I don’t know about you, but I love watching the British Open every summer. Because of the time difference between the United States and the United Kingdom, I get up in the middle of the night to watch the live coverage. And yes, it’s hard to stay awake.
The British Open showcases the very best links golf courses in the world. But what exactly makes a course ‘links’ instead of just a normal course?
Let’s take a deep dive and find out.
Where Are Links Golf Courses Located?
The largest concentration of links golf courses in the world is in the British Isles and Ireland. And they’re some of the oldest courses in the world too.
Golf’s roots are found on links courses, dating back some three centuries or more. At the time, golf on links courses was played by the upper echelons of society – kings, queens, dukes, etc. Golf wasn’t accessible to common people and peasants.
Are Links Golf Courses Located Anywhere Else?
Even though the majority of links golf courses are located in the British Isles and Ireland, they can be found in other parts of the world.In the United States, the most infamous concentration of links courses is found at Bandon Dunes on Oregon’s southern coast. Other famous American links courses are Chamber’s Bay in southwest Washington, Sand Hills in Nebraska, and Aracadia Bluffs in Michigan.
What Are the Characteristics of Links Golf Courses?
The term “links” refers to the type of land on which links courses are built. The land is characterized by rolling hills of sand and fescue grass (or heather) commonly found on the coasts of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Links land is usually treeless and therefore susceptible to ocean winds and inclement weather like rain and cold temperatures.
Links courses are also characterized by the number and style of their bunkers. Links courses have a lot more bunkers than parkland or heathland golf courses. Links bunkers also look a lot different than the bunkers you’re probably used to playing in the United States. They’re characterized by high lips that often make advancing the ball to the green impossible. If you find yourself in a links-style bunker (often called a pot bunker), chances are you’ll have to use a lofted club to extract your ball, and you’ll only be able to advance it a short distance.
Another characteristic that sets links golf courses apart is their uneven terrain. While you probably won’t notice significant elevation changes, the ground on which links golf courses are built is often uneven. As a result, you’ll notice a lot of humps, bumps, and moguls on links courses. This can make for quirky bounces and uneven lies.
What’s the Best Strategy for Playing Links Golf Courses?
In order to play links golf successfully, you need to adopt a different strategy than is required on most target-style golf courses.
The first thing you should expect when playing links golf is for the weather to be difficult. High winds, rain, and colder temperatures are more common than warm, sunny days. As such, make sure you have the right apparel to protect yourself against the elements.
When it comes to actually playing links golf, remember that the ground is your friend. In other words, instead of flying the ball through the air all the way to your target, the hard ground on which links courses are built requires you to land the ball short and use the contours of the terrain to run the ball up to your target. It’s not uncommon to use your putter from 50 yards off the green or more.
You should also expect good and bad bounces. Links courses are full of humps and bumps, and sometimes it can be hard to predict which way your ball is going to bounce when it hits the ground. Over the course of 18 holes, you should expect some bounces in your favor, as well as some that work against you. Instead of getting frustrated by the occasional unfortunate bounce, just accept it as part of the game. Trust me, you’ll be far better off.
Links golf is vastly different from the type of golf most of us are used to playing here in the United States. But it’s also a style of golf that should be on every golfer’s bucket list. After all, the game’s origins are rooted in links tradition.
Links golf can be difficult if you’ve never experienced it before. The weather can be difficult, and the shots and strategies required to play well take some learning. So, next time you tee it up on a links course, embrace the experience, be creative, and accept the result for what it is.
What are some of your favorite links courses and experiences? Do you have any advice for our readers that have never played links golf? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.