What is Links Golf?


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What is Links Golf?

Have you ever wondered what exactly is meant by the term “Links Golf”? In this article, we will delve into the history and features of Links Golf, exploring what makes it so special and why it continues to attract golfers from around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a newcomer to the sport, understanding Links Golf can deepen your appreciation for the game and inspire you to try your hand at this challenging and rewarding style of play.

What is Links Golf?

Links golf is a unique and traditional style of golf that originated in Scotland. It is characterized by its coastal location, undulating fairways, deep bunkers, and generally windy conditions. Unlike parkland or desert courses, links courses are built on sandy, often treeless terrain near the sea. This type of golf is highly regarded for its natural beauty, strategic challenges, and the test of skill it provides to golfers of all levels.

The Origins of Links Golf

Links golf has its roots in the sandy dunes and grasses that line the coastline of Scotland. The word “links” itself refers to the dunes and sandy soil that make up this type of terrain. The first recorded mention of golf being played on links land dates back to the 15th century, making it one of the oldest forms of golf course design.

Characteristics of Links Courses

One of the defining features of links golf is its natural setting. Links courses are typically situated near the coast, where the land is naturally sandy and windswept. The lack of trees and the presence of tall grasses and dunes make for a challenging and visually striking environment. The undulating fairways and unpredictable bounces add a layer of complexity that tests golfers’ shot-making abilities.

Evolution of Links Golf

Over the years, Links Golf has evolved beyond its Scottish origins and spread to various coastal regions around the world. Countries like Ireland, England, and the United States have embraced the links-style design, creating courses that pay homage to the traditional Scottish layout while incorporating local elements. Modern Links courses strive to maintain the natural, rugged characteristics of traditional courses while accommodating advancements in golf course design and maintenance.

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Famous Links Golf Courses Around the World

Links golf courses are some of the most iconic and challenging golfing destinations in the world. These courses are typically located in coastal areas, utilizing the natural landscape to create a unique playing experience. Let’s explore some of the famous links golf courses around the world that have captured the hearts of golfers everywhere.

The Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland

The Old Course at St Andrews is often regarded as the “Home of Golf” and is one of the oldest and most prestigious links courses in the world. Located in Fife, Scotland, this course has a rich history dating back to the 15th century. Golfing legends such as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have walked the fairways of this historic course, making it a must-visit destination for any avid golfer.

Royal County Down Golf Club, Northern Ireland

Situated in Northern Ireland, the Royal County Down Golf Club is renowned for its stunning views of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea. This challenging links course has consistently ranked among the top courses globally, attracting players from around the world. The combination of undulating fairways, towering dunes, and unpredictable weather makes it a true test of skill for golfers of all levels.

Pebble Beach Golf Links, California, USA

While Scotland and Ireland are often associated with links golf, Pebble Beach Golf Links in California offers a unique American twist on this traditional style of play. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this breathtaking course has hosted numerous prestigious tournaments, including the U.S. Open. The stunning coastal views and strategic layout make it a favorite among professional and amateur golfers alike.

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Royal Birkdale Golf Club, England

Located on the northwest coast of England, Royal Birkdale Golf Club is a classic links course known for its challenging bunkers and tight fairways. The course has hosted multiple Open Championships, solidifying its reputation as one of the finest links courses in the UK. Golfers can expect strong winds and fast-running fairways, adding an extra layer of complexity to their game.

Barnbougle Dunes, Tasmania, Australia

Venturing down under, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania offers a spectacular links golf experience unlike any other. Designed to blend seamlessly with the natural landscape, this course features rolling dunes, fescue grasses, and dramatic coastal views. Golfers can enjoy a world-class golfing experience while immersing themselves in the rugged beauty of the Tasmanian coastline.

Strategies and Tips for Playing Links Golf Successfully

Links golf courses present a unique set of challenges that require strategic gameplay and careful planning to conquer. Here are some expert tips to help golfers navigate and succeed on these distinctive courses.

Club Selection and Shot Execution

Due to the windy conditions prevalent on links courses, club selection plays a significant role in achieving successful shots. Golfers must adjust their club choice based on the wind direction and speed to ensure accurate shots. Additionally, the firm and fast turf of links courses require golfers to adopt a lower ball flight to control distance and roll. Mastering the art of bump-and-run shots can be particularly advantageous on links courses with closely mown areas around the greens.

Importance of Course Management

Course management is key to navigating links courses effectively. Golfers should carefully assess risk and reward on each shot, considering factors such as wind direction, hazards, and pin positions. Playing conservatively and strategically positioning shots can help avoid trouble and lead to better scoring opportunities. Staying patient and sticking to a game plan is essential for success on links courses.

Embracing Creativity and Adaptability

Links golf requires golfers to embrace creativity and adaptability in their gameplay. Due to the natural terrain and unpredictable conditions, golfers must be prepared to adjust their strategy on the fly. Being able to play different types of shots, such as punch shots, bump-and-runs, and high-lofted shots, can be advantageous in tackling the challenges posed by links courses.

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Practicing in Windy Conditions

Given the windy nature of links golf, practicing in similar conditions is essential for improving skills and confidence. Golfers should spend time on the driving range and practice greens honing their ability to control ball flight and trajectory in the wind. Developing a reliable shot shape that works well in windy conditions can give golfers a competitive edge on links courses.

Mental Toughness and Resilience

Links golf can test a golfer’s mental toughness and resilience due to its demanding nature. Coping with unpredictable weather, challenging lies, and strategic dilemmas requires a strong mindset. Staying focused, maintaining a positive attitude, and adapting to adversity are crucial aspects of conquering links courses.


Q: What makes a golf course a ‘links’ course?

A: A true links course is typically found in coastal areas, featuring undulating terrain with natural sandy soil, minimal trees, and deep bunkers. It is directly exposed to wind and often includes rough grasses and large greens.

Q: How should you play differently on a links course compared to a regular golf course?

A: Given the windy conditions and firm fairways of links courses, players need to focus on ground shots more than air shots. This involves choosing clubs and shots that keep the ball low and use the ground’s contours to control the ball’s path towards the hole.

Q: Why are links courses often considered more difficult?

A: The natural terrain, constant wind, and bunkers make links courses challenging. The playing conditions change with the weather, requiring golfers to adapt their strategies frequently.

Q: What skills are beneficial for playing links golf?

A: Skills that are particularly useful include:

  • Low ball flight control: To manage the wind.
  • Ground game mastery: Ability to play the ball along the ground.
  • Creative shot-making: Adapting shots to the unique contours and conditions of the course.
  • Strategic thinking: Carefully planning shots and placements.