What is a True Links Course?

But what exactly is a links course?

Waterville Golf Club 2

True links courses are few and far between in North America. In fact, less than 1% of all the golf layouts in the world would be defined as “true links,” with just a handful in the U.S. Many of the most famous American golf destinations – including Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island – are links-style courses.

Per “True Links,” a 2010 book by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper, there are only 246 authentic links courses in the world and only four in the U.S. (three of which are at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon). There has been much debate as to whether or not these courses qualify as true links and, if so, why other U.S. courses don’t make the cut. For undeniable links courses, one must travel to Great Britain or Ireland, where the vast majority of true links course are located.

The word “link” is derived from the Old English word “hlinc,” which means “a ridge.” At its simplest definition, a links course is situated along a coast and often includes sand dunes and few, if any, trees or inland water hazards. Instead, major obstacles come in the form of deep, pothole bunkers and large shrubs. Additionally, the fairways are often lined with thick and tall seaside grass, which can make locating even the most slightly mishit balls extremely difficult. The lack of trees and coastal location also make wind an important factor.


Links courses are traced back to the beginning of golf. In the game’s earliest days in the 1500s, coastal stretches of land that farmers deemed useless due to the sandy soil proved ideal locales to play the new sport. The Old Course at St Andrews, known as “the home of golf” is a true links course as are many other iconic layouts throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

“Links golf is tough, but also features some of the most scenic and beautiful holes you will see anywhere in the world,” says Carr Golf travel expert Mark Byrne. “One of the most common tips you’ll hear in golf is to keep your head down. With links golf, I would suggest lifting your head and taking it all in in between shots.”

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Hosted in partnership with The Pinnacle Experience, our 2nd Annual World Links Invitational Pro-Am this fall will be played on several of the world’s greatest links courses. Competitors will have the opportunity to play Waterville, Tralee, Dooks, Doonbeg and Lahinch. In addition to unforgettable golf, this event also includes five-star accommodations, luxury transportation, and professional hospitality plus a robust social program featuring evening receptions, dinner functions, nightly entertainment and much more.

As with all Carr Golf tournaments throughout the year, careful consideration is taken when choosing the host courses. Many of them are favorites amongst the Carr Golf Travel family.

“Dooks Golf Club is my favorite ‘hidden gem’ in Ireland,” says travel expert Sean Benville. “It’s a great course to be introduced to links golf, a course that is set in the scenic views amongst the Slieve Mish and Dingle mountains. The greens are quick and hard to hit, however, brave play will be rewarded with the course playing quite short. We are noticing a trend that returning clients insist on having this course as a must play. The Club was founded over 100 years ago and many comment about its charm and quirkiness, which adds a unique feel to one of Ireland’s oldest golf clubs.”

For more information on tournaments, or to plan a custom luxury golf vacation to the southwest of Ireland, contact us at 1.855.617.5701 (U.S. toll free) or +353.1.822.6662.