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'Who knows where I will end up?' Why this golfer has embarked on a links road trip around Britain

‘Who knows where I will end up?’ Why this golfer has embarked on a links road trip around Britain

Sam Cooper has dreamed up a road trip for the ages that will see him play more than 200 of Britain's links courses
 

YouTube can provide a wealth of mindless entertainment and distraction – such as endless clips of cats being cats and exhortations to binge watch another three series of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

They promise everything. They usually deliver little other than an evening of sedentary, bleary-eyed, ‘where did the time go?’ distraction.

It was during such an Alice in Wonderland mission, though, in the midst of lockdown when solitary confinement was an order and not a request, that Sam Cooper and wife Harriet had a eureka moment.

“We’d fallen down one of those YouTube wormholes, where it keeps suggesting a video to watch and then another,” he remembers.

“For some reason, it suggested we watch this couple in America who converted a Mercedes Sprinter Van and were just driving round the country.

“It looked like a little hotel room on wheels, and it looked fantastic. While we were in lockdown, sat in our garden and not able to go anywhere, that sort of nomadic travelling around the world might sound a little bit grandiose but it was pretty appealing.”

Golf’s been part of Cooper’s soul for as long as he can remember. A lifetime member of Royal Liverpool, his passion is playing everywhere and anywhere he can.

“That’s where I get the most enjoyment out of golf – going to different places, seeing the different people you meet along the way, and seeing a wide range of courses.”

But coronavirus had taken its toll. Trips were cancelled and the prospect of returning to the USA or Europe with a golf bag over his shoulder anytime soon looked distant to say the least.

Out of the Covid-19 pause, however, came opportunity. He found himself working with Evalu18, the golf course architecture website that had a hit on their hands with a new map of the Old Course that harked back to Dr Alister MacKenzie’s revered 1920s drawing of the game’s most famous layout.

Cooper started travelling the country, producing drone maps that would form the foundation for Joe McDonnell’s creations, and playing the courses while he was there.

He saw Royal North Devon, St Enodoc and Trevose. Then he started circling round the famed Surrey sand belt tracks.

“I thought if I’m going to be sequestered to all of these beautiful golf courses to produce the maps then maybe I could make a little bit more from it than just driving from Hoylake to Kent and back again, and Hoylake to Cornwall, and spending all of those hours on the M6,” Sam explains.

“I thought there had to be a more enjoyable way of doing that little job.”

He adds: “The opportunity post lockdown presented – we both work for ourselves and what we do we can do from anywhere.

“We just need a laptop and our phones. And we thought, ‘Why not take it to the road?’

“If I can go and play all of these golf courses along the way, and meet some fantastic people, that sounds like a better way to spend the autumn and a big chunk of next year as opposed to sitting around and waiting for Covid to go away.”

links courses

And so he started to put together a list. He read books, scoured websites, even took a magnifying glass to Google Maps in a bid to find every scrap of possible linksland that could be a new course to explore.

He then took to Twitter – and new suggestions expanded those numbers rapidly. Cooper now has 200 links courses on his most wanted list, reaching round the coast of Great Britain from Liverpool to Prestatyn.

“I looked at every website I could find for links courses and then you exhaust that list and realise there are still plenty more. I was going on Google Maps and just searching.

“Sometimes they don’t even have a name. They just say ‘golf course’. You are looking at some really patchy satellite image and thinking, ‘Is that a bunker? Is that a green?’

“There might be one review of someone saying ‘good golf course there’ – and that’s on the list.

It’s Dunaverty one day, Machrihanish the next. Mach Dunes precedes Carradale as Cooper’s van is currently winding its way clockwise round the West of Scotland.

And as his trip starts to gather speed, and his pictures of links landscapes rack up followers and likes on social media, he has the feeling it’s all suddenly taking on a life of its own.

“It’s turning into something bigger than I probably anticipated at the time. Who knows where it will end up? That’s part of the fun. It’s going out there and that’s the best thing for golf.

“If you’re a tennis player, a tennis court is a court. We’re so lucky that we can go anywhere.

“More often than not, there’s a golf course and, sometimes, it’s fantastic.”

You can follow Sam’s adventures on Twitter.

Have you ever been on a similar journey around Britain’s links courses? How many did you play? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

Follow NCG on TwitterFacebook and Instagram – and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest equipment and golf course reviews and exclusive interviews.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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