I was inspired to write about playing a links golf course after watching the final round of The Open followed in close succession by the Women’s British Open which I had the pleasure and experience of competing in during my career.
This was further cemented by the English Girls Championship which was held at Littlestone Golf Club where I held one of my Coaching sessions for my England Regional Squad players.
Natural elements of a links course
So, what exactly are the characteristics of a Links course?
Throughout my career I have experienced the highs and lows of playing a links course which I would “collectively” describe them as an open expanse of land characterised by sandy soil with a variety of wild grasses consisting of firm ground with natural undulations. The bunkers are very often steep faced revetted hazards with fine sand, possessing a real challenge for many.
I have devised an acronym for the word which I have tried to summarise the experience
L uck We do require an element of “luck” during a round however with the very large field size of the Open and Women’s British the first tee time is 6.30 am with the final group 3.30 pm. The weather is a Links course defense with the changes in wind patterns and rain often a deciding factor in the most sought after Major.
The undulations and often unpredictable bounces can mean the difference in a possible victory or runner-up spot. This was cited recently by Karrie Webb in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open where she was handed an unexpected bounce leading to dropped shots.
Imagination is never more important than playing a links golf course especially in gale force winds, the flexibility and creativity required is a real skill. I recall playing in the Women’s British Open at Turnberry using a wedge to cover 190 yards then in the same round a driver covering 130 yards! This is where the feel and judgement of a golfer will manifest itself.
The low punch shots and chip and runs will become well used during a four round event with a variety of stances requiring balance, creativity and commitment. I recall playing a bunker shot from my knees.. one which I had certainly not practiced a great deal before hand.
Steep Bunker faces on Links Courses
N umbers are sometimes irrelevant in very tough conditions, very often keeping the double bogeys off the scorecard is the name of the game. It is the ability to take advantage of the calm conditions to amass the birdies as these will be harder to come by with strengthening winds fast running greens with difficult to access pin positions.
I would certainly recommend a couple of practice rounds before an event, one in the morning and one later in the day to try to accommodate all eventualities which maybe experienced.
The knowledge of your club yardages for an Elite player is absolutely key but again the flexibility and knowledge of how to hit a selection of shots is key such a shot shaping.
The prevailing wind should be noted with precise yardages and run outs to hazards and total carry distances, remember these can change drastically. A factor which is often missed are the undulations prior to a bunker so ensure these are taken into consideration.
It is not unusual for players to change their “set make up” for a links course, maybe using wedges with a different bounce or swapping more lofted woods for irons or the other way round. It is the versatility which is unique in my view to play successful links golf.
S toicism This is an advantage for a golfer to display an inner calmness at the most critical times even when your mind is racing. We can’t possibly imagine how Jordan Spieth was thinking on the last round of the Open? He displayed the most incredible resolve and total trust with his game, displaying his determined character, knowledge of the rules and strategy to overcome the particular situation.
It is that acceptance and belief coupled with patience which is critical during those testing days, look at every round as a challenge. The ability to manufacture shots with judgement in my opinion will help you to conquer a links course and enjoy it’s natural beauty.