What Is A Links Golf Course?

You might think all golf courses are the same. They have 18 holes and are typically around a par 72.

Did you know that there are different styles of golf courses? What is a links golf course? It is simply one of the handful of styles.

The different styles of golf courses have different characteristics, unique challenges, and require different strategies.

What is a links golf course? Below we will define them, tell you where you can play them, and give you some tips for success when you encounter one.

In this article, we will cover:

  • Golf Links: Meaning & Definition
  • What Is A Links Golf Course? Where Do You Find Them?
  • What Are The Other Types Of Golf Courses?
  • 5 Strategies For Playing A Links Golf Course

Let’s jump into it!

Two golfers stand on a golf course next to the see with the words what is a links golf course in the foreground.

Golf Links: Meaning & Definition

The term “links” comes from the Old English word “hlinc,” meaning rising ground or ridge, and refers to a sandy area along the coast.

Don’t fall for a marketing campaign! To be a true links golf course, it needs to be near the coast and be constructed with sandy soil.

Due to the sand-based turf, a links golf course will drain well and typically plays very firm and fast.

You won’t typically find any trees on a links golf course. You will be challenged by undulation, bunkers, and high grass or bushes.

The weather is typically part of the challenge on a links golf course. You can expect to encounter both wind and rain.

Sound like fun? Let’s talk about where you can find a links golf course.

What Is A Links Golf Course? Where Do You Find Them?

What is links in golf? It is the type of course that was designed when people first started to play the game of golf.

With that in mind, if you want to play a “true” links golf course, you will need to plan a trip to Scotland, Ireland, or England.

The Old Course at St. Andrews is the most famous. In the United States, it is probably Bandon Dunes.

A golf course sits in the sun next to the coastline and blue sea.

Can you play a links-style golf course without traveling to the coast? The answer is “sort of.”

Over the last couple of decades, golf course architects have started trying to re-create the “links” experience without the coast or sandy soil.

Some are better than others, but there are some examples that will give you an idea of what it’s like to play on the cliffs of Scotland.

What Are The Other Types Of Golf Courses?

What is a links golf course? It is the oldest style of golf course, but there are several others.

You may find other styles, but we believe there are only 3 other types of courses:


The simplest definition of a “heathland” golf course might be “a links course that is built inland, away from the coast.”

The terrain, undulation, and soil will be similar to a links golf course. They may have a few trees (typically pine trees), but they are known for having heather and gorse.

These bushes (heather and gorse) are not heavily manicured on a Heathland course, giving these layouts more of a natural feel.

The most famous Heathland courses are found in England and were created when people started playing away from the coast.

A yellow golf flag blows in the wind on a heathland golf course.


Parkland golf courses are heavily manicured and feature plenty of trees to frame the holes. They get their name from the idea of playing golf in a park.

This is the most common type of golf course in the United States and the majority of PGA tour events are held on Parkland courses.

A Parkland golf course will feel more “man-made” than the natural feel of a Links or Heathland course.

The most famous Parkland golf course is Augusta National, the home of The Masters.

What is a links golf course? They are the easiest to maintain – most of the work is done by Mother Nature.

A Parkland golf course requires more work – they often use grasses and soils that are not natural for their climate.

Stadium or Championship

This is an interesting golf course style. These golf courses were built to host a golf tournament (typically a professional event).

Aerial view of a golf course with a gravel path and golf bunkers full of sand.

For the most part, these are Parkland courses that were built with spectators and television in mind.

If a country club has more than one course, they will typically call the hardest one their “Championship Course.”

In other words, this is where they would host a large event or the club championship.

5 Strategies For Playing A Links Golf Course

What is a links golf course? A unique experience for the average golfer. Many players have spent their life playing Parkland golf courses.

Playing “links” golf is quite a different experience and requires different skills and shots. Here are 5 tips to attack this unique challenge.

What is links in golf? A true test of your skill and imagination!

#1: Prepare For The Elements

When you play a links golf course, you need to bring all of your golf gear. It is not uncommon to experience all 4 seasons during an 18-hole round, in fact it is likely.

You might have to fight the wind and the rain. There are no “calm” days on the Scottish coast, so be ready for anything.

This is why the Open Championship is the most interesting of the major golf championships.

The skills to win on a Parkland course like Augusta National are quite different from winning on a links course.

What is a links golf course? A course where you need to be prepared for the elements.

Windswept grass on the edge of the coastline next to a snowy golf course.

#2: Learn To Control Your Trajectory

What is a links golf course? A place you need to know how to hit stinger, knockdown, and punch shots.

You don’t want to hit high shots in the wind – instead, you want to hit low bullets. The lower you can hit the ball, the better you will be able to control it.

Put the ball back in your stance, push your hands forward, and make an abbreviated follow-through.

The low draw is the best shot in the wind. Learn to control your trajectory by trying different shots on the driving range.

The best “links course” players have the ability to control their golf ball and keep it under the wind.

#3: Around The Greens, Keep Your Ball On The Ground

It isn’t just your long game that needs to change. You also want to adjust your short game when playing on a links golf course.

The ground is firm and the wind can impact your flop shot. Whenever possible, keep the ball on the ground.

Do you know the term “Texas wedge”? It is golf slang for using your putter from the off the green.

What is a links golf course? A course where you should “chip” with your putter. 20 yards off the green? Unless there is a bunker in your way, putter might be the smartest play.

A links golf course will reward creative course management!

A golf course with sand bunkers and a line of trees next to the coast.

#4: Get Comfortable In The Sand

Be prepared for some crazy sand traps. Links golf courses are famous (infamous?) for small and deep bunkers.

It is not uncommon to have hit a shot backward to escape from the steep lip.

The other characteristic of a links golf course is the undulation will feed your golf ball into the bunkers.

We have discussed how firm the ground is – firm ground means your ball will keep rolling – when you play a links course, it feels like your ball is always trying to roll into a bunker.

What is a links golf course? A place where your sand game will be tested!

#5: Hire A Local Caddy

Is this your first time playing a true links golf course? Are you hoping to shoot a score that is close to your golf handicap? You will need professional help!

To get the most out of your experience, you are going to want a local caddy!

They will help you navigate the course in numerous ways, but there are two that you won’t be able to figure out yourself.

First, the impact and direction of the wind. Yes, you can toss up some grass, but you will almost always underestimate the impact the wind will have on your ball.

A red golf flag with the number seven blows in the wind with an snowy golf course behind it.

It isn’t your fault, but dealing with wind on a links course is just different. Trust what your caddy tells you and make an aggressive swing.

Second, they can tell you where to aim off the tee. You won’t know where the bunkers are located or the type of bounce your ball will get in the fairway.

We would estimate that a local caddy on a links golf course can save you 10+ strokes during your round. It is well worth the fee!

What is a links golf course? A place you need to walk with a caddy by your side. If you have none played one, you need to make a plan today!

Up Next: Travel Guide to Golf In Scotland

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Ray has been playing golf for 35+ years, including being part of his High School and College golf teams. While he still enjoys playing in amateur tournaments, Ray now focuses on growing the game of golf through teaching and coaching. He has two sons that both play golf competitively and loves spending time watching them compete. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +2 handicap.

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