In contrast to inland golf, where a ball hit into water or trees typically costs at least a stroke, on a links course there is almost always a way out of trouble and into the cup—or three or four ways, if you can but discern them. Because of the near-constant wind, the fairways of most links are generous, although there is invariably a preferred side. Finding it is the essence of golf strategy, as it originated at the Old Course at St Andrews. There, as the British golf writer Henry Longhurst observed, “On every shot, whether a short pitch or a full drive, you must step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, what exactly do I want to do here?’” The player needs not just physical talent but also imagination. The idea is to choose the right shot, then hit the right shot right.
One of the first Americans to sing the praises of links golf was the great Bobby Jones. “There is always some little favor of wind or terrain waiting for the man who has judgement enough to use it,” he said, “and there is a little feeling of triumph, a thrill that comes with the knowledge of having done a thing well when a puzzling hole has been conquered by something more than mechanical skill.”
The very names of the classic courses—Carnoustie, Muirfield, Machrihanish, Ballybunion, Lahinch—stir the blood of even casual golfers. Meanwhile, a new wave of links courses—and links-like ones—has swept across the golf landscape as the minimalist movement in contemporary golf architecture has dovetailed with a need for courses that are both environmentally friendly and economical to build and maintain. Indeed, centuries after the first courses took shape, the lure of linksland is stronger than ever.
Reprinted by permission of Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.