As PGA professionals and the golf world prepare for a weekend at St. Andrews, we look at an entirely different style of golf. The Links. A coastal golf course set on a flat terrain next to the sea and featuring many dunes. The term “links” was derived from Scotland in the 15th century and includes sand dunes and very few trees.
We saw this style course in the 2015 US Open Championship at Chambers Bay, which had just one tree (out of bounds). We also saw some of the world’s top golfers fall flat and miss the cut. However, as many courses in the United States attempt to construct a traditional “links” golf course, we have to make the journey to Scotland for the true experience, and especially at historic St. Andrews.
What’s so special about links golf courses?
While we’re used to the green grass of lush tree-lined fairways and clipped rough, we look at St. Andrews on the television and wonder why it’s so brown. Links are dryer than the courses we’re used to. The fairways appear browner because it’s the climate that goes into making the course appear this way. There are almost no trees, so the style of game is played closer to the ground where players use their creativity for bump and run shots that get them close to the pin. The lack of trees allows for winds to blow freely through the course.
On the coast, you experience brisk winds that have an effect on your play. Golfers must adjust their entire game to play at a links style course, keeping the ball flight low and changing your approach. When you play at the Old Course, the tournament can be up for grabs all the way to the very last hole.
Characteristics of a Links Golf Course
Unlike modern golf courses where the turn brings you past the clubhouse, the layout of a links golf course brings you to the furthest point from the clubhouse after hole nine, and back in as the round is completed. If the course you’re playing isn’t along the sea, it is not a traditional links golf course. The holes at a links course are developed from the natural terrain, and many bunkers were formed by natural windswept dunes.
St. Andrews features the tall, thick heather and gorse bush. Gorse usually requires a one-stroke penalty because it is impossible to hit out of the area, but it’s all about luck when landing there. Your lie determines the options you have or don’t have.
Bunkers at St. Andrews
St. Andrews sits on a bumpy and rough terrain. When you find the sand trap, you begin to realize why that area is referred to as a hazard. Players try their best to avoid even a sniff of the bunkers, as they will have to pitch out sideways, and sometimes backwards due to the depth and lips of the bunkers unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
The bunkers at St. Andrews are notorious. We call the bunker on the 14th “Hell Bunker” and the bunker on 17 “Road.” They are pot bunkers that are two of the most difficult shots in all of golf. That’s why when a player finds the trap, sometimes the easiest way to get out of the sand is to aim in a direction opposite the hole.
Weather at the 2015 Open Championship
Look for the weather to play a factor in the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Friday’s winds could reach 40 mph and rain is in the forecast throughout the weekend. Players atop the leaderboard heading into Sunday should be treated to a calm day in the mid-60s with wind gusts up to 25 mph.
Though not a true links experience, the undulating greens at one of the challenging golf courses in the Philadelphia area demand a creative and unique approach. Get in the spirit of golf during The Open Championship and play a round with us.