Pat Ruddy – writer and architect – on links golf

Equipment

The Irishman's views on links golf are pure gold dust

WHAT MAKES A LINKS?
“The best definition I ever heard was from a book in the 1950s on the links courses of Great Britain and Ireland and it talked about ‘the sandy deposits that link the beach to the soil’.

“Now, this can come about from either receding seas or by being among the sand dunes. “Originally, people said they were ‘going to the links’ and it was nothing to do with golf at that stage.

“I guess how far inland or above sea level a course can be and still be a links depends on how far in or up the sand could be blown.

“Whether it’s a poor links or a good links is another question but if it is links land then there’s your answer. Modern machinery can help a great deal but doesn’t fundamentally change whether somewhere is a links or not.

“Nature can’t be put into a box and a ribbon put round it.”

YOUR FAVOURITE LINKS IN BRITAIN?
“Can you give me three? Birkdale, Turnberry (right) and Muirfield. They’ve got lots of sand. They are beautifully presented for golf, nicely defined and they encourage you to play good golf.

“And St Andrews, that’s a place that makes us cry.

“They are clearly set up. Definition is the key. I like a course with definition. It’s the same with art. I don’t like pale, washed-out colours and blurred lines. You need to be able to see the penalties and also the rewards.

“There’s too much talk of the penalties these days, we’re all cry babies. I prefer to look at the rewards and the sense of achievement, but you can’t have that without some penalties for failure.”

HOW DO YOU VIEW BLIND SHOTS?
“Blind shots are OK in moderation, like everything else. I don’t think they necessarily fit well in this day and age. The game is expensive the days and we do so much more travelling. People only play courses once. They don’t like hitting at a post and finding their ball in a bunker or some rough.

“It’s wonderful for those of us who know. The experience of rushing, if you’re young enough – to the top of the hill to find out where your ball has finished. Did it roll on to the green or fall into the bunker?

“You need a variety. The people who make boxes of chocolates offer you a selection. When you go to a restaurant you are presented with a menu.”
"At this time of year it is the time for the linksmen to rejoice; you can play all 12 months of the year." – Ruddy ARE LINKS THE BEST FORM OF THE GAME?
“I like all types of golf but I don’t enjoy it so much when it’s wet and my ball plugs when it lands. I don’t like finishing my round with my shoes covered in mud and my trousers muddy up to my knees.

“At this time of year it is the time for the linksmen to rejoice; you can play all 12 months of the year. I played on a links one January where they were using temporary tees and I asked them why and they said to preserve the proper tees. I asked them what they were saving it for and told them: this is your time.”

YOUR VIEWS ON YOUR MODERN IRISH LINKS?
Sandy Hills at Rosapenna is a giant and truly lovely new links. This moves over and through the great dunes which the Old Masters chose to ignore, perhaps because of the lack of capital and machinery, and presents numerous Hallelujah moments, the chief of which is the view of ocean and mountain and golf as one crests the fairway on the 6th. Ballyliffin is another miracle of the age. It has an ‘old links’ dating from the 1940s and the new Glashedy links. Six lovely new holes were created on the old (7th, 8th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th) to allow the Glashedy to get out from the clubhouse into the vast dunes beyond with gratifying results.

The Glashedy is a thoroughly modern links devoid of blindness but with the same dunes turbulence and scenery as Royal County Down and Ballybunion but with the added benefit of intensive attention to the demands of the modern game. There is nothing dated here and the wise selection of tees will give every golfer a great experience.

WHAT ABOUT A HIDDEN GEM?
Portsalon was a charming throwback to a bygone age when I was called in by the club in the early 90s. Criss-cross holes, some blind, which worked well in the quiet old days had to go to cater for busier times and the links needed to be stretched from less than 6,000 yards to just under 7,000 yards. Twelve new holes were created in the process and one of the big talking points concerns two new double greens. Murvagh (Donegal) was designed by the late Eddie Hackett but needed updating and the club has been proactive in this regard since 1992 in which time we have redesigned holes 1, 2, 4, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 18. This is now a true oasis of golfing splendour.

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