What is Links Golf?
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What is Links Golf?

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What is Links Golf?

Golf is a beautiful game. Part of that beauty stems from the varying types of courses available for us to enjoy. From parkland to sandbelt to heathland, each design offers varying terrain, elevations and challenges sure to provide excitement in every round. It all started, however, with links golf. 

In this article, we will dive into the origins and roots of this great game, what defines links golf, how it varies from other course styles, strategies for success and some of the best links courses around the world. 

A Game is Born

Golf originated along the coastline of Scotland in the 15th Century, taking place on what we describe today as “links”courses. The term “links” is derived from the Old English word “hlinc,” which refers to sandy dunes. While you’ll see many courses billed as “links-style”, the following elements must be present in order to be a true links course:

  • Sand dunes and soil conditions
  • Rolling terrain and fairways
  • Sea and wind influence on game play
  • Native grasses and vegetation

Each provides an essential characteristic to making a links course what it is. Let’s take a look at these elements in more detail.

Dunes and Soil

Typically found along coastlines, links golf courses feature natural sandy dunes and sandy soil. These conditions provide hard and fast fairways, which tend to provide more roll than other types of courses. You’ll also find deep pot bunkers lining many fairways and greens.

The sandy soil allows for links courses to drain more quickly, maintaining playability even after heavy rain. The sand dunes will create blind spots for golfers, making course management skills imperative and giving players with familiarity of the course an advantage.

Rolling Terrain and Fairways

The rolling terrain and uneven fairways found on links golf courses present golfers with a unique challenge. You may find yourself playing from a lie above or below your feet more often than usual, which will test your shot-making abilities. 

Sea and Wind Influence on Game Play

One of the most significant factors on links golf is the impact of the sea and wind. Wind coming off of the sea presents a challenge because its speed and direction are rarely consistent. A lack of trees on links courses also offer little protection from it. Club selection and shot execution become a critical component of your round, as well as reading the wind correctly and adjusting your play to accordingly. 

Many traditional links courses also include an “outward” nine in one direction along the coastline paired with an “inward” nine in the opposite direction. This creates another layer of challenges with the wind as it will contrast greatly from one nine to the other. 

Grasses and Vegetation

When you visualize a links golf course, what do you see? For me, it’s long fescue blowing in the breeze and marram grass surrounding swaths of sand throughout the course. Avoiding these natural areas is vital to successfully navigating any links, as penalty strokes could add up quickly. 

Let’s take a look at how a links-style course varies from another popular layout: parkland courses. 

The first thing to note when comparing links and parkland courses is their physical location. True links courses are found on the coast while parkland courses are inland. While links style courses generally were routed around the natural terrain, parkland courses often are heavily contoured and artificially shaped. In contrast to a links, parkland courses typically feature tree-lined fairways, water hazards and more varied styles of bunkers

You’ll find firmer, uneven fairways on a links course compared to softer and flatter fairways in a parkland setting. Environmental factors play a role in conditions, too, as the sandy soil of a links course will allow it to dry out faster than its parkland counterpart. Conversely, a wooded parkland layout shields players better from elements like wind, making for more predictable shot outcomes. 

Strategies for Success

Controlling Ball Flight

As mentioned, links golf requires strategy in order to succeed in the challenging conditions the wind and sea will provide, in addition to the firm and uneven fairways themselves. Controlling your ball flight, whether you are playing into or with the wind, will be imperative to success. Club up and try to keep the ball low when playing into the wind. Conversely, club down and try to achieve a higher flight with the wind to your back to use it to your advantage. 

A Little Bit of Luck

Luck, good and bad, will undoubtedly play a role in your round. To get the most out of your links experience, embrace this aspect and don’t let it disrupt your focus. Focus on the variables of your game you can control—your swing, mental approach and management strategies—and enjoy the challenge links golf will present you with!

The most renowned of all links courses and the home of golf, St Andrews Links in Fife, Scotland, was officially recognized as a golf course by the town council in 1522. St Andrews has a golf history that spans over 600 years, making it the oldest golf course in the world. While the original course at St Andrews is known as the “Old Course,” it now boasts seven courses in total: Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum, Balgove and Castle. The Old Course played host to its first Open Championship in 1873. It has been the site of 30 of the 150 playings of the Open, more than any other course.. 

A true bucket list destination for every serious golfer, a round at St Andrews, specifically the Old Course, can be approached a few different ways. The first is to attempt to request a tee time well in advance of your trip. If luck isn’t on your side, look at booking through an authorized golf trip provider. If you prefer to DIY your plans, you can try the 48-hour draw—a ballot system that caters to groups of two, three or four golfers. There is a new system in place for singles golfers as well, which is a daily draw that gives you an opportunity to be paired with a group as a single. 

In Summary

I hope this article gives you some of the answers you may have about links golf. From its unique setting and soil conditions, course design and strategic play to rich history in the game of golf, it is an experience every golfer should enjoy at least once in their lifetime. The next time you’re booking a destination golf trip, be sure to consider a links trip to cross it off your bucket list.

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Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason is a mid-handicap golfer chasing single digits who calls Wisconsin home. When not on the course, you can find him at the lake spending time with his wife and two children or in the woods chasing whitetails.

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

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Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble





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      Pete auerbach

      2 months ago

      Great article and perfect timing as I’m headed to Bandon for the first time tomorrow!

      Reply

      cksurfdude

      2 months ago

      Would love to lose many golf balls ;-) at a true links course… Someday…….

      Reply

      I miss, I miss, I make

      2 months ago

      Just try booking tee times at any of the courses at Bandon. What was ridiculed by many experts when first established has now become almost untouchable because of incredible demand. Even “Americans” once introduced to links golf can not get enough.

      Reply

      John Tierney

      2 months ago

      Nice piece. Got back from Scotlands Golf Coast a couple of weeks ago. Played Kilspindie, links, and Royal Musselburgh, parkland. Your description is accurate. Both were wonderful walks and enjoyable. Also played Gulaine 3. Great run!

      Reply

      Richard Andreachuk

      2 months ago

      I always thought that Links courses were designed to a link from the sea to the land?

      Reply

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    2021 Tommy Armour Impact No. 2 Putter 2021 Tommy Armour Impact No. 2 Putter
    Blade Putters
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    This Blade Putter is Under $100
    News
    Jul 17, 2024
    Forum Member Review of Stix Golf Sets
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    Buyer's Guide
    Jul 17, 2024
    Amazon Prime Day Golf Deals 2024