Travel Guide: Britain’s winter links

Why winter golf should always involve a trip to the seaside.

If you want to find some decent playing conditions in the depth of the British winter, head for the linksland. To the uninitiated this may sound like a strange concept.

As we all know, the weather by the seaside is unpredictable in July. Lytham was practically flooded during the Open last year, the conditions on the Saturday especially at Sandwich in 2011 were simply brutal, while at St Andrews the year before that the difference in conditions between the first and second days of the championship were so drastically different that the World No 1, Rory McIlroy, followed an opening 63 with an 80.

So why on earth would you willingly risk Birkdale or Moray, Machrihanish Dunes or Hunstanton, Hayling or Aberdovey in the depths of February?

The answer is that links courses are hardy. They have to be. And they are built, by definition, on sandy, quickdraining soil.

Add these two factors together and you have firm underfoot conditions and greens that may be slower than in the summertime but are otherwise every bit as good.

As Pat Ruddy, the Irish golf writer and course designer, says: “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 – this is their time “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 – this is their time.”

Enough said.

So this is how you should go about it. Ideally, you will arrive the evening before and stay locally. Then you can be in position, equipped with base layers, a woolly hat, an extra jumper and possibly a hip flask containing a suitably potent elixir, at around half past seven, just as dawn breaks and the sun (being optimistic) rises.

Taking advantage of the forward tees invariably located adjacent to the previous green and the absence of any rough, you will be round in a maximum of three hours. Now you can stop for an early lunch (soup is obligatory) before wrapping up again for your afternoon 18 at around 12.

You will be back in the clubhouse, showered, changed, glowing and nursing your favoured tipple in time to watch the sun set and contemplate your plans for dinner. Perfect!

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