What Is A Links Golf Course? [Explained]

When it comes to golf courses, links courses are some of my favourite places to play golf.

The challenge of playing links golf is unlike any other golf course you’ll play, but what actually is a links golf course?

Let’s take a look at the requirements for a course to be known as a links course, plus we’ll pick out a few of the very best links courses in the game of golf.

What Is A Links Golf Course?

What Is A Links Golf Course?

What Is A Links Golf Course?

A links golf course is the oldest and most classic form of golf course, which is most commonly found in Scotland, England and Ireland.

A true links course is found in a coastal location, with the sea nearby. The ground is made up of sandy soil which drains easily and usually keeps pretty firm from the good drainage capabilities.

Links courses are designed to not have any trees or only a few trees throughout, which means they’re heavily open to the elements. The wind off the coast on these coastal courses can become very challenging for golfers and on some days, be a brutal test of golf.

A links course is known for its wide open space, with heavy undulations, dunes and run-offs, plus a whole host of deep pot bunkers which can absolutely ruin a golf score.

Links golf plays host to the biggest tournament in professional golf, The Open Championship, which features the best players in the world competing on firm, fast golf courses such as the Old Course at St Andrews Links.

Oftentimes, golf courses are known as a golf links but aren’t actually true links courses. More modern golf courses are designed with a links style in mind, however, because of their soil type and layout, they will never truly be a links golf course.

Pebble Beach Golf Links, for example, is known as one of the best golf courses in the world and even has ‘golf links’ in its name, however, it isn’t in fact a links style golf course because it doesn’t have all the features of true links golf courses.

History Of Links Golf Courses

Links golf courses are the oldest form of golf course, from when golf originated back in the 15th century.

The areas which are called links land, were made up of dry sandy soil and the natural terrain was the perfect place for a golf course because it required little to no maintenance.

Without the heavy machinery that golf courses have these days and with limited resources, grass that never needed cutting was the best solution for the early golf course.

The links course name comes from the word hlinc, an Old English word, which stands for “rising ground, ridge”. This phrase can be seen in the traditional links style course which has plenty of undulations.

What Is The Opposite Of A Links Golf Course?

The opposite of a true links golf course is a parkland golf course. Parkland courses are very different types of golf courses mainly because of where they’re built.

Parkland courses are usually built inland compared to links golf courses which are by the sea. A parkland course has the feel of playing golf in a park, as the name suggests, usually with plenty of trees and lush grass.

A parkland course is much harder to maintain, due to the type of soil and grass they’re made on. The designs tend to require far more architecture to create hazards and undulations by the golf course architects that create them.

Inland courses such as a parkland, provide a totally unique test of golf compared to a links golf course.

The tree-lined courses usually are much softer, allowing golfers to stop balls on the greens more easily. Rough is usually longer and hazards are designed much bigger.

Shots need to be flown all the way to the greens, whereas links golf requires more imagination on shots to cope with the firmer ground.

Parkland golf courses tend to be what you’ll see each week for PGA Tour events. Links style courses aren’t as common in the USA, with golf fans more used to seeing soft courses with large greens and plenty of well-manicured fairways.

The most famous parkland layout is Augusta National, home to the most iconic golf tournament, The Masters and some of the most recognisable golf holes in the world.

Heathland courses are closer to a true links style golf course, with their more open layout, less manicured feel and selection of gorse and heather bushes.

Heathland courses are mostly found in the UK and include brilliant options such as Sunningdale Golf Club and Alwoodley Golf Club.

How Do You Play Golf On A Links Course?

Links golf is all about playing the layout that’s in front of you. It requires imagination and using various slopes and natural elements.

Good control of the golf ball is very important to help deal with the strong wind conditions. Keeping the ball low and under the wind with little spin, will make it easier to play during windy days.

The great thing about links golf is there is less focus on the golfer’s ability and more on creating different shots.

Final Thoughts

Links courses remain the truest and most traditional forms of golf.

From the classic Scottish courses which helped shape the game we know today, to the famous links courses which play host each year to The Open Championship, links golf is one of the best types of golf courses in the world.


Why do they call it a links course?

Links golf courses are called links because of the Old English word, hlinc, which refers to “rising ground, ridge”. The courses are also built on links land which is a dryer area with sandy soil.

Are all British Opens played on links courses?

The Open Championship is always and has always been played on a links golf course. Links golf is the truest form of golf, which requires lower shots with plenty of imagination.

Is St Andrews a link course?

St Andrews is the oldest and most famous links golf course in the world. The layout is a classic links style, with sandy soil, open space and next to the sea.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

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