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Old 07-19-2019, 01:04 AM
russian heel is offline
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"Links" golf courses


Heard a sports talk radio host today bitch that the Northern Ireland course used for this years Open was a "links" course and that such a course was built using the natural features already present while most American courses are built from scratch using a pre-planned layout.

He said even top golfers will by stymied by a links course, while American non-links courses seem to reward golfers who have talent.

Watching the Open, other than some crater bunkers, the NI club seems to have the normal fairways and greens any other course does.

What am I missing? Can someone straighten me out on this?


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Old 07-19-2019, 04:32 AM
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Links courses are almost always on the coast so will have more weather, esp wind, than somewhere calm in the interior of the US. I'm not a golfist myself, but grew up in an area with a lot of links courses and have walked through them plenty of times - the fairways aren't crazy rough and uneven or anything like that but they are natural-looking and not excessively manicured. Some of the designed US fairways you see on the telly look like they were built with a spirit level - like a perfect garden lawn.

So it certainly sounds like a different game - if you're an excellent technical golfer playing on a magic carpet in the California sunshine, then you'll be in for a shock playing in the wind and the rain around a UK links course. I doubt you'd find many pro players moaning about it, though - this has been a reality of Major Golf play for over 100 years - any player who wants to step up to that level just has to adapt (and loads of US players have crushed the Open in the UK over the years).
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Old 07-19-2019, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by russian heel View Post
Watching the Open, other than some crater bunkers, the NI club seems to have the normal fairways and greens any other course does.
Well you might have it the wrong way round in that manufactured and constructed courses may be aping the naturally occurring features of the classic seaside links.
But as mentioned, the weather plays a huge part in the challenge of the course.
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Old 07-19-2019, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by russian heel View Post
Heard a sports talk radio host today bitch that the Northern Ireland course used for this years Open was a "links" course and that such a course was built using the natural features already present while most American courses are built from scratch using a pre-planned layout.

He said even top golfers will by stymied by a links course, while American non-links courses seem to reward golfers who have talent.
This seems like a strange comment for them to make - surely a links course is a true test of talent.
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Old 07-19-2019, 07:16 AM
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Well, I highly doubt that all of those "pothole sand traps" are "natural features". That being said, previous posters were correct in pointing out that weather is responsible for 75% of the course's difficulty level. I remember a few years back when the weather conditions were unusually benign during the British Open. It resulted in the course being embarrassed by all of the low scores being posted.
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Old 07-19-2019, 07:53 AM
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I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than I will come in with an official definition, but IMO as a longtime golfer the MAIN factor that distinguishes a links course is a lack of trees. Lacking trees, the "trouble" spots delineating the holes are generally tall grasses. Golfers often call it "heather", whatever plant it actually is. Fairways often undulate, and greens are often huge. Many greens have broad close-cropped areas around them, calling for "bump and run" approaches rather than "flop" shots. Also a lack of water hazards. Sure, there will be an occasional creek, pond, or shoreline, but you don't see the artificial ponds that dot the more usual-style course.

Overall, links courses generally have a less manicured appearance than "American" courses. My dad was an excellent lifelong golfer. He told me about his first trip to St Andrews. He was looking at what he thought looked like a cow pasture. He asked someone where the course was, and they pointed to the cow pasture. (I admit, my dad was willing to stretch the truth for a good story! )

I've played a number of links courses that are nowhere near any large body of water.

And the analyst was full of shit. The different types of courses just reward different styles of play. Many/most modern golfers develop their skills to excel at "target" golf - perfecting their distance and ball flight to fly the ball from point to point. Excelling at links golf just requires a few tools that most modern golfers don't carry in their bags (or at least spend the time perfecting.) If you played 90% of your golf on non-links courses, which style of golf would you practice more and be more proficient at?
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Old 07-19-2019, 10:15 AM
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The lack of manicured appearance is correct. I'm lucky to live within walking distance of a championship links (seeing as I live in the South East of England you have a choice of 1 if you are guessing......and it is hosting the Open next year.) and when walking to the beach the public footpath cuts across the course. What strikes you is the fact that you can't really see the lie of the land at all. The dunes cut off the lines of sight and often you can't see the green from the tee. You are required to pick sight-lines and markers. The wind ends up blowing for or against according the tide and relative heat of the day. The fairways are scrubby and firm, the margins tight and wispy, the greens are immaculate. It doesn't look so obviously beautiful as something like Augusta but it provides a very different challenge and the order of the day, especially after hot, dry, weather, is to manufacture a shot. Innovation is more often called for.
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Old 07-19-2019, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Jasmine View Post
That being said, previous posters were correct in pointing out that weather is responsible for 75% of the course's difficulty level.
That's certainly true for the Old Course at St Andrews - when the weather is benign it's not much of a test for the top golfers. Most (all?) of the other courses on the Open rotation are more difficult, with eg Carnoustie being a right bugger at the best of times. The R&A doesn't have the same philosophy as the USGA does with the US Open though, so they probably play a bit further under par than US Open courses.
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Old 07-19-2019, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by russian heel View Post
He said even top golfers will by stymied by a links course, while American non-links courses seem to reward golfers who have talent.
This is silly. It's not like these guys have never seen a links course. The Open is almost always at a links course and there are plenty in the US, too. Yes, it's a different style and the players have to adjust their approach, but it's no great mystery.
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Old 07-19-2019, 11:10 AM
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TIL Links is not just a generic term for any golf course.
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Old 07-19-2019, 12:05 PM
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TIL Links is not just a generic term for any golf course.
The term "links" does get used colloquially sometimes for any golf course (e.g., "We're going to hit the links today"), but, yeah, a "links course" is a specific sort, as described in this thread.
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Old 07-20-2019, 02:13 AM
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Thanks for the responses. Watching more of the Open from Royal Portrush, and while I think it’s quite an exaggeration to call a links course as “like watching golf on the Moon” as I’ve read before I’m starting to see the subtle differences between a true links course and a manufactured one.


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Old 07-20-2019, 04:50 AM
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The wind is expected to get up quite strongly on Sunday I hear so the final round may show a "classic" links-type day.
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Old 07-20-2019, 12:52 PM
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a few years back the US open was played on a course in Washington state that was designed to be like the Scottish links courses.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chambers_Bay
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Old 07-21-2019, 09:20 PM
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Shinnecock Hills on Long Island is a links course; they've held at least one US Open there.
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Old 07-21-2019, 11:51 PM
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Bandon Dunes in middle-of-nowhere Bandon, OR, on the southern Oregon coast has multiple #1 resort and course awards. All links courses. I don't golf, but I've been to the town; the weather is crazy.
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Old 07-22-2019, 11:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than I will come in with an official definition, but IMO as a longtime golfer the MAIN factor that distinguishes a links course is a lack of trees.
This is how a lot of people differentiate, but it's a little over simplified I think.

Old style links courses are commonly on the waterfront and they were often built on dunes or moors which weren't leveled prior to their being groomed into courses. The ecology in these areas tend to be hostile to trees and lack any natural water features other than the ocean. The course difficulty is usually governed by the number of sand traps, their placement and depth, the typically exaggerated slope and undulation of both the greens and fairways and the depth of the long rough which is often knee-high and totally unmanicured making it a lost ball situation for most casual duffers.

Today it's not uncommon for non-British courses to build in a "links style". In the US these are often repurposed corn fields or wetlands which would generally be accepting of trees and natural or man-made water features, but for the sake of variety they leave them out and let the fescue and/or prairie grass to grow tall and create a lot of berms, mounds and gullies for their fairways to snake through and pockmark it with deep traps. The largest difference when playing these as opposed to real ones is the lack of wind and weather coming off the coast so they tend to be longer to amp up the difficulty.
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Old 07-22-2019, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
a few years back the US open was played on a course in Washington state that was designed to be like the Scottish links courses.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chambers_Bay
At the time I worked for that city though I personally had nothing to do with that tournament. My boss was heavily involved with it. It was a big deal (that city is tiny, it doesn’t even have its own police force).
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Old 07-22-2019, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Omniscient View Post
This is how a lot of people differentiate, but it's a little over simplified I think.

....
Of course it was oversimplified, as I suspected (possibly wrongly) the OP would have limited interest in the type of minutiae golfers seem prone to.

A couple other situations in my immediate area (Chicago) which I consider "links-style" courses.

Prairie Landing is right next to a small airport, so they didn't want a lot of trees.
Much of Settlers Hill is on top of a capped landfil, so they didn't want to plant a bunch of trees.
Harborside is built on what was essentiallyy an old superfund site.

Take a look at those and tell me whether you consider them links or links-style. I've never encountered a golfer to whom there was much of a difference between the terms.
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Old 07-25-2019, 01:00 AM
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A "links" course will have the following features:

1. Lack of trees (for the most part). Scottish links are courses that play near the ocean, and those lands tend to be mostly treeless. One of the courses in the Open rota in Scotland does, indeed, have a few trees, as I recall.

2. Fairways that are not in any way level. Basically, it's just grass on top of the old sand dunes. Watch a driven ball roll along the ground after it lands and it's just amazing what all the undulations will do. Also means that you rarely get to play from a flat lie.

3. "Pot" bunkers. The story is that these used to be sheep wallows. Over the years, many links courses in the Open rota have made some of these bunkers really, really deep, with steep faces. Forces you to play out sideways often, which makes the bunkering much more of a hazard than the typical well-raked American bunker.

4. Greens that are filled with subtle breaks, but lacking the typical American mounding. Sometimes the greens are huge (St. Andrews), but sometimes they are small (The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, for example). Generally, they have open fronts that allow you to run a shot onto the green (though on short holes, this can be missing: see the 7th at Pebble Beach).

I've played what is a functional links course in the Midwest, where the lack of trees and the afternoon wind can make the experience a real pain. There is a course on the Monterey Peninsula which shows the difference between "American" style courses and links courses, because its front-nine is a links course played along the ocean, but the back-nine is played through the trees inland. The course is the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links, and it is public, and a really fun course to play.

For what it is worth, sports talk radio hosts usually have trouble identifying the difference between their anus and any simple hole in the ground. So you can probably discount any such rant as being without much merit.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:18 AM
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I was told a while back the lack of trees in the UK was because so many were cut down to heat homes until coal was used for home heating.

(I heard this from a ranger at Jamestown VA, the early colonists there made glass to sell back to England because the wood was so plentiful they could burn wood to make glass and still have plenty of wood for cooking, heating, etc. )
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
I was told a while back the lack of trees in the UK was because so many were cut down to heat homes until coal was used for home heating.
And building etc. The UK as a whole is about 13% woodland - with Scotland being 18% -so it's not exactly treeless, but that's a lot less than many other industrialised countries

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-41551296
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