How did the size of the golf hole come to be standardized at 4.25 Inches?
Standardizing the Size of the Golf Hole
How many times have you lipped out a putt and wished that the size of the hole on the green was just a smidge larger? Why is the golf hole that size to begin with? That's one the most frequently asked questions: How did the hole come to be standardized at its current measurement of 4.25 inches in diameter? Like so many things in golf, the standardized size of the hole comes to us courtesy of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, with an assist from the links at Musselburgh.
R&A Adopts 4.25-Inch Hole Size
That first hole-cutter utilized a cutting tool that was, you guessed it, 4.25 inches in diameter. The folks running the R&A apparently liked that size and so adopted it in their rules for 1891. And as was usually the case, the rest of the golf world followed in the footsteps of the R&A. The exact reasons for why that first tool cut holes at the now-standard diameter are lost to history. But it was almost certainly a completely arbitrary thing, a notion supported by the story (perhaps apocryphal) that the tool was built from some excess pipe that was laying about the Musselburgh links. (That 9-hole Musselburgh links, by the way, was the site of six British Opens from 1874 to 1889.)
Experiments with Golf Hole Size
The hole size has been standardized ever since at 4.25 inches, although occasionally there is a push to enlarge the hole, at least for recreational golfers. In the 1930s, Gene Sarazen spoke in favor a few times of going to an 8-inch hole. Jack Nicklaus has, a few times, cut 8-inch holes at his Muirfield Village Golf Club, for special events. In 2014, TaylorMade sponsored an exhibition played with 15-inch holes and that included professional golfers such as Sergio Garcia.
While it is almost inconceivable to think that high-level golf would ever be played with anything other than the standard 4.25-inch hole size, it certainly is possible that a few golf courses here and there could cut larger holes and see how their customers react to it. Making more putts means having more fun to recreational golfers, this line of thinking goes. So expect to see experiments with hole size continue periodically. Meantime, remember: the golf hole size is 4.25 inches because that's the size the R&A decided, in 1891, to standardize.