golf course' refers to the type of soil and
terrain on which it is built.
Only 92 of the golf courses in Scotland (17%) are true links courses, although
this includes most of the historical courses. Another 10% of Scottish courses are
coastal with some properties of 'links' courses and moorland
vegetation. Apart from links courses, the other main types of Scottish golf
courses are parkland (61%) and moorland (17%).
A Links is any rough
grassy area between the sea and
the land and the word itself is
derived form the Anglo-Saxon word 'hlinc', of about 931 AD, meaning a ridge.
Later the word was used to denote any common grassy area in a town and
the term 'The Links' is used to refer to any golf course.
Montrose Links sand, grass and
gorse as links
used to be
True links soil is sandy and because
of the lack of its moisture, the grass tends to have short
blades with long roots. The grass in the rough is often the wispy long grass
which makes play very difficult even in a good lie. Links courses drain well
and provide a very firm golfing surface all
year round, and are thus the preferred choice of most good golfers.
Links land is common on
the east coast of Scotland from Wick to Berwick, but it
is also found in the south-west
coast and the Hebridean islands,
as can be seen from the distribution of links courses in the map below from
Robert Price's book.
Click picture for larger image.
The location of golf courses on links
(blown sand), raised beaches and raised marine platforms.
Early golf developed on links land. In time the golf
links were cultivated and the sand and burns (small rivers) that crossed the
links were shaped into the hazards that they are today, especially the sand,
putting it in holes called bunkers, a particular Scottish term. They may
also have been inspired by the quarry pits which proliferated on some links,
such as Aberdeen and Bruntsfield. When courses were created inland they
incorporated the tradition of these hazards, as the Bunker and the Water Hazard.
Links terrain was ideal for golfing
in the early days for several reasons. The
land is naturally undulating and extensive but of little agricultural value and thus
very suitable for this
kind of use. A form of golf was once played on the continent but died out,
possibly because of the lack of such a suitable safe area on which to play.
Because there were no mechanical grass cutters before
the mid-nineteenth century, golf was played in winter when the grass was
naturally short by animal grazing. The links area on the east coast was accessible to the
golfers of the time and coincides with the area of minimal rainfall in
Scotland. With its better drainage, links land is therefore more suitable for winter play.
When golf was banned by royal decree
from 1457 to 1502, the fact that golfers could retreat to the links, out of
sight of the populace, would have made it easier for golf to be played
despite the official prohibitions. The same would also have true of
Sunday golf during the period of religious persecution for Sabbath golf from
1580 to 1724.
In fact, the existence of the Links in
Scotland may have been responsible for the creation of modern golf. As
Oldest Sites, there appear to have been two types of golf played in the
sixteenth century - a short target golf and a longer links golf. It is
possible the latter derived from the former. There would have been no
natural targets on the links at which golfers could aim, and this may well have led to the use of golf
holes and flags as targets, though when and in which order we shall probably never
Montrose Links Hole 17 Typical Links
More details can be found in
Robert Price's book 'Scotland's Golf Courses',
from which the above map is taken.
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