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What are links style golf courses? | About Links Courses

Written by: Cesar Figueroa


"Don't just play your way around a golf course. Think your way around the course."

Sam Snead

Addington Links Style Golf Club in London, picture with a sand trap and club house with cottage like look.

Introduction to Links Style Golf Courses

Golf is a game that is all about course management.  However, each course is completely different.  Let's answer the question, what are links style golf courses? Many golfers believe that links style golf courses are the purest golf courses. Originating from the Old Scots language, the word 'links' refers to the sandy, undulating coastal areas where golf first began. These courses are characterized by their natural landscape, shaped by the wind, sea, and sand, offering a golfing experience that's both challenging and deeply connected to the origins of the sport.

Why Links Style Golf Courses are Different

Unlike the manicured fairways and still waters of parkland courses, link style golf courses boast rugged beauty and natural hazards. Here are a few distinctive features:

  • Natural Terrain: The courses follow the natural contours of the land, with dunes, undulating fairways, and deep bunkers.
  • Wind Factor: Often located near the coast, the wind plays a significant role, transforming each shot into a test of skill and strategy.
  • Fast, Firm Greens: The sandy soil ensures fast-draining surfaces, resulting in firm greens that demand precision.

The combination of these elements means that playing on a links course is as much about battling the elements and the landscape as it is about the game itself.

Picture of links style golf course with long grass on the edges and the middle of the fairway.
Links style golf course with golfers on the green from afar.
Parkland style golf course with beautiful pristine fairway from the teebox for comparison with the links style golf courses.
Parkland style golf course from the tee box, green and blue colored sky on a beautiful day.

The Legacy of Links Styled Golf Courses

The genesis of links style golf courses is found in the coastal towns of Scotland, with the Old Course at St. Andrews often hailed as the "Home of Golf." These courses were not designed but rather emerged from the landscape, shaped by nature and the passage of time. This historical backdrop adds a layer of reverence and tradition to the links experience, connecting players with the generations of golfers who have walked these grounds before.  Because of this, many golf courses in Europe are Links styled vs America.  Not only does golf change culturally over the pond due to the etiquette, but also the courses.  Many pros deem European courses harder than American as a result.  

The World's Most Iconic Links Style Golf Courses

For those eager to experience links golf, here are a few courses that capture the essence of this timeless style:

  • The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland: The ultimate pilgrimage for any golfer, it's where the game evolved over six centuries.
  • Pebble Beach Golf Links, USA: A masterpiece that combines the beauty of the Californian coastline with the challenge of links-style play.
  • Royal County Down, Northern Ireland: Known for its stunning natural beauty and the towering Mourne Mountains as a backdrop.

How to Play a Links Golf Course

Playing a links golf course requires a different approach. The wind, natural bunkers, and firm greens demand creativity and adaptability. Ground shots become more valuable, and understanding how the ball will react on the terrain is crucial. It's a game of strategy, where power takes a backseat to precision and thinking several shots ahead.  Often the rough can be long untrimmed straw type of grass, and finding your ball is next to impossible.  This might be one of those rounds where you leave your driver in the bag, depending on how accurate you are off the teebox.  

On the other hand, use the natural terrain to your advantage as often as you can when playing a links style golf course.  Course management is far more important on these courses compared to regular golf courses.

Q: Can anyone play on a links style golf course?

A: Absolutely! While some historic courses may have restrictions or high demand, many links courses are accessible to the public. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, you are always welcome to play a links course.  Check in advance for tee times and any playing criteria.

Q: What should I wear when playing on a links course?

A: Given the variable weather, layers are key. Windbreakers, waterproof clothing, and golf shoes designed for firm surfaces are recommended.  Day you play and weather is dependent, but take into account the wind and cold can be more extreme due to the natural terrain.  For more ideas on golf fashion check out our guide for men and for women.  

Q: Are links courses more difficult than regular golf courses?

A: They can be, typically they will be, due to the natural hazards, wind, and fast greens. However, they offer a rewarding experience for those willing to adapt their game.

Wrapping it up : What are Links Style Golf Courses?

Links style golf courses are more than just a test of golfing prowess; they are a tribute to the game's origins and a celebration of nature's role in its history. Many veterans feel strongly that they are the purest form of golf, but the game is changing, and becoming modernized. The old rules are applying less and less, and you should experience and enjoy golf the way that best suits you! However, playing a links course offers a unique and unforgettable experience that connects you to the heart and soul of golf.

One thing is certain, t's clear that these courses embody the traditions, challenges, and natural beauty that make golf such a beloved sport. So, the next time you set foot on a links course, take a moment to appreciate the rolling dunes, the sea.  If you want to keep up on more golf related content, tips, and exclusive offers for our designer golf gloves, subscribe below.