Unlocking a Mystery: What Is a Links Golf Course? Explained!

A links golf course are common in coastal regions and they are marked by sandy, wind-swept terrain. Originating in 1457 Scotland, these courses uniquely challenge golfers with deep sand traps, instead of traditional tree or plant hazards, amplified by beachside conditions.

Picture of beautiful links golf course

Are you a golf enthusiast looking to expand your knowledge of golf courses? If so, then you have likely come across the term “links golf course“. While most people are familiar with general golf course terminology, not everyone knows what a links golf course is.

This article will explore the history, characteristics, and unique challenges that come with playing on a links golf course. Links golf courses are most commonly found in shoreline regions and coastal areas.

They are known for their sandy terrain and challenging wind conditions, which make them quite difficult to play on. The term “links” comes from Scottish links, where the earliest form of this type of golf course originated.

The first-ever recorded game of golf was played on a Scottish links-style course in 1457. These courses have been around for centuries and remain one of the oldest types of golf courses in existence today.

Links courses were built out of necessity due to the natural landscape along the shoreline regions, which made it difficult to farm or build settlements. One characteristic that sets links courses apart from regular parkland-style courses is their deep sand traps.

Since these courses were built in areas with limited vegetation cover, there aren’t many trees or other plants to create hazards on these courses. Instead, designers created intricate sand traps that could completely change any round’s outcome.

"Links courses were built out of necessity due to the natural landscape along the shoreline regions, which made it difficult to farm or build settlements."

Playing on a links-style course presents numerous challenges for even experienced players due to its challenging wind conditions and beachside location factors. With these characteristics in mind, we must also remember how important it is for players to know how to play on these types of terrain.

One notable example of an incredible links golf course is Shinnecock Hills, located near Southampton, New York – it has hosted five U.S. Open Championships since 1896! Another remarkable place worth mentioning is Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, located along Oregon’s rugged coastline overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It features five unique links courses designed by some world-renowned architects.

While the meaning of links golf courses has evolved over the centuries, they remain one of the most challenging and unique types of golf courses in existence today. Whether you’re playing on a Scottish Links course, a more modern Nebraska Links-style course, or even a Wisconsin Golf Course, you can expect to face deep sand traps and challenging wind conditions that will keep you on your toes at all times!

Check out this video below from Mark Crossfield‘s Youtube channel:

History of Links Golf Courses

Links golf courses are known throughout the world for their challenging play, scenic views, and distinctive characteristics. But where did links golf get its start? The history of links golf courses is a fascinating one that dates back centuries.

The first references to what we now know as “links” come from Scotland in the 15th century. At the time, golf was played on rough terrain, often near the coast or in areas where farming was difficult.

These natural areas were called “linksland,” which refers to land that links the sea and inland areas. In Scotland, they found that this type of terrain was ideal for playing golf.

Over time, more and more courses were built on this type of rugged terrain. The Old Course at St Andrew’s is one of the oldest and most famous links courses in history, having been established over 600 years ago.

In addition to St. Andrew’s, there are many other notable links courses throughout Scotland and England. The Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport has hosted many prestigious events, including The Open Championship multiple times.

Muirfield Golf Links has also played host to several major golf tournaments over the years. Links courses aren’t confined to just Europe, though; there are also examples of these types of courses in other parts of the world, like Pacific Ocean golf resorts or Wisconsin golf courses with different types of landscapes but sharing similar characteristics like deep sand traps or hazardous bunkers.

"The Old Course at St Andrew's is one of the oldest and most famous links courses in history, having been established over 600 years ago."

One key feature that distinguishes a true links course from other types of seaside or oceanfront courses is its location on sandy soil near the coast. This creates a unique challenge for players, as breezy conditions can cause balls to veer off course and land in pot bunkers or other hazards characteristic of coastal golf courses.

Overall, links golf represents a distinctive style that emphasizes natural beauty over man-made features like water hazards or elaborate landscaping. With a full definition now explained, it’s clear why these types of courses continue to be popular among golfers of all skill levels and why they continue to host some of the world’s most prestigious events.

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Links Golf Course

Characteristics of a Links Golf Course

The characteristics of a links golf course are what make it unique and challenging compared to regular golf courses. Links golf courses are typically located on or near coastlines and have sandy, dune-like terrain.

The wind is another distinguishing factor, as it is always present and can be very strong, adding an extra level of difficulty for players. The sandy terrain of a links golf course creates a different type of playing surface than what most golfers are accustomed to.

The fairways are often firm and fast, making ball rollouts common. Additionally, the greens tend to be smaller than those on traditional courses, which means that precise approach shots are even more important since one errant shot could cause a player to miss the green altogether.

Pit bunkers or deep sand traps add an additional challenge to link golf courses. These bunkers can swallow up stray shots without much effort, leaving players with difficult and uneven lies that can make it challenging for them to advance the ball closer to the hole.

Another characteristic of links golf courses is their unpredictability. For example, unpredictable weather conditions such as rain showers or gusty winds can suddenly change the dynamics of a game in progress.

Players must remain flexible and adapt their play accordingly. Playing on a beachside link or oceanfront course requires different strategies than playing elsewhere due to its unique challenges.

"Links golf courses are typically located on or near coastlines and have sandy, dune-like terrain."

One key element when playing on these types of courses is knowing when you need to hit your shots high in order to avoid hazards such as pot bunkers or steep slopes. Understanding the characteristics of a links golf course provides valuable knowledge for any golfer planning on playing this type of course for the first time.

Knowing how to handle deep sand traps or pit bunkers will help players keep their scores low while also enjoying the challenge that comes along with playing on this type of course. Overall, Scottish links provide one of the most challenging tests in all sports when played well with good equipment and the right skill set.

Links Golf Course

Geographic Location and Determining Factors

Links golf courses are typically found in shoreline regions, such as Scotland’s North Sea coast, which is home to some of the most renowned links courses in the world. The geographic location of a links golf course plays a critical role in determining its character, and many factors contribute to this.

One of the most important factors that determines whether or not a course is considered a “links” course is its proximity to the sea. Even courses that are located inland but still have similar soil and weather conditions can be classified as links-style courses.

The turf on a links-style golf course is much different than that found on an inland golf course. Links courses feature firm, fast-running fairways and greens, with little irrigation or maintenance required due to frequent rainfall and natural drainage.

The rolling dunes terrain allows for breezy play as well, which adds another level of challenge for players. Pot bunkers are also one of the defining characteristics of links golf courses.

These hazardous bunkers are often deep and steep-sided, making them difficult to hit if you find yourself in one. They’re usually placed strategically around greens or along fairways to punish errant shots by players who try to cut corners or play too aggressively.

The Sand Hills Golf Club, located in Nebraska, is an example of an Oregon coastal course with typical features of links golf courses on sandy terrain with undulating valleys resembling Scottish hillsides filled with deep pot bunkers protecting greens and fairway landing areas. When playing on a links golf course, it’s important for players to adjust their game accordingly due to the unique characteristics mentioned above.

Being able to adjust your game based on the weather conditions is also critical when playing at these challenging venues. Geographical location plays an integral part in determining whether or not a golf course can be categorized as a “links.” Shoreline regions bring about specific soil and weather conditions that promote firm turf, while clubs near oceanic areas have rolling dunes, making it a perfect location for links golf.

Furthermore, the presence of pot bunkers, along with lesser maintenance and irrigation requirements, makes links-style courses unique and challenging. If you ever get the chance to play on one of these courses, be sure to adjust your game accordingly!

How to Play on a Links Golf Course

When it comes to playing on a links golf course, there are many factors that come into play. The terrain of these courses is unlike anything you’ll find on an inland course, so it’s important to have an understanding of what you’re getting into before you tee off. First and foremost, one of the most distinctive features of links golf courses is the challenging wind conditions that often come into play.

The consistent winds coming off the ocean or sea can greatly affect how your ball travels through the air, making club selection and shot-making a true test of skill. In addition to the wind, navigating the fairways on a links course can also be tricky.

Unlike traditional courses with well-manicured fairways, links golf courses often feature mounds and uneven lies due to natural land formations. It’s important to keep your shots low and watch out for any deep sand traps or pit bunkers that might be lurking around every corner.

Speaking of sand traps, they are an integral part of any true links golf course experience. With deep pot bunkers dotting nearly every hole, players must use precision and strategy with their shot placement if they want to avoid these hazards.

Another key factor when playing on a links course is understanding how to chip and putt on greens that might be more unpredictable than those found on traditional courses. With coastal winds whipping through and potentially affecting ball movement at any given moment, knowing how to read greens is crucial in order to sink those putts.

Overall, playing on a Links golf course offers up its own unique set of challenges compared to other types of golf courses. From navigating uneven terrain and deep sand traps to mastering club selection in windy conditions – there’s no doubt that playing a round at one of these prestigious seaside courses will put your skills as a golfer to the ultimate test.

Links Golf Course

The Difference between a Links Course and a Regular Course

One of the most significant differences between a links course and a regular course is the turf. Links golf courses are often located in seaside locations and have sandy soil. This type of soil doesn’t hold water well, which makes it difficult to maintain lush, green fairways. Instead, links courses have firm and fast fairways that allow for more roll on the ball once it lands. 

Another difference between links courses and regular courses is the layoutTraditional Scottish courses were built on natural landscapes, which means that they don’t always follow a specific design plan. As a result, players are forced to navigate their way through challenging terrain that includes slopes, hills, and bunkers.

The challenge of playing on a links course is also influenced by its location. Because these courses are often built near the sea, golfers must contend with windy conditions.

This can make it difficult to control the trajectory of shots and requires players to adjust their swings accordingly. Golf equipment can also play a role in how players approach links courses versus regular ones.

"One of the most significant differences between a links course and a regular course is the turf. Links golf courses are often located in seaside locations and have sandy soil."

Because links courses feature firm turf and require more shots from around the green (due to fewer trees), many golfers opt for lower-lofted clubs like irons instead of high-lofted wedges. When it comes to notable links golf courses, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Some of the most well-known include the following:

  • Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon which features five different coastal layouts
  • Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska which has been compared favorably to traditional Scottish layouts 
  • Shinnecock Hills in New York which has hosted multiple U.S. Open championships
  • Royal St George’s Golf Club in England which regularly hosts The Open Championship

In contrast, inland golf clubs typically feature more trees than their seaside counterparts – which can make them less susceptible to the wind but also reduce visibility for off-course surroundings photos – as well as more regular terrain designs that follow standard blueprints.

Check out this video below from Mark Crossfield‘s Youtube channel:

Notable Links Golf Courses

When it comes to links golf courses, there are some that stand out above the rest. Many traditional Scottish courses have been around for centuries and have become legendary in the world of golf.

One such course is St Andrews Links, located in Scotland. This course has hosted several Open Championships and is considered one of the birthplaces of golf.

Golfers from around the world come here to experience its rich history and challenging holes. Another notable links-style course is Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska.

This course was designed to mimic the natural terrain of a true links course, complete with rolling hills, fescue grasses, and sandy soil. The result is a challenging yet enjoyable round of golf that feels authentic to links-style play.

"One such course is St Andrews Links, located in Scotland. This course has hosted several Open Championships and is considered one of the birthplaces of golf."

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon also offers a unique links golf experience. With four courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this resort has quickly become a top destination for golfers looking for a breezy play on seaside greens.

The resort prides itself on creating an atmosphere reminiscent of traditional Scottish courses while still incorporating modern amenities such as top-notch golf equipment and luxury accommodations. Whistling Straits in Wisconsin provides another excellent example of a modern-day links-style course with stunning views.

This expansive resort features two 18-hole championship courses along with luxury accommodations overlooking Lake Michigan’s shoreline regions. Named one of Golf Digest’s “100 Greatest Public Courses,” Whistling Straits provides an unforgettable experience for any golfer looking to challenge themselves on world-class greens.

Peconic Bay Links is an 18-hole public course located on Long Island, New York. It offers stunning views over Peconic Bay’s peaceful waters while playing some challenging holes at affordable prices! The greens are well-manicured with fast-paced putting surfaces that require precision shots to avoid going into bunkers or catching some wind and ending up short or long; this makes for fun-filled rounds among friends or family.

Overall, the world of golf courses offers a variety of links-style options to choose from. Whether it’s the traditional Scottish courses with their rich history or modern resorts overlooking the Pacific Ocean, golfers can find a links course that meets their individual preferences and skill levels.

Links Golf Course

The Future of Links Golf

Links golf has been around for centuries and has stood the test of time. However, with the increasing popularity of inland golf courses and modern technology, many wonder if links golf will still be relevant in the future.

One concern is climate change. Rising sea levels and increased storm activity could lead to erosion and damage to many seaside links courses.

Some courses have already implemented measures to combat these issues. For example, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York has elevated its greens to prevent flooding during storms.

Another factor that could impact the future of links golf is changes in course design. Recently, Pacific Ocean golf resort Pebble Beach updated its course with a $12 million renovation project that included adding fairway bunkers and enlarging greens.

While this might attract more players who prefer a more traditional style of play, it could also detract from the natural challenge that links-style courses are known for. Despite these concerns, there will always be a place for links golf.

"One concern is climate change. Rising sea levels and increased storm activity could lead to erosion and damage to many seaside links courses."

The unique challenges posed by playing on a coastal course will continue to draw players who enjoy breezy play along shorelines or through dunes, like at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Additionally, while traditional inland courses may become more advanced with technology such as GPS mapping or artificial turf greens, there is no substitute for natural terrain like that found on Scottish links courses such as St Andrews or Royal Dornoch.

In fact, some inland clubs are even attempting to emulate the experience of playing on a true links course. Wisconsin’s Sand Valley Golf Resort has been designed to mimic the feel of playing on an authentic Scottish links course by incorporating sandy waste areas and undulating greens into its design.

Ultimately, while changes in climate and technology may affect how we approach golf in general, the challenge and beauty of playing on a true links course will always be appreciated by those who appreciate its history and uniqueness. With so many different types of golf courses available, there will always be a special place for links golf in the world of golf.

Links Golf Course


As we come to the end of our discussion on links golf courses, it is clear that these unique golfing destinations offer a one-of-a-kind experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Whether it’s playing on a Scottish links course or navigating through deep sand traps in a desert course, the game of golf is elevated to new heights when played on these coastal courses. One of the standout features of Links golf courses is their natural beauty.

The rolling fairways and stunning vistas create an atmosphere that is unmatched by any other type of golf course. Playing along a beachside links course or overlooking the Peconic Bay at an Oregon coastal course makes for an unforgettable experience that golf enthusiasts will remember for years to come.

The weather conditions also make links golf unique. Blustery winds and unpredictable weather can add an extra layer of challenge to the game, forcing players to adjust their strategy and think creatively about how they approach each shot.

For those who love a good challenge, there’s no better place than a Scottish links course. Another distinguishing feature of links courses is their pit bunkers.

These deep sand traps require precision and skill to navigate, adding yet another level of excitement and difficulty to the game. Traditional Scottish courses are known for having some of the most challenging pit bunkers in the world.

When it comes down to it, playing on a Links golf course is truly an experience like no other. From Nebraska’s Sand Hills Golf Club‘s Nebraska-style layout with massive dunes and natural vegetation reminiscent of Scottish Links golf courses to beach courses where water hazards take center stage, these courses offer something for every golfer out there.

It’s no wonder why links golf has become such an important part of modern-day golf culture. Despite being deeply rooted in history, links golf remains popular today, in large part because many people enjoy its inherent challenges as well as its stunning scenery. There’s something special about this type of golf that you just can’t get anywhere else.

As people continue to flock to these coastal courses, it’s clear that the future of links golf is bright. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the game, head out to your nearest links course and see what all the fuss is about!


A links golf course is typically defined by its sandy, undulating terrain, minimal trees, deep bunkers, and proximity to the coast, often resulting in strong, challenging winds.

The term “links” originates from Scotland, referring to the sandy, windswept terrain connecting farmland and the sea, where the earliest forms of golf were played.

Links golf requires a ground game approach. Due to wind conditions and firm fairways, players often opt for low, rolling shots rather than high, lofted ones.

Parkland courses contrast with links courses, characterized by lush, manicured grass, plentiful trees, and typically situated inland away from the windy coastal conditions of links courses.

Key features of links courses include sandy soil, few trees, numerous deep bunkers, undulating fairways, and strong wind conditions due to their coastal locations.

Yes, St Andrews, particularly the Old Course, is a world-renowned example of a links course, situated on the east coast of Scotland.

The challenging elements of links golf include undulating fairways, deep bunkers, limited trees for wind protection, and variable wind conditions that greatly influence shot strategy.

Regular golf equipment suffices, though golfers often choose lower-lofted clubs for lower, controlled shots. Wind-resistant clothing and a good supply of golf balls are also advisable.

Famous links courses include St Andrews Old Course, Royal County Down, Pebble Beach, and Muirfield, renowned for their history, design, and tournament hosting.

Yes, aside from traditional links, there are seaside or coastal courses that feature more vegetation and water hazards but share the coastal location with links courses.

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