What Is Links Golf? Beginners Guide to Links Golf Courses

Here is what golfers need to know about links golf courses. Learn what sets it apart and what to expect before you play.
What is Links Golf

Golf is one of the most popular sports worldwide, enjoyed by nearly 25,000,000 people. Many that aren’t familiar with the sport may not know that there are several different styles of courses.

Links golf courses are one of those types, with characteristics that set it apart from other styles. True links style courses have to follow specific guidelines, though there are replicas in many parts of the world that try to mimic the feel and style.

In this article, we will discuss the characteristics of a links course, what sets it apart from other options and what to expect on a links golf course so you know how to manage the course effectively. We will also discuss the history of links courses and why they came to exist, and why they’re so popular. Read on to find out more on what makes links golf courses so special.

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Links Golf Course

In this context, the word Link comes from the Old English word hlinc, meaning ridge or rising ground. Links courses are almost always in a coastal area, with Link then referring to the geography. 

There’s more than just being in a coastal, hilly area, though. The majority of “true links courses” are in Scotland, Ireland, and England. Typically there are few, if any, trees and very few water hazards as well.

This is because people originally saw this kind of land as somewhat useless due to it not being good for agriculture. Because of this, people converted the land into golf courses that required little maintenance or moving. Architectural resources were low at the time, meaning there was little to no moving of earth for these courses.

In contrast, a championship golf course is specifically designed to host championships. They’re heavily modified using equipment and mostly man-made and constructed with an audience in mind. They feature long, straight fairways with generally flat surfaces rather than a links course’s rough and bumpy fairways.

The feel of a links course comes from the tradition and challenge as well as the geography. Some courses will be man-made to imitate a links-style course, but one of the main features of a links is a lack of change from the original state of the land. Weather, quality of soil, and many other factors give a links course a different style of play and feel compared to the other types of golf courses.

Links Golf Course Bunker

While there are a few non-coastal links courses, they are few and far between. One of the main features of a links style golf course is the sandy soil. This soil drains quickly, allowing the ground to stay firm even in coastal storms. 

There are a few other distinct challenges that links courses hold and other courses won’t. For example, the fairways are often much rougher and uneven. Some find this exceptionally challenging compared to the often smooth, flat fairways of other courses.

By tradition, links courses are also strictly walking courses. Much of the challenge of golf comes from the physical strain, which golf purists feel is lessened by the use of carts. Links players must walk the entire course. It’s also difficult to use carts on many links courses due to their geography.

Playing Against Nature

“Pot bunkers” are another staple of links courses. These bunkers are small, deep sand traps that present a much more vertical challenge than other bunkers. The rough of a links course is often a thicker and more difficult hazard than in a typical course.

Most links courses are also extremely windy. As you might expect, this is due to their coastal locations. This also makes storms and rainy weather a common occurrence on a links course. The layout of many links courses worsens this by often having an outward and inward nine – one half of the course is up the coast, and the second is the opposite. This forces players to adapt to both wind directions.

In short, links courses are renowned for difficulty due to the unwelcoming environment. Rough, uneven ground and deep bunkers can throw a huge wrench in your game. The physical strain of walking, hard-to-predict winds, and frequent precipitation make links courses difficult for inexperienced and experienced players alike.

Many of the most popular links courses are in the U.K., where the style and sport originated. Here are some of the most world-renowned links courses.

Royal County Down

Links Golf Course Sunset

Located in Northern Ireland, the Royal County Down Championship links course is unarguably one of the most famous courses. Placed in the Murlough Nature Reserve near the Mountains of Mourne, this course offers fantastic views from every hole. 

The course itself stretches along Dundrum Bay. Holes zigzag back and forth, forcing players to repeatedly adjust to different wind conditions. RCD has ranked among the best golf courses globally for quite some time now, often being placed as number one on most lists.

St. Andrews

Links Golf Course St. Andrews

Often referred to as the Home of Golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews ranks as one of the top courses in the world. Many call it the best course in all of Scotland, especially when discussing links courses.

One of the main allures of St. Andrews is the history of the course. Past that, the Old Course provides a strong back-9 and beautiful views. The course isn’t quite as difficult as many others, but its draw of history and prestige ranks it as one of the best in the world.

Teeing Off

Tee Off on Links Golf Course

A links golf course will always set itself apart from other types of golf course experiences. The difficult geography and traditional play will challenge even the most experienced players. Much of the deep history of the sport of golf lies in links courses, making it one of the most unforgettable experiences any player can have.

Overall, playing on a links golf course should definitely be on the bucket list for any golfer. That said, it’s also worth mentioning that there are many other fantastic options out there as well. As mentioned earlier, golf is a global sport that’s enjoyed by millions of players from around the world. If you’re open to travel, there are plenty of international golf courses that are equally as beautiful and worth trying out.

If you have more questions about links golf or the beautiful game in general, feel free to browse our site. You can also contact us for more information on the courses around the world and what sets them apart from each other.


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