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Links-Style Golf Courses: Scotland’s Trials of Wind and Sand
What, exactly, is a links-style course? Find out with Groupon’s guide.
For many golfers, the phrase links-style golf is a familiar one—even if the experience of playing a links course isn’t. Many modern courses claim the “links” label if they have a large collection of fairway bunkers, some native grasses, or a smattering of trees, but the features of a true links course are much more daunting: deep pot bunkers, sandy soil, reedy grasses, and winds unchecked by trees. Named for the Scottish word for the terrain that separates beaches and inland farmland, the distinct gauntlet of obstacles emerged as a natural consequence of the land on which the first courses were built. The hard, sandy soil could sustain little more than seaside grasses, and whereas the abundant sand and dearth of trees encouraged course designers to utilize sand traps, the wind would blow the sand right out of the bunkers if they weren’t dug deep enough.
Though most players on a faux “links” course likely won’t feel compelled to lobby the club to drop the moniker, experts still go out of their way to make the distinction. As five-time British Open champion Tom Watson said from England’s Royal St. George’s Golf Club—a course so true to the links genre that it boasts the world’s deepest bunker—“People see golf courses around the world called ‘the links.’ Well, they aren’t links. They don’t play firm and hard and fast and fiery like this. Until you play a golf course like that in strong conditions, in strong wind conditions, you don’t quite understand.”