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Northern Ireland's Big 2

by Richard Green 28. October 2015 23:48

One country, two great courses…we run the rule over Northern Ireland’s regal pair following the R&A’s announcement that the Open will return to Portrush in 2019.

THE HISTORY…

Royal County Down

It might have been designed by Old Tom Morris in 1889 for a fee supposedly “not in excess of four guineas” (£4.20), but golfers owe a debt of gratitude to Joseph Tatlow, who was in charge of the Belfast & County Down Railway. Looking for a location along the train line that was suitable for a golf course, he happened upon the village of Newcastle and was immediately smitten. The course was later reconstructed under the guidance of Harry Vardon and gained its Royal title in 1908.More...

Quick 9 - Vilamoura

by Richard Green 14. October 2015 21:28

The beating heart of golf in the Algarve, Vilamoura is undoubtedly one of the best places in Europe for a golf tour. Great courses, perfect weather, easy transport links and plenty of nightlife make this the ideal destination for your next Portugal golf break. Here’s nine of our favourite courses…

Victoria

Designed by Arnold Palmer and host to the Portugal Masters every year on the European Tour, the Victoria Course is a brilliant test. With plenty of sand and water to avoid, not least on the tough closing stretch, drama is guaranteed at this iconic venue.

San Lorenzo

Meandering through thick pine forests and past the spectacular lagoons of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, San Lorenzo is a beautiful course that lays claim to be the best in the region. Holes 6-8 and then 15 in – played alongside the water - garner all the attention, but this is a truly great course.More...

The Golfbreaks.com Volvo #greatgolfdrives Winners

by Richard Green 9. October 2015 19:27

When Tom McCann, an assistant pro from Morecambe Golf Club in Lancashire, took a picture of himself and a friend holding a crumpled fiver after a closely-fought match, little did he know that it would lead to the links golf tour of a lifetime thanks to Golfbreaks.com.

The Golfbreaks.com Volvo #greatgolfdrives winning photo

The 24-year-old’s photo was eventually selected as the winner of the #greatgolfdrives competition run by Golfbreaks.com to celebrate its partnership with Volvo, with leading golf photographer Kevin Murray praising it for the way it perfectly summed up everything we all love about golf.

The prize was truly out of this world - a sensational UK links golf tour for four people, including use of a brand new Volvo XC60 and new Callaway Big Bertha driver each. With the choice of no less than seven incredible links golf destinations in the UK and Ireland, Tom opted for nearby Scotland – namely Aberdeen and the Highlands - and an itinerary that included the mythical Royal Dornoch, the Scottish Open venue of Castle Stuart and Donald Trump’s newest creation, the remarkable Trump International Golf Links.

Here’s what Tom had to say about the trip.

Getting in the mood at St Andrews…

“It was absolutely fantastic, and it’s not over-exaggerating to say it was the trip of a lifetime.

The Volvo arrived right on schedule on the Friday… what an amazing car, so easy to drive. Loads of room, 100% luxury inside and all the mod cons you can imagine. I was looking forward to trying out the heated seats but as it turned out there was no need.. we lucked out with the weather so much that we played in t-shirts the entire time. Late September so far north in Scotland that has got to be unheard of.More...

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

Tags:

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...

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...

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