What is your favourite links course?
Dan Murphy: I feel like I’m being asked which of my children I favour.
Tom Irwin: Or what your favourite picture of Kelly Brook is. There are no bad ones.
Alex Perry: You can still have a favourite.
Dan Murphy: I wonder if my opinion is skewed by the fact I have only played them while on sunny golf trips rather than in competition or in desperate conditions when the course can become more of an enemy than a companion. In both cases there is that links thing of heading out into the unknown, looking down fairways stretching into the distance. Then turning for home and gradually returning to civilisation. Both courses fill me with excitement and make me happy with their winning blend of holes that are, by turn, very hard, scoreable, characterful and occasionally quirky. And you get to see and smell the sea.
Tom Irwin: I always think I have exaggerated how much I like Seacroft, or how good it is, and then I go back again and I like it a bit more. And Royal North Devon on the right day and in the right light is exceptionally enjoyable. The Helen Mirren to Seacroft’s Brook, if you will.
Alex Perry: Royal North Devon is probably my favourite. Right next to where I was born, minimalist course, a wonderfully fascinating clubhouse. And the “BEWARE GOLF” sign on the fence by the public footpath is lovely. I also love Perranporth, which was genuine love at first sight. And I grew up playing Bude & North Cornwall, which I still love. In fact, any of the so-called Atlantic Links, from Burnham & Berrow in Somerset all the way down to Carlyon Bay in St Austell, via Saunton, St Enodoc and Trevose.
James Savage: My favourite is Bamburgh Castle because, to me, links golf is about having a knock when you are on holiday by the sea and that’s when I played it. Bamburgh is fun and a bit quirky. It has holes where you are right by the sea then some weird blind ones which go through the cliffs. There’s stunning views, proper turf, quick greens and a little more than a wooden hut for a clubhouse. On a calm day you’ll score brilliantly but can easily get beaten up if it’s really windy.
Tom Irwin: Some of the most fun links courses are like playing Mousetrap. Bude is a bit like that in places. The Machrie is a lot like that. My favourite links have bits of that but are also proper – Silloth, for example.
Alex Perry: Bude is seriously underrated, but that’s understandable given its neighbours.
Mark Townsend: I’d love to sound smug and say Bandon or Barnbougle Dunes but I’ve never been. If I had one round left in me and I was off to the seaside then I would play Dornoch. If I was to say the best course I’ve ever played I would say Muirfield. If I had played County Down then I might say that for both of the above.
Joe Urquhart: Kingsbarns. But we all knew I was going to say that, didn’t we? I actually really like Lundin Links a bit further along the Fife coast. Views, blind tee shots, driveable par 4s, rough up to your knees, it’s just pure – the list goes on. Glorious stuff.
James Savage: Lundin has some terrible holes but the good stuff is sensational. There’s a practice net where you feel like you are whacking balls into the ocean which is cool. It’s often the quirky little things like that you remember from a links course.
Tom Irwin: Western Gailes is really, really, really, really, really, really, really good.
Craig Middleton: …but I’m going to say one probably none of you have played – South Shields. A delightful links course in the heart of the North East. A par 3 to start and a drivable par 4 to finish. I’ve never failed to enjoy myself there.
James Savage: A feature of few links courses I have played is that they can have three or four outstanding holes and a lot of terrible holes. But I think I prefer that to somewhere which has 18 good holes. I’ve played loads of places that have 18 good holes but can barely remember them and have no desire to go back. I’ll never forget playing the 15th at Seahouses and would happily play the course tomorrow just for that one hole.
Craig Middleton: I’ve never played Seahouses but a friend is a member there and says it has nine brilliant holes and nine forgettable holes.
James Savage: It has three excellent holes, six OK holes, and nine that basically zig-zag through a field. Would still love to play it again though.
Alex Perry: Just last week we were saying the mark of golf course is one that leaves you wanting to go back and play again.
Matthew Beedle: This is when I realise I need to go play more links golf….
Alex Perry: Am I right in thinking you only lost your links virginity recently?
James Savage: You have to be able to see the sea. And ideally the sea, or at least the beach, needs to be in play at some point.
James Broadhurst: I’ve barely played any links golf, but I loved the Balcomie Links at Crail.
Alex Perry: I love Crail. I played it while up at the 2015 Open. It was a glorious evening and still light enough to be on the course at 11pm.
James Broadhurst: The views were glorious and the 5th, Hell’s Hole, is one of the best holes I’ve played.
Alex Perry: Dan, as an experienced linkser, what tip would you give to the Matthew Beedles and James Broadhursts of the world, who might find links golf a bit more intimidating?
Dan Murphy: It can be intimidating, I agree. The first thing is that you need the right kit if you are playing in a freezing easterly. Then you just have to play within your limitations. Sometimes a bogey is a great score, even for a scratch man. So play away from the trouble. My best piece of advice is just to club up. The inexperienced links practitioner will go up one club into a headwind and then try to smite it. It’s much easier to go up two clubs and keep your tempo. Plus, there’s more trouble in front of the green than pin high or beyond, as a rule. Does that help?
James Broadhurst: It does, although I have many limitations to play within. In terms of your swing, do you alter it for a links course?
Dan Murphy: If you have the ability to vary your flight then that is obviously a huge advantage on a links course but I would be thinking more about playing the percentages and playing within yourself.
James Savage: As Ken Brown once said: “Swing with ease, into the breeze”.
Alex Perry: As a kid playing at Bude, I was always told to widen my stance slightly when the wind is howling.
James Savage: Definitely on short putts.
Dan Murphy: Now putting is hard when it’s windy. In fact, I would rather have to hit a tee shot in a howling left-to-right crosswind than stand over a three-footer.
James Savage: Would you recommend a short, jabby stroke on a short putt in a stiff breeze?
Dan Murphy: I would recommend a slightly firmer grip and a positive strike. I don’t think I would ever recommend a short, jabby putting stroke – unless I was playing against you.
What is your favourite links course? Let us know in the comments section below, or you can tweet us @NCGmagazine.