What Is A Links Golf Course?

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What Is A Links Golf Course?

You’ve found yourself asking the question… “What is a links golf course?”. Whether you’re sitting in the pub discussing the game of golf (perhaps mid-pub quiz), learning about the game, or just keep hearing the phrase “links golf” and want to know what it means, today I have an answer for you.


Here’s the short answer…


What Is A Links Golf Course?

A true links golf course is situated by the sea, linking the sea to the land. It has sandy soil, which is great for drainage, meaning it’s pretty much always playable. There is very little vegetation, mostly gorse and other grasses. The traditional links courses are laid out over the terrain, rather than built and sculpted like inland, parkland courses. They are often undulating and most links course’s big defense is the wind. 


Some of the famous links courses include St Andrews (ranked number 1 in the top 100 golf courses in the UK & Ireland), Carnoustie, Royal St Georges, Muirfield, and many more (scroll down for a list of all the courses that have held The Open and how many links courses make it into the UK & Irelands Top 10).


A very different challenge of golf than lots of us are used to, and definitely worth finding yourself some great links golf to play.


Links courses also often have the original out and in set up of the course. The front 9 goes out to the farthest point from the clubhouse, and the back 9, brings you back into the clubhouse.


The History Of Links Golf

You want to go a bit deeper into this…. Ok then let’s do it.


Where does the word “links” actually come from? 


It originated from an old English word “hlinc” which means ‘ridge or rising ground”. Referring to the hilly, windy, sandy terrain, where nothing would grow, and was pretty much useless for anything. Basically, you couldn’t farm it, so what should it be used for… Insert GOLF!


And so that’s what the Scots did. They used these rough, coastal terrains to give us the game of golf. 


What’s The Draw To Links Golf?

Why is there a big draw to playing links golf? Why do people seek out these courses?


I think there are several reasons. One big reason is that it’s romantic. And what I mean by that is that this game that we love was created on links golf courses. It feels like we are going back to the game’s true roots, and that feels special.


The Scenery – When designing our dream golf course on the podcast, we always spoke about it being by the sea. There is just something about standing on the edge of the land looking out to sea that in my opinion makes a course special. Just take a look at some of these views from courses around the UK and tell me you don’t agree, and don’t immediately want to go play them.



How Many Links Courses Are There In The World And Where Are They?

There used to be (possibly still is) an organization called, ‘The Links Association’ that everyone seems to refer to, but as far as I can see, they don’t actually exist… no website, nothing. Either way, everyone refers to them and states a number of links courses in the world, and uses a number somewhere between 246 to 279. 


Considering there are around 40,000 golf courses in the world, that means a very tiny percentage are true links courses. 


Most of them are in the UK, but there are more in New Zealand (check out Cape Kidnappers below), Australia and USA too. 


Want to see what it would be like to play Cape Kidnappers, then check out Erik Anders Lang’s journey there, click here to watch now. 


The Open Championship

Each year the UK hosts The Open Championship, one of the four 4 majors held each year. This tournament is always held on a Links golf course and there are several courses that are used in rotation. 

The next 3 championships are going to be held at:

2023 – Royal Liverpool

2024 – Royal Troon

2025 – Royal Portrush


Here is a list of all the courses that have previously held The Open:

  • Carnoustie
  • Muirfield
  • Royal Birkdale
  • Royal Liverpool
  • Royal Lytham & St Annes
  • Royal Portrush
  • Royal St Georges
  • Royal Troon
  • St Andrews – The Old Course
  • Turnberry
  • Musselburgh
  • Prestwick
  • Princes
  • Royal Cinque Ports 

Where Do Links Golf Courses Rank In The Top 100 In UK & Ireland?

Here are the top 10 golf courses in the UK are Ireland… the ones in red are links courses:

10. North Berwick

9. Royal Birkdale

8. Sunningdale (Old)

7. Royal St George’s

6. Royal Portrush (Dunluce) 

5. Muirfield

4. Royal Dornoch

3. Turnberry (Ailsa)

2. Royal County Down (Championship) 

1. St Andrews (Old) 

So I guess it’s fair to say the links golf courses dominate the top courses in the country.


Time To Go Play Some Links Golf

So there you have it, now you hopefully I have answered your question of “what is a links golf course?”, and more importantly, I hope I’ve got you more than a little bit excited about going to go and play links golf.


While you’re on this roll of learning… want to know how many dimples are on a golf ball? Or why they even have dimples in the first place? Click here to find out.

Chris Wright
Article by:
Chris Wright

Chief Hacker at Sunday Red Golf. I absolutely LOVE the game of golf and will chat with anyone and everyone about it.

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