FRIDAY, JUNE 22: A traditional ‘links’ course will have many features such as sandy soil that drains easily. The course is laid out naturally so that unusual bumps and slopes in the fairways and greens remain rather than being smoothed over. Trees normally do not feature much on the course.
Fairways should never be watered (except by nature) and the whole course plays firm and fast. Landing the ball short of the green is part of the strategy, which creates interest.
The US Open and The Open (often incorrectly referred to as the British Open in the North American press) are generally played on firm fast surfaces that allow a lot of roll and encourage the use of a running shot onto the desired target.
The colour on the TV is ‘tweaked’ to make it look green when in actual fact the course is quite brown. What they are watching is quite different to reality.
The classical British links courses are coastal strips of land between the beaches and the inland agricultural areas. The course routes out and back. The No. 1 hole begins at the clubhouse and the front nine plays straight out so that No. 9 is farthest hole from the clubhouse
The direction turns back in at No. 10 and the course ends with No. 18 back at the clubhouse.
This applies specifically to seaside areas in Scotland. Mid Ocean is designed like this which is the traditional way of doing things but makes it impossible to play nine holes and difficult to manage. Courses today are always designed to be played as two loops of nine holes.
So “links land” is land where seaside transitions into farmland. Links land has thin soil, making it unsuited for crops. Such land was often, in times past, thought to be worthless because it was not arable for crops.
The sand bunkers are natural (the soil was very sandy, after all). But such bunkers had to be deeply recessed to prevent sand from being blown away by the constant wind. This was part of the redesign of Port Royal.
So a true links course is not just any course that is treeless. The term “links” historically applies specifically to strips of land in seaside areas that feature sandy soil, dunes and undulating topography, and where the land is not conducive to cultivated vegetation or trees.
So are the courses in Bermuda links courses?
Well the answer is ‘Yes and No’ It depends on how they are maintained. Through the use of excessive watering and poor mowing patterns it is easy to turn them into something else.
At Mid Ocean and Tucker’s Point, invasive tree species have been removed, fairways widened to give the poor player opportunity to hit the fairway and the better player more options and strategy. Bunkers should not be flanked by rough but by closely cut grass to allow the ball to continue into the hazard. Over the years trees have been planted and now need to be eliminated to bring back the original design of the golf course. The true beauty of the links course is that it requires strategy and experience to master the golf course, not just power. Just going for the pin every shot will simply not work. This can be frustrating for anyone that does not understand it, but once you ‘get it’ links golf is the purest form of golf.
Mid Ocean and Tucker’s Point have returned their courses to the authentic links courses they were designed to be and now offer the true links experience that purists will truly appreciate.
Paul Adams is the PGA director of golf at Rosewood Tucker’s Point.