/region, breakouts of supply by facility type, golf accessibility by MSA, and more. There are also nine regional summaries that provide a closer look at various geographic regions in terms of overall supply.

Members can click here to get the full report.