EVERY July I’m reminded why the British Open is my favourite Major.
Phenomenal links courses and blustery conditions inevitably dish up drama and incredible golf. You imagine yourself playing in the tournament and how magnified the emotions would be with the tradition and history that is attached to this event.
Links golf is an experience like no other you will endure on a golf course. The elements are impactful, the courses firm, the greens built with such undulations it feels more like a playground than a putting surface. And then there’s the rough – as penal as it gets anywhere in the world.
Links golf originated in Britain, with the term ‘links’ deriving from the Scottish language meaning “rising ground”, referring to the coastal sand dunes on which links courses sit. Typically, links courses have two distinct nines: an “outward” nine, which goes in one direction along the coastline, and an “inward” nine that returns in the opposite direction. This generally means two types of winds to contend with – a true test of a golfer’s course management.
Navigating your way around a links course requires a different style of play due to undulating fairways, thick fescue rough, pot bunkers, sandy wastelands and very few water hazards. The weather tends to play an influential role, with wind and rain often present. Closely mown bent grass and exposure to the elements makes for fast and firm play that requires a “running” game. Keeping the ball low to the ground and avoiding the blustery wind is key to scoring.
Links course greens tend to be large and designed to allow for an approach running up to the putting surface.
There is a special feeling you get when you tee it up anywhere in the UK. Scotland is where the game of golf originated and all that history lingers in your mind as you make your way around the links. The game is centuries old and has had very few changes in terms of rules and etiquette. However, with modern technology and the development of today’s equipment, navigating the course is radically different to days gone by.
A century ago, golfers were using a smaller ball that lacked the distance of today’s technological advancements. They were also using golf clubs fitted with hickory shafts and smaller and less forgiving heads. For professionals and amateurs alike, today’s technology makes links golf an easier and more enjoyable experience.
While there are many different types of layouts around the world, links golf is arguably the most sensational to play. Combine incredible layouts that are challenging, require unparalleled strategic wisdom, along with the general history and it makes for a very special golf experience.
Some of the places I would advise golfers to visit include Carnoustie and St Andrew’s Old Course in Scotland, along with Royal Liverpool in England. Play any of these magnificent venues and you’ll find golfing nirvana.
As for The Open Championship, we have an incredibly well deserving Champion Golfer of the Year in Henrik Stenson.
Long live the links.
• Annabel Rolley www.annabelrolley.com