Links Golf Courses – Ireland
Links golf are courses are that are created on the natural terrain of the seaside land banks and dunes. They have the best natural drainage possible and are playable year round because of the sea sand based foundation.
Ireland and Britain are unique in the golf world in that they possess around their vast and desolate coastlines the natural topography to site stunning tests of golf. Links golf requires different skills to what is required on parkland tracks. The treachery of Mother Nature plays a large role in the assembly of a decent scorecard on a links course.
The beginnings of modern golf can be tracked back to that most venerable institution of all sporting disciplines, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, founded in 1834. The Royal and Ancient members of St Andrews created the Old Course Golf Links in the beautiful east Scotland university town and the rest, as they say, is history.
Golf in various medieval forms was played in Europe during Roman times where it was known as pall mall. Indeed the Dutch, with some authority, lay claim to being the more modern inventors of the game in the 14 th century where a similar version of the modern game called kolven was known to be played.
However, it was in Scotland that the links type of golf evolved in the 15 th century, played as a pastime by peasants along the seaside; the only area that was considered commonage and therefore available to ordinary folk. The golf fields, as they were then known, consisted of packed tracts of dunes and flatland made green and rooted by the presence of various strong coarse grasses, fine heathers, weeds and scrub.
Allan Robertson and his protégé, Tom Morris, forever known as Old Tom Morris, were the designers of St Andrews in the 1840s when they laid out 18 holes that would eventually become the Old Course. They introduced various suitable grasses that knitted and thrived in the sand giving consistency to the fairways but retaining the unpredictable element of camber and bounce. Old Tom went on to design other fantastic seaside layouts such as Muirfield, Royal Dornoch and Carnoustie. He also designed Royal County Down in Ireland. Tom’s son, “Young Tom” picked up where his dad had left off and was a prolific designer throughout the British Isles.
The island of Ireland was akin to Scotland in coastline geological formation and was a wonderful breeding ground for the development of links golf courses. As opposed to parkland courses, links follow the natural layout of the terrain. Proponents would argue that they are the only true measure of the abilities of the golfer as the elements of wind,
undulating fairways, vast and deep bunkers, and firm dry ground combine to battle against the wits of the golfer. It is truly a situation of playing the course rather than the opponent.
Ireland has many wonderful examples of great links courses. Portmarnock, Portrush, Ballybunion and Lahinch are just a few of what would be early design. Doonbeg in Clare and Ballyliffin in Donegal are recent magnificent examples designed by Greg Norman and Nick Faldo respectively.
It is more than correct to say that it is impossible to find a poor links course in Ireland.
One will only experience the good and the great!