May 05, 2023
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

What is a Links Golf Course?

Ever heard of a links golf course? 

This rare golf course type presents a unique challenge to golfers that is quite different from the typical course you might encounter - or be familiar with. Before we explain further, "golf course" is an umbrella term encompassing different course types. The typical green, manicured courses you likely think of when golf comes to mind are called parkland golf courses. These have lots of green grass, trees, and a smooth fairway. 

Another type of course, a links golf course, is the oldest style in the world and originates in Scotland. The word "links" comes from the Old English "hlincs," the term previously used to describe these Scottish courses. 

These earliest courses tended to be on rising ground along the coastline and featured sand-rich grass, sandy soil, and drier turf. The proximity to the coast makes wind and rain a factor to contend with - putting a golfer's true skills to the test! Ready for the challenge?

What Makes a Links Golf Course So Special

Due to the type of land they sit on and their proximity to the coast, links courses have harsher weather conditions and a generally more challenging layout. Architects don't heavily manufacture these surroundings like a parkland course, but rather, the course works with the natural design of the land. This idea is similar to a life lived during golf's beginnings in Scotland - certainly less structured. These courses are largely unmaintained and are ruled primarily by their environment. 

With that overview of what a links course is in mind, let's get into what sets this type of golf terrain apart from what you might typically find at the courses you know and love. Below are some factors that differ from what you might be used to on a typical course: 


You'll likely encounter an undulated surface with sandy soil below in links golf. With the firm ground, expect a good amount of roll with your tee shots - especially if the wind is on your side. Mother Nature plays a huge role in designing these courses. Exceptionally few trees will be present, and you'll often find that there are giant dunes to contend with. 

Different Style Greens

The greens, except for the dunes, are much larger than traditional golf courses. In addition, the greens are relatively flat and slower than you might be used to if you typically play on a parkland golf course. This presents an exciting challenge to golfers when they try to adjust their speed appropriately. 

Fescue Grass

These courses tend to include a main fairway, which may consist of fescue grass. This type of grass challenges most players when obtaining the ball, introducing a unique challenge for golfers. 

Pot Bunkers

Pot bunkers are incredibly deep bunkers placed thoughtfully throughout the course to present a challenging obstacle to the player. They may have a large lip and sometimes even stairs for the player to enter and exit from - extremely difficult to get out of!


These courses are often located near the coast, which presents the added difficulty of contending with rain and wind. This adds an element of unpredictability to these courses, as even a player familiar with the specific course can have a different experience from one round to the next, depending on the conditions. As a result, golfers must alter their strategies and gameplay each time they play the course, presenting a unique challenge each time!

Links Golf Course vs. Regular Golf Course

If you're accustomed to playing on a regular golf course, you might enjoy the exciting obstacles presented by a links golf course! The unique terrain and unpredictable weather create a scenario that encourages players to consider the naturally occurring elements of the course and use them to their advantage. 

To contrast, the parkland courses most of us are familiar with have been designed with a lot of help from an architect and have different natural influences than you'll find in this type of course.

Challenges Associated With Links Golf Courses

In links courses, you may face some unfamiliar challenges if you are accustomed to playing on typical courses. 

Nature governs these courses' design. As a result, this often presents scenarios that encourage the golfer to find clever and creative ways to work with their environment. 

Watch out for the pot bunkers! These can spell disaster for many golfers. This type of sand bunker is large and deep, presenting a real challenge to get out of. 

Another challenge, as mentioned earlier in this article, is the weather. Because of the unpredictability of golf links' locations and weather patterns, you never know what to expect! Strong sea breezes are par for the course! This factor also makes it so playing the same course twice never feels the same. With the varying conditions, a golfer may need to alter their strategy accordingly. Main takeaway? This course certainly isn't boring. 

Where To Play Links Golf? 

There are few of these courses, so you may need to travel to find one. You can find most links golf courses in the UK and Ireland. However, many exist in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Be mindful that just because a course claims to be a links course doesn't mean it's a true links course, so take a closer look when preparing a trip. While it may be near the coast, it may not have all the elements we've discussed here. 

If you want to play at a quintessential links course, The Old Course at St. Andrews Links is the oldest golf course in the world! 

Below are some other famous examples of links courses: 

  • Royal St. George
  • Royal Troon
  • Royal Country Down
  • Royal Portrush Golf Club
  • Carnoustie Golf Links

Tips for Playing a Links Golf Course 

Consider some of these tips if you try your hand at a links golf course! 

  • Use the wind to your advantage
  • Distance putting - you may even want to try from off the green
  • Consider a hybrid club for a lighter option with more control
  • Use a ball that performs better in the wind
  • Don't be risky if you end up in the bunker - play it safe

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Did Links Golf Courses Start? 

Links golf courses date back to Scotland, where players would typically traverse the sport on the uneven, grassy land between the farmable land and the sea. These oldest golf courses governed by this environment and the natural land are the basis for links courses today! 

Why Are Links Golf Courses Popular? 

These courses present the player with unique challenges different from the parkland courses that so many golfers might be accustomed to. In addition, the unpredictable weather conditions mean the course will feel different every time you play!

Spruce Up Your Look on the Course - Shop Stitch Golf!

Enjoy the incredible sport of golf in style! Whether playing golf links or parkland courses, browse our exciting selection at Stitch Golf to upgrade your apparel. You'll find something stylish and functional to use on your next round of golf!