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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
The links effect

The Open Championship has always been played on a links course but it is not the only golf tournament to do so.

Carnoustie was labelled Car-nasty when the Open was last played there in 1999

The likes of Carnoustie - the venue for the 2007 Open - St Andrews and Muirfield fall into the category of a links course while the Belfry, for example, does not.

The major difference between a links course and a parkland course is that it is far less manufactured.

Links courses are all about being at one with nature and are mostly found on the coastline. The courses are fashioned out of the sandy, windswept terrain, with few "man-made" additions.

As a result, the fairways and greens tend to be far more undulating. There are far more blind shots around dunes and mounds, and players will hit lots of shots from uphill and downhill lies.

There are far fewer trees and water obstacles, but the courses are far more open to the elements.

The word links comes from the fact that the courses were built on land that linked the mainland to the sea - hence the windier conditions.

The more it blows, the higher the scores. And links courses do tend to be tough.

While the hard ground - because of the underlying sand drying quickly - allows the ball to travel further from the tee, the ground off the fairway is far less forgiving.

Michael Campbell
The bunkers at links courses are the trees and water of parkland courses

The rough areas are thicker than your typical parkland course, the fairways are cramped and the greens are incredibly quick.

Players, therefore, have to be at the peak of their game, aiming more for accuracy than brute force.

The priority on a links is to approach the green from the right spot in the fairway.

Get out of position on the fairway, and you will greatly reduce your chances of getting close to the pin.

Usually, links have very firm greens, which makes stopping the ball difficult. This, coupled, with the gusty conditions, means the usual method of dropping an approach onto the putting surface from a great height is less effective.

The canny links golfer will pitch their low trajectory approaches short of the green and roll them on to the putting surface.

Despite all these obstacles, players, in general, love links golf.

These are courses that have stood the test of time. They also make constant demands on a player's skill and imagination.

In short, links courses are where golf was invented, and they remain the ultimate test of a player's ability.

Open course guide
12 Jul 06 |  Golf
From Prestwick to Royal Troon
04 Jul 04 |  History

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