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Best Links Golf Courses

from the experts in Golf Travel

Guide to Links Golf

Links courses are at the very epicentre of the game of golf. Whether it is The Old Course at St Andrews, the famed Home of Golf, or modern links masterpieces such as Bandon Dunes or Kingsbarns, links golf is a box that every golfer must tick.

Worldwide Links Golf Courses

Links golf courses are found across the globe, all the way from Tenby to Tasmania...and pretty much everywhere in between. Defined as the land that links the sea with the arable land, links courses have established themselves on some of the world's greatest real estate, offering breathtaking vistas and memorable challenges each time they're played.

Best Links Golf Courses in The World

The Old Course St Andrews (Scotland)

Muirfield (Scotland)

Royal County Down (Northern Ireland)

Royal Dornoch (Scotland)

Trump Turnberry (Scotland)

Royal Portrush (Northern Ireland)

Pebble Beach Golf Links (America)

Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes) (America)

Ballybunion (Ireland)

Royal St Georges (England)

What is the difference between a standard golf course and a links?

Traditionally, links golf courses are very natural in their design. Unlike their parkland counterparts, links golf courses will utilise the natural lay of the land to create the course we enjoy. Whether that is natural sand dunes to shape the holes or uphill, downhill and sidehill lies that create for testing approaches and putts.

Links golf courses also differ from the likes of parkland or heathland golf courses in that they have very good draining courtesy of their sandy soil. Expect fast-running fairways and firm greens year-round when playing on seaside links. Equally, with less protection from the elements, links golf courses are typically more exposed to wind.

This combination of wind and fast, firm ground ensures for a very different round of golf with expectations on the ability to hit the ball low and under the wind, often known as a punch or a stinger, or by playing pitch-and-run shots around the green. The key attribute to playing a links golf course well in the wind, or at any time, is to have good ball-striking which sees the ball less impacted by the wind.

What makes it a links golf course?

There are many reasons and rationale about what makes it a links golf course but the acceptance criteria would include the following -

Be within sight or less than a mile from the sea
Have firm sandy soil
Have natural undulations on the fairways and greens

There are some golf courses that might be seen as "inland links" but they would fall foul on the natural undulations and sandy soil that is only found next to the sea.

Are there any links golf courses in the US?

Many purists believe that the only true links golf courses are found in the UK or Ireland. There have, however, been many golf courses, both new and old, that have laid claim to being a links golf course in the USA.

Whether that is the incredible Bandon Dunes in Oregon which now boasts no less than five 18 hole layouts, designed by the world's most acclaimed golf course architects. Or perhaps the dramatic layout of the Straits Golf Course at Whistling Straits, home of The 2020 Ryder Cup and PGA Championship or the acclaimed National Golf Links of America or Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Long Island, New York.

Whilst these golf courses might not tick every box to lay claim to being a true links golf course, the experience is very similar, expect a focus on shot-making, the ability to keep the ball low to the ground and utilising the natural contours of the land to try to find your way to the putting surface and the hole.

Modern Links Golf Courses

Whilst many links golf courses have stood in their sites for centuries, there are many modern designs that have cropped up in recent years to achieve critical acclaim. The Kyle Phillips designs at Kingsbarns which is a regular stop for The Alfred Dunhill Links on The European Tour and Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, designed by Pete Dye, which has hosted The Ryder Cup and PGA Championship are just two examples of stunning modern links design that are set to feature within many Top 100 Golf Course lists.

Best Modern Links Golf Courses

Kingsbarns Links (Scotland)

Barnbougle Dunes (Australia)

Tara Iti (New Zealand)

Cape Kidnappers (New Zealand)

Castle Stuart (Scotland)

Cabot Cliffs (Canada)

Kiawah Island Ocean Course (America)

Trump International Golf Links (Scotland)

Cabot Links (Canada)

Whistling Straits (America)

Hidden Gems Links Golf Courses

All eyes for playing championship links golf courses often head to the many that have hosted Open Championships but it is easy to miss the amazing golf courses that provide a stunning links experience, often at incredible value as part of a golf tour. All the way from the very North of Scotland with The Nairn Golf Club to the challenging test in The Garden of England that is Kent and Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, you'll find a host of great links golf courses that will be sure to see you enjoying a bump-and-run.

Best Hidden Gems Golf Courses

North Berwick (Scotland)

Leven Links (Scotland)

Royal Aberdeen (Scotland)

Murcar Links (Scotland)

Western Gailes (Scotland)

Royal Cinque Ports (England)

Cruden Bay (Scotland)

St Enodoc (England)

Saunton Golf Club (England)

Royal St Georges (England)

Wherever your championship links golf experience takes you, you'll be sure to enjoy a memorable seaside golf break from the likes of Royal Porthcawl in South Wales to Royal North Devon in the South West of England. As a stable of golf history, playing some of Britain's finest championship venues is a trip that every golfer should try to play.

Resorts with Links Golf Courses

Some of these acclaimed links golf courses also benefit from some excellent hotels also available on-site. The possibility of waking up in the morning to see the golf course you are about to take on is a fantastic feeling and makes the short walk to the 1st tee something that you'll do with aplomb.

Best Links Golf Resorts

The Lodge at Pebble Beach (America)

Bandon Dunes (America)

Cape Kidnappers (New Zealand)

The Old Course Hotel (Scotland)

Trump Tunrberry (Scotland)

Trevose Golf Links (England)

The Lodge at Prince's (England)

Fairmont St Andrews (Scotland)

Saunton Sands Hotel (England)

Cabot Cliffs (Canada)

FAQs about Links Golf Courses

What makes a golf course a links?

The accepted criteria for a links course is it should be within sight or less than a mile from the sea, have firm sandy soil and have natural undulations on the fairways and greens.

Are there any links courses in the US?

Some say there are only 4 links courses in the USA. Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Old Macdonald and the Highland Links on Massachusetts Cape Cod. We would add to those the dramatic layout of the Straits Golf Course at Whistling Straits, the acclaimed National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Long Island, New York.

What is the difference between a standard golf course and a links?

Links golf courses are very natural in their design, unlike their parkland counterparts, they also have very good draining courtesy of their sandy soil. Equally, with less protection from the elements, links golf courses are typically more exposed to wind so links courses often require a different style of golf to be played.

Are there any good modern links golf courses?

Whilst many links golf courses are over a Century old there are some modern designs that have cropped up. Kingsbarns, Trump International Links and Castle Stuart in Scotland, Barnbuougle Dunes in Australia, Cabot Links in Canada, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Kiawah Island's Ocean course and Whistling Straits in America.