NCG's Golf Glossary: What is a links course?
Word of the week: Links
What I think it means:
Funny story – before I started playing golf, I didn’t actually know what links meant. I thought, and this is the truth, that it meant the tee box was ’linked’ to the fairway – there wasn’t a water hazard or patch of rough between the two. And I guess I extrapolated that to the green, that it was also linked to the other end of the fairway.
And now I write for a golf mag… It’s a funny old world
Basically, in my head, a links was a fairly boring course, where each element of the hole were linked together.
I now know that I was very wrong, I mean – links aren’t renowned for being dull are they?
But what actually defines a ’true’ links? They can’t just be courses that are located by the sea, otherwise they wouldn’t need to be so staunchly defended by purists of the game.
’A golf course located on such land or similarly treeless sandy terrain inland.’
Yet this doesn’t quite tell the whole story
The Anglo-Saxon word ’hlinc’ defined a rough area of grass and sandy soil between the sea and the land.
Harald was more of the parkland type…
The salty, sandy soil wasn’t fit for agriculture, and the land was largely unused – so it was ideal for the development of golf, especially when the sport was banned by royal decree in the 15th Century and the dunes and rough vegetation kept the golfers hidden out of sight.
Use it in a sentence:
“Is there a link between those lost links sausages and the Lynx roaming round the links?”
What this actually means:
Of all the courses in Scotland, 17 per cent are considered true links courses. The majority of these are the historic courses that you will have heard of – St Andrews, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Aberdeen
There are a number of elements required, if a course is to qualify as true links:
1. Built along a major body of water
2. The soil of the course is sandy, leading to a firm playing surface
3. Few inland water hazards
4. Deep, pothole bunkers
5. Gorse bushes and large shrubs and fairways lined with thick, tall seaside grass
6. Open layout that matches the natural contours of the landscape
7. Challenging greens and fairways with many undulations and slopes
All of which means… golfers are very touchy when it comes too protecting the meaning of the word ’links’. So make sure you use it correctly!
Close, but no cigar…