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In Praise of Links

by Richard Green 3. October 2015 01:41

In terms of Major venues, it’s fair to say that 2015 has been something of a vintage year. Of course, any time we are treated to the sight of the world’s finest tackling both Augusta National and the Old Course in the same calendar year it’s going to be a special season. But the extra dimension added by both Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits made the 2015 Majors truly memorable… mostly for all the right reasons.

Links lovers rejoiced, for 2015 promised a festival of seaside golf. Even the Green Jackets tried to get in on the act, setting up Augusta National to play more like the inland links that Bobby Jones and Dr Alister MacKenzie first envisaged, with the running, ground game being actively encouraged. After decades of target golf this was a welcome return to a style of play rarely practised on the professional Tours.

Jordan Spieth’s dismantling of the course, founded on impeccable course management, straight driving and prowess on the greens not seen since Tiger’s pomp, gave truth to the old adage that a great putter is a match for anyone – one that anyone who’s ever played on a links will attest to.

Chambers Bay just two months later was even more of a throwback. Despite being five years younger than the Masters champion, this remarkable course on the Puget Sound in Washington State polarised opinion even before a ball was struck in anger.

Word circulated that the slopes were ridiculous, the greens rollercoasters and even the tees sharply angled. Once play started, however, it was a breath of fresh air. Players were using slopes and contours to their advantage – as well as being punished by them. Strategy suddenly became important. The bunkers were penal and a visit invariably cost a stroke… but isn’t that the point?

Was it a links? No. Did it play like a links? Absolutely!

Either side of this we had The Open at St Andrews, where the cream eventually rose to the top of an extraordinary leaderboard, and a USPGA at the remarkable Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Designed by Pete Dye as a Lake Michigan homage to the classic links of the UK, this beast of a course – featuring more than 1,000 bunkers – forced players to think and play in a very different way than they were used to. Again, it was a brilliant week.

And so as the season draws to a close we once again find ourselves back on the links. But this time it’s the real deal, with St Andrews Old, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns hosting the European Tour’s elite, as well as stars of stage, screen and sport. Let’s be clear though – it’s the three courses that are the real A-listers here.

Four rounds over these magnificent layouts on the east coast of Scotland will give you the full flavour of links golf in all its different forms. From the wide open spaces and double greens of the Old Course, to the burn and bunker-strewn minefield of Carnoustie and the artificially authentic dunes of Kingsbarns, this week reminds us why links golf remains the purest form of golf in the world.

There’s something so beautifully simple about playing golf on the coast. Courses don’t need to be tricked up when there’s wind and rain to contend with. The bumps and hollows that define a links, formed over decades and even centuries, provide an infinite number of routes to the hole. Or if things aren’t going so well, plenty of roads to ruin.  The greens can be large and inviting, as per the Old Course, but sometimes a short chip from the rough is preferable to a 100ft putt.  And then there’s the bunkering. Pots so deep you can’t see over the lip, where coming out backwards is often the only play and one shot gone feels like a good result.

Great links have that magical ability to be different every time you play them. That 340-yard par-4 can be driven on one day, yet proves unreachable in two the following morning when a hoolie blows in. There’s always a par-3 that can be anything from a pitching wedge to a 3-wood, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Making a three when it’s playing long always feels like a shot gained.

We love the firm, crisp turf… and nipping irons off it. We love putting from off the green, bunting 7-irons from 100 yards out or chipping with a hybrid and watching the ball ride the slopes towards its destination. We love the wooden fences, beyond which lie the dunes, the beach and sea. We love seeing swallows flying low to the ground, punching through the wind in a way we’d like our back-foot iron shots do. We love the swaying fescue grasses of the light rough, the glorious yellow flowers of the gorse and whins, the salt in the air and the sound of silence when the wind drops.

Most of all we love to be outside, taking on the course and the elements in the company of friends, at any time of the year. Links golf truly is the game for all seasons.

Inspired to play?

Click below to find your perfect links golf break.

Scotland – St Andrews, Turnberry, Kingsbarns, Royal Dornoch, Trump Links, Gullane

Ireland – Royal Portrush, Royal County Down, Doonbeg, Tralee, Portmarnock, Rosapenna

England – Royal St George’s, Royal Cinque Ports, Princes, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool

Wales – Royal Porthcawl, Royal St Davids, Aberdovey, Nefyn, Pennard, Porthmadog


Golf Course Reviews | Golf Destinations | Golf Experiences

Kevin Murray’s Golf Travel Diary

by Kevin Murray 24. September 2015 19:10

Golf photographer Kevin Murray has one of the greatest jobs imaginable – and in the first of a regular series we caught up with him to find out about what he’s been up to this summer.

France Road Trip

I love France so it was a treat to get down there and shoot some cracking courses. Chateau D’Augerville – a lovely Troon managed property to the south of Paris - was a good start. With a glorious Chateau and stunning course I’m looking forward to going back in my own time. I also checked out the brilliant Fontainebleau – a beautiful heathland gem - as well as the 2018 Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National. It’s not as picturesque as the other two, but what a brilliant finish with water everywhere. Should be superb when the Ryder Cup is on the line! More...

Quick 9 – USA best of the East

by Richard Green 15. September 2015 22:42

Boasting around half of the world’s courses, the USA is simply an amazing place to play golf. In this Quick 9 we’ll look at some of the best of the East side, where Championship courses and amazing resorts await.

Whistling Straits

Wisconsin might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of a US golf break, but the Midwest state has much to offer the travelling golfer.  For a start, there’s the amazing Whistling Straits – venue for the 2020 Ryder Cup and already a three-time USPGA host.

Pete Dye has created something truly amazing on the shores of Lake Michigan, with a stunning links-style layout that already ranks as one of the world’s best. Just try to avoid the 1,000+ bunkers!More...

Quick 9 – Andalucía’s Finest Resorts

by Richard Green 5. September 2015 01:08

With hundreds of miles of glorious coastline, year-round sunshine and spectacular landscapes, it’s little wonder that Andalucía is so popular. And with more than 100 superb golf courses dotted around its eight regions, there’s a golf break for every golfer. Here are nine of our favourite resorts...

Costa de la Luz (in the west, towards Portugal)

Barcelo Montecastillo

A former venue of the Volvo Masters – located close to Cadiz - Montecastillo is every inch a Jack Nicklaus course with everything laid out in front of you. Nothing is hidden, with no blind shots to encounter or mysteries to unravel. Except, perhaps, on the very large and tricky greens where decent positions can easily be squandered with a misjudged first putt.

The landscape is fairly epic with the course set on undulating land next to the famous Jerez race-track. Many Formula 1 and Moto GP teams test here during the winter months and with a couple of holes running close to the circuit you can occasionally hear the roar of engines and squeal of tyres. It all adds to the experience - and just like on the track, precise driving is always needed. After a multi-million-pound upgrade the superb Montecastillo course and resort is better than ever.More...

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In Praise of.. Dublin’s Parklands

by Richard Green 21. August 2015 02:59

Dublin’s perennial attraction to the travelling golfer is no great mystery. In addition to the après-golf delights of such a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, the friendly welcome and excellent connections to the British mainland and Europe, what helps to draw golfing pilgrims to the region every year is its miles of pristine linksland.

From the rugged glory of County Louth in the north, through the classic tests of Portmarnockand Royal Dublin, right down to the astonishing European, this stretch of coastline is truly blessed. But over the last 20 years, the parkland course has made something of a comeback and there are a number of inland gems to match the quality of anything to be found on the coast.

So what better time to take a breather from the windswept links and sample life on (relatively) dry land? More...

Fancy a flutter? 5 to watch at the PGA Championship

by Richard Green 12. August 2015 01:41
We look ahead to this week's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and pick our top 5 if you fancy a punt;

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy - 12/1

Back in 2010 a fresh faced Rory finished T3 at Whistling Straits and despite his absence due to a well-documented ankle injury, Rory McIlroy is still World number one and man to beat... boy did he look good in practice! Rory has won two of the last three PGA Championships and it is difficult not to imagine him going into Sunday with his eyes on the Wanamaker.

Robert Streb


Robert Streb - 85/1

 At number 40 in the world golf rankings Robert Streb is an unlikely outsider but worth an each-way flutter. Following a strong performance last week at the WGC Bridgestone, and the fact he’s regularly featured in the top half of the PGA Tour leader board this year, surely hints at a breakthrough victory, no? 

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth - 13/2

When the PGA Championship was last held at Whistling Straits, Jordan Spieth would have been an even fresher faced 17 year old. He is the firm favourite even though he has never played at Whistling Straits before, but such is his form this year it is almost impossible to see him finishing outside the top 10. The question is… will he be the new number one come Monday?

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka - 45/1

European Tour graduate Brooks Koepka has had an extremely solid season, starting the year in impressive fashion winning at TPC Scottsdale back in January. A T6 finish last week at Firestone coupled with a T10 finish at The Open is certainly an indication that this 25 year old is in good stead to claim his first major.

Martin KaymerMartin Kaymer - 50/1

Mediocre would be the word to describe Martin Kaymer’s season to date with a T12 at The Open being the ‘highlight’. However, back in 2010 at Whistling Straits the then ranked number three in the world triumphed by beating Bubba Watson in a play off and regardless of last week’s poor performance at Firestone this talented German certainly has what it takes to get the job done.


Algarve Fact Files

by Tom Duncombe 4. August 2015 01:32

There are six main bases to consider when planning a trip to Algarve, three obvious and three slightly less so. The former are Vilamoura, Faro and Albufeira, all of which need little introduction and are within easy reach of dozens of fine courses, with the likes of San Lorenzo, Vilamoura Old Course and Quinta do Logo all among the options.

The three less obvious options include Alvor, with the fantastic Penina Hotel & Golf Resort, Lagos, home of Palmares Golf Course, and Tavira which boasts one of the most well-renowned courses in the world, Monte Rei.More...

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