What is a Links Golf Course? (Explained!)

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Golf enthusiasts may have heard of the term “links golf courses” but may not be familiar with its definition. A links course embodies the oldest style of golf course, typically found along the coastline, seamlessly blending with the natural landscape in its layout and design.

These courses often feature sand dunes, low-lying vegetation, and few trees, making them vulnerable to coastal elements such as high winds and rain.

St. Andrews in Scotland stands as a renowned links course, revered as the birthplace of the first ever established links courses. Its fame echoes across the world, cementing its position as one of the most iconic destinations for golf enthusiasts.

This article provides a more in-depth look at links courses and introduces some of the finest links courses in the US, including the four true links courses in the country.

Additionally, the article will explore other topics related to links golf courses, such as the cost of playing at Bandon Dunes and Highland Links, the opposite of a links course, and whether Augusta National is considered a links course.

Fun facts about links golf courses will also be shared.

What is the Difference Between a Golf Course and a Links?

A links course is a golf course type found in coastal areas, characterized by sandy, undulating, and rugged terrain. This type of course is different from a regular golf course in that it has not been manufactured or altered to suit golfers.

On the contrary, it signifies the initial topography of the terrain. The word “links” comes from an Old English word meaning “ridge” or “rising ground,” which perfectly describes the type of hilly terrain that is prevalent in coastal areas in the United Kingdom.

Due to the unpredictable natural contours and components of a links course, they tend to be much more difficult to play than parkland or desert courses.

Golfers are forced to deal with the natural elements, including wind direction, rolling fairways, and coastal sand dunes, which makes the game much more challenging.

The windy conditions of a links course also add to the difficulty level, demanding much higher levels of concentration from golfers.

In summary, the primary differences between a golf course and a links course are the geography, topography, and characteristics of the natural terrain.

While golf courses are manufactured to suit golfers, links courses represent the original lay of the land and demand a higher level of skill and concentration from golfers.

Are There any Links Golf Courses in the US?

Links golf courses are a rarity in the US, with only four true links courses according to the PGA. Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald, and Highland Links on Cape Cod in Massachusetts stand as the sole quartet of links courses in the United States.

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These courses offer golfers a chance to experience the unique challenges of links golf, with their seaside locations and ocean views.

While the US may not have as many links courses as Scotland or Ireland, these four courses are highly regarded and attract golfers from all over the world.

The Four True Links Golf Courses in the US

There are only two locations in the US where one can experience true links golf, and both are situated on the rugged coastline of Oregon.

Bandon Dunes Resort is home to three of these courses, namely Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Old Macdonald. The fourth true links golf course in the US is the Streamsong Black course in Florida.

Bandon Dunes, completed in 1999, was designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd. The course offers ocean views on every hole, and the wind tends to howl across the course all year round, making it a true test of golf.

Pacific Dunes, which opened two years later, was designed by renowned course architect Tom Doak. The course features rippling fairways and deep natural bunkers formed by the elements.

Accuracy is essential as there is no protection from the howling winds of the Pacific.

Old Macdonald, affectionately referred to as ‘Old Mac,’ is the third true links test at Bandon Dunes Resort. Designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina in 2010, this course pays tribute to Charles Blair Macdonald, the esteemed ‘Father of American Golf Architecture.’

Old Mac stands as the ultimate challenge among the three links at Bandon Dunes Resort, evoking the spirit of Scottish links so convincingly that players often forget their Oregonian surroundings.

Streamsong Black, located in Florida, is the fourth true links golf course in the US. Created by the renowned golf course architect Gil Hanse, this magnificent course showcases undulating fairways, expansive greens, and strategically placed bunkers.

The course is a true test of golf and offers a unique experience for golfers who want to play true links golf in the US.

Where is Bandon Dunes Resort Located?

Bandon Dunes Resort is situated in the southwest part of Oregon, just a short ten-minute drive from the coastal town of Bandon.

Visitors who plan to play golf at Bandon Dunes usually fly into the Southwest Oregon Airport, which is located in North Bend. Alternatively, they can drive for five hours from Portland to reach the resort.

The resort is home to six golf courses, including three true links courses, namely Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Old Macdonald.

The other courses are Bandon Trails, Sheep Ranch, and Bandon Preserve, which has 13 holes. The location of the resort is remote, making it an ideal destination for golf enthusiasts who want to enjoy each of these outstanding golf courses while they are there.

Check out this video to see more of Bandon Dunes Resort

How Much Does it Cost to Play at Bandon Dunes?

The cost of playing at Bandon Dunes Resort varies depending on the month, and whether the golfer is a resort guest, day guest, or Oregonian resident. The rates for all courses, excluding Bandon Preserve, are as follows:

  • Resort Guest: $100 – $295
  • Day Guest: $135 – $345
  • Oregonian Resident: $100 – $260
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Please be aware that all courses at Bandon Dunes strictly require walking. To find out the exact costs for the time of year you plan to play, visit their website for more information.

Highland Links on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod

Highland Links, located on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, is one of the few places in America where golfers can experience true links golf.

The nine-hole par 35 course offers challenging natural rough, heath, Scotch broom, and stunning views of the Atlantic. The course is open to the public year-round and offers affordable rates due to its status as a municipal course.

Check out this video to see more of Highland Links

Where is the Highland Links Golf Course Located?

The Highland Links Golf Course is located in Truro, Massachusetts. It overlooks Cape Cod Bay and can be reached via a 2-3 hour drive from Boston, MA.

How Much Does it Cost to Play at Highland Links?

Playing nine holes at Highland Links costs $35, while eighteen holes are $65, with no seasonal variation. Junior golfers pay $20 and $40 for nine and eighteen holes, respectively.

Golf cart hire is available for $10 or $20 per person, depending on the number of holes played. For a full price list and seasonal golf rates, visit the Highland Links website.

Fun Facts about Links Golf Courses

  • The Old Links at Musselburgh and the Old Course of St. Andrews are both considered to be among the oldest links courses in the world.
  • Scotland is home to 92 true links golf courses, which is more than any other country in the world.
  • Less than 1% of all golf courses globally are true links courses, making them a unique and challenging experience for golfers.
  • Although Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits, and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island are styled after links courses, they do not embody the true essence of a links track.

Links courses offer a unique challenge to golfers due to their sandy soil, pot bunkers, and deep rough. Playing on a links course requires accuracy and course management, as well as an understanding of the firm and fast playing surface.

Golfers who have the opportunity to play on a true links course with its spectacular views and native grasses often add it to their bucket list.

Is the Open Always Played on a Links Course?

The British Open Championship, also known as the Open Championship, is always played on links courses. There have been fourteen British courses that have hosted the Open throughout its history, but only ten of them are currently used.

Among the prestigious golf courses featured are the renowned St Andrews Old Course, Muirfield, Royal St George’s, Royal Liverpool, Royal Troon, Royal Lytham St Anne’s, Carnoustie, Royal Portrush, Royal Birkdale, and Turnberry.

What is the Opposite of a Links Golf Course?

While it’s difficult to define the exact opposite of a links course, there are two other traditional types of golf courses that contrast with links tracks.

One of these is the parkland course, which is characterized by lush green fairways and well-manicured areas. Unlike links courses, parkland courses are typically located in areas with abundant trees and other vegetation, such as heathland and farmland.

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Is Augusta National a Parkland or Links Golf Course?

Augusta National is a picturesque golf course set amidst parkland, distinct from a traditional links course. Renowned for its exquisite aesthetics, the meticulously maintained gardens, fairways, and greens are a sight to behold.

Unlike a links course, Augusta National is not situated near the sea, and its terrain is not as rugged.

Despite this, the course is still considered challenging, as seen every year during the Masters’ Championship, where the world’s best golfers compete for the Green Jacket.

Everything About Links Courses Explained!

Links courses are a type of golf course that originated in Scotland and are known for their exposure to natural elements. Although there are many links-style courses in the US, only four are considered true links courses.

Three of these courses can be found at the Bandon Dunes Resort, while the other is located at the Highland Links on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod.

Golfers from all over the world travel to Scotland to play the famous links courses, with the Old Course at St Andrew’s being considered the ultimate test of links golf.

It is important to bring waterproofs when playing on a links course, especially in Scotland, as players are likely to get wet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes Links Golf Courses Unique?

Links golf courses are unique due to their location and natural terrain. They are typically located along the coastlines, where the land meets the sea, and are built on sandy soil.

This natural terrain makes links courses different from other golf courses, as they are often exposed to the elements, such as wind and rain, making them more challenging to play.

What Are Some Famous Links Golf Courses in the UK?

The UK is home to some of the most famous links golf courses in the world. Some of the most well-known courses include St. Andrews, Royal Birkdale, Royal Troon, and Royal Liverpool.

These exceptional golf courses have been the proud venues for some of the world’s most esteemed golf tournaments, including The Open Championship.

What Is the History of Links Golf Courses?

Links golf courses have a rich history spanning centuries. It was on a links course in Scotland during the 15th century that the first recorded game of golf took place.

The courses were originally used by shepherds to graze their sheep and were later turned into golf courses due to the natural terrain and sandy soil.

What Are the Characteristics of a Links Golf Course?

Links golf courses are typically built on sandy soil and are located along the coastlines, making them exposed to the elements.

They have natural hazards such as sand dunes, tall grasses, and deep bunkers. The courses are meticulously crafted to offer a delightful challenge, featuring narrow fairways and greens that are delightfully petite.

What Are Some Tips for Playing on a Links Golf Course?

When playing on a links golf course, it is important to be prepared for the weather conditions, as they can change quickly.

Golfers should also be ready to face natural obstacles, such as sand dunes and tall grasses, and should employ a low ball flight technique to counter the effects of the wind. It is also important to practice your short game, as the greens on links courses are typically small.