When you start off as a golfer, everything seems simple and straightforward: stepping onto the golf course, standing with a correct posture and sinking the ball in as few strokes as possible. As time passes, you realise the golf vocabulary is incredibly complex. Great shots become birdies and shot shapes terms like fades and draws make your head spin. Then one day, you get to know that all golf courses are not the same and this new revelation makes you feel like the dumbest person on the planet.
If you’ve landed on this article, someone probably mentioned links golf courses to you and made you feel lost. Well, worry not because after reading this text you will learn everything you need to know and more about the links golf courses. So let’s not waste any time and get started.
What Is A Links Golf Course?
A links golf course is a type of golf course located along the coastal areas, particularly in regions with sandy soil and dunes. The Links golf courses originate from the Eastern coast of Scotland, where the sandy and rugged terrain near the sea had no agricultural value and was transformed into a playground for the new ball and stick game.
The unique characteristic of the links golf courses is that they sit comfortably on the land. While architects put all their efforts into laying out other types of golf courses, link courses just exist naturally like a work of art by Mother Nature. At links courses, golfers face the rolling terrain, unpredictable weather, and pot bunkers as the biggest challenges. Only the most skilled and resilient players are able to play golf in its raw form.
Why Is The Open Championship Played On Links Golf Course?
The Open Championship is the oldest men's golf tournament, with a history dating back to 1860. During the early years of the championship, only natural link courses, located along the British Isles coastline existed. So from 1860 to 1870, the Open was played exclusively at links-style Prestwick Golf Club. Later on, the prestigious championship expanded its venues to include other famous links courses across the United Kingdom, including the renowned St. Andrews and Royal Liverpool, Muirfield.
There are various reasons behind the British Open being played exclusively on the link courses, but the most prominent is the historical significance. Since humans first played golf at the links-style golf course, it holds a special place in the sport's history. By playing the Open Championship at the Links golf course, we preserve that history, pay homage to golf’s roots and celebrate the heritage of the noble sport.
Another reason behind playing British Opens at Links golf courses is the challenges they provide. Winning massive prize money and "The Champion Golfer of The Year '' title must not come easy, and the Links golf courses ensure that. Known for their natural and rugged terrains, featuring undulating fairways, deep bunkers, and unpredictable coastal winds, the Links golf courses create a demanding environment where a golfer's skills alone can not help him win. To score well on the Links golf course, one needs to adapt to changing weather conditions and decide their moves accordingly. Because on such grounds, a calm morning can rapidly transform into an unforgivingly windy and rainy afternoon. Such challenges posed by links courses contribute to the championship's prestige and make it one of the most respected and anticipated events in the golfing world.
Characteristics Of A Links Golf Course
The links golf courses have various features, setting them apart from the other types of courses. Those are:
The True Links golf courses run along the sea. This geographical position explains the variable weather conditions golfers face on links courses. Strong winds, quick changes in temperature, and sea fog adds to the challenge and unpredictability of the game that makes even the most skilled players sweat.
Unlike the artificially constructed modern golf courses, the links golf courses are designed to work with the land's existing features, allowing them to blend with the surrounding environment. In simpler words- at links courses, golfers experience natural features of the land it's built on, including firm ground, rolling hills and dunes.
In links courses, the fairways are rarely flat; instead, they have gentle rises, falls, slopes, and hollows. The uneven terrain makes the conditions more challenging and daunting for the golfers. Only those with perfect golf posture can score well on links golf courses.
Pot bunkers are a defining feature of links courses. They are deep and steep-sided, resembling small pots or cups sunk into the ground.
Besides pot bunkers, links courses have various natural hazards, including: dunes, gorse bushes (spiky, dense shrub that often grows on links courses), and sandy waste areas.
Lack Of Trees & Vegetation:
Links courses have minimal trees and vegetation, creating a more open and windswept landscape. This lack of obstruction contributes to the challenging conditions.
The minimal vegetation and sandy soil of the links golf courses make them easy to maintain in comparison to heavily landscaped ones.
World's Best Links Golf Courses
St Andrews (Old)
Location: St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
The St. Andrews Old Golf Course, founded in 1400, is the world's oldest and most iconic golf course. Often referred to as the "Home of Golf," St.Andrews carries the honour of being recognised as the place where golf was first played six hundred years ago.
The stunning course is known for its unique layout with shared fairways and double greens. The Hell Bunker on the 14th hole and Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course are the most iconic landmarks in golf. The renowned golf course has hosted the Open Championship 30 times and has been the playground for the world's best golfers, including Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, and Jack Nicklaus.
Location: Royal Dornoch, Scotland
Nestled in the picturesque Scottish highlands, the Royal Dornoch Championship golf course is one of Scotland's most famous traditional links courses. The stunning golf course was built in 1877 and remodelled in 1886 by the pioneer of modern golf, Old Tom Morris.
Golfers worldwide aspire to play at the Championship Links course at least once in their lifetime. The perfect combination of scenic beauty and challenging holes creates an unforgettable golfing experience and captures the essence of Scotland's golfing heritage.
Location: Royal Portrush Golf Club, Northern Ireland
Named after the iconic Dunluce Castle nearby, the Dunluce Links at the Royal Portrush Golf Club masterfully blends the Irish coastline's natural beauty with the challenging golf terrain.
The Dunluce Links is renowned for its signature holes. Amongst them is the 5th hole, named "White Rocks" offering a breathtaking view of the White Rocks beach and the North Atlantic Ocean, and the 14th hole, known as "The Calamity Corner," offering dramatic tee shots over a deep chasm and ravine. Golfers must carry their ball over the chasm to reach the green, making accuracy crucial.
You can comprehend the significance of the Dunluce Links by the fact that it is the only golf course outside England and Scotland to host the Open Championship twice.
Other popular links golf courses include the Royal St George's at Kent Golf Course, Championship Course at Carnoustie Scotland, Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England, and Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland.
From the historic origins on the sandy shores of the United Kingdom to the timeless challenge of The Open Championship, links courses tell the magnificent tale of golf’s traditions and presents the golf enthusiasts with challenging grounds to play.
If you ever get a chance to golf at these prestigious golf courses, make sure you dress in your best golf polos and golf joggers (Tip: Shop your golf outfits from Druids), and carry your best equipment because such opportunity comes once in a lifetime.