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What is a Links Golf Course?

By June 23, 2016September 16th, 2021BE SOCIAL, Uncategorized
royal county down

Royal County Down

What exactly is a Links Golf Course?

The Oxford Dictionary: 

Defines a Links Golf Course as “A golf course, especially on grass-covered sandy ground near the sea”; ‘A couple of days’ golf on a sunny Spanish links’ “.  A rather bizarre example given Spain is rarely held up as a haven of Links golf courses!

The British Golf Museum

surely they must know: “Links” are coastal strips of land between the beaches and the inland agricultural areas. This term, in its purest sense. applies specifically to seaside areas in Scotland. (Hold on Houston, Real Irish Golf now has a problem;  no Links in Ireland? Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Ballybunion Golf, The European Club! …)


Pillar to post but intrepidly on we go. Wikipedia states that “a Links is the oldest form of golf course first developed in Britain. The work “Links” comes via the Scots language from the old English word ‘hlinc’ meaning rising ground, ridge and refers to a coastal sand dunes, an undulating surface, and a sandy soil unsuitable for arable farming.

The Supreme Court:

So now we turn to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (sounds Scottish!) who when defining pornography, came up with the …. ” but I know it when I see it”  test.  Likewise with Links Golf, we at Real Irish Golf know it when we see it, feel it, hear it, smell it.

Real Irish Golf:

Ballybunion Links Golf Course

Ballybunion Golf

Here are the Characteristics of a Links Golf Course to pass our Links Golf test:
The Sea:  To be a Links Course, it must be beside the sea. End of!

  1. Soil:  Links golf courses must be predominantly sand based yielding to a nice springy underfoot feel. This results in hard and fast fairways & greens because of the lack of moisture retained by the sand based turf.
  2. Grasses: Links are characterized by native marram and fescue grasses, which help prevent erosion of the sand based dunes.
  3. Contours:  Links courses follow the natural contour of the land resulting in undulating fairways and greens.  Necessitated in the old days because the only earth moving equipment was bare hands!
    Royal Portrush Links Golf Course

    Royal Portrush

  4. Wind: Inherent in its coastal location, Links Golf will almost always have wind as a major factor.  Speed and direction variable and subject to frequent change.
  5. The Rough:  The native marram and fescue grass have deep roots and wispy thin blades.  This leads to thick rough with wispy long grasses.  They like to wrap themselves around your club!
  6. the-european-club links golf course

    The European Club

    Trees or lack thereof:  We are going to resist being a fundamentalist here and ban all trees but there are very few trees on a true links golf course.  Of course this allows the wind to blow uninterrupted.

  7. Water Hazards:  few and far between, and naturally occurring, if at all (e.g., The Swilcan Burn). There is the looming Ocean though.
  8. Bunkers:  obviously not unique to Links Golf courses, but typically very deep to prevent the sand blowing away.  In the old days, animal burrows were used as bunkers.

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