Doughtie Sr. on Golf (November 2013)


"Created by Nature and designed by Man".......the often used definition of a links golf course.
 
There are about 35,000 golf courses in the world and although the term is loosely used to describe many a course,less than 1%,about 250 courses, can be truely classed as links.
 
Originally they only appeared along the east coast of Scotland, where and when the sport developed.In fact only about 300 miles of Scotland's 7500 mile coastline is suitable for links golf.Courses perched on top of cliffs are not links.
 
Scotland is home to 85 such courses.Ireland has 58,England 53,Wales 15 and Continental Europe 14,of which The Netherlands claims 4.Further afield,New Zealand boosts 9,Australia 7,the USA only 6(although many more use the term Links in their name) and South Africa 1.The list, of course, is open to serious debate. 
 
The Ice Age assisted greatly in forming a landscape along the coast that was to be transfomed ,with minimum construction, into the gems that we enjoy today.A links course is to be found on that section of land between the sea and that area which is suitable for farming and the growing of crops.The sea should be seen,heard or smelled from the course and preferrably in the dunes,which provide natural contours.
 
Early golf architects were able to design courses on such sites ,with very little need to move a great deal of earth.Traditionally such layouts consisted of 9 holes out(away from town) and 9 holes back over undulating fairways resembling a crumpled duvet to similar type greens.Cavernous bunkers,gorse bushes,wind,mist and rain added to the fun.
 
Most links are on sandy soil,which drains quickly and fescues and bent grass provides a springy turf ,which is usually playable 365 days-a-year.
 
It was no surprise that some of the sport's greatest achievers,such as Bobby Jones,Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson,who were brought up on well manicured US locations,took some time to fall in love with links golf.They all mastered the peculiar art, which relies on playing lots of  bump and run shots,before going on to record various successes at The Open,which is always staged on links courses.
 
In The Netherlands we have 4 classic links at The Haagsche,Noordwijk,Kennemer and Domburg.The latter.with a 5 out/4 back track ,being the only one with the sea close enough to see,hear and smell.
 
Today's course designers are keen to develope traditional styled links and the phrase "Inland links"has appeared for courses many miles from the sea.
 
We could debate the merits of newly opened sites and whether they justify the accolade of being a links course and should gain inclusion on the exclusive list........
 
If a course looks like a links course and plays like a links course ,should it be referred to as a links course no matter when it came into  being and no matter where???????
 
Whatever..........no true golfer has ever played the game as it was intended until he or she has battled their way around a links course,with a "wee breeze"..........close to the sea....
 
 
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