Links vs Parkland – The Difference Explained

Links vs Parkland – The Difference Explained

Links golf courses and Parkland golf courses both offer totally different tests of golf. Each offer their own different spin on the game, with their own individual characteristics. Links courses are where golf was invented, and are often referred to as a true test of a players ability however Parkland courses are proving more and more popular in recent years… but what exactly makes them so different?

 

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Parkland Golf Courses

Parkland golf courses tend to be what many people would consider as a ‘normal’ course. Originally called “park courses,” the terms parkland course and park course originated in the United Kingdom as a contrast to that island’s more typical links-style, seaside golf courses. Typically found inland, parkland courses are lushly manicured with verdant fairways, fast greens and plenty of trees. Parkland courses have become so popular in recent years due to the fact that they are very versatile and suitable for most climates and locations across the globe. The vast majority of televised golf, such as The European, PGA & Asian Tours tends to be played on Parkland golf courses most weeks.

Parkland courses can usually be spotted by their rich green fairways, perfect greens and large white sand bunkers. Parkland courses tend to be well manicured and have usually been heavily constructed by course architects. Architects have the ability to add elevated greens and tee boxes and have the capability to build the golf course to exactly how they like… unlike a links course where courses tend to fit in to the natural landscape. The upkeep of parkland golf courses is a huge task, particularly in the summer months. Greens, fairways and tee boxes are both cut and watered multiple times per week.

Golfers face many trials and tribulations when taking on a parkland golf course. Typically, the greatest hazards on parkland golf courses tend to be trees and man-made hazards such as dug bunkers, ponds and built up rough. It is key that golfers find the fairway when playing these courses. Many amateur and professional golfers will opt to hit fairway woods and irons to eliminate the risk of finding the various hazards strategically placed around the golf courses. A parkland golf courses biggest defence is the speed of the greens. Parkland courses on the PGA Tour tend to roll anywhere from around 10-14 on the stimpmeter… which in simplified English means, they’re bloody quick! Avoiding three putts round these courses can be nigh-on impossible at times.

As shown in the picture, Augusta National is the epitome of parkland golf. Hosting the masters every year, Augusta National defines the world manicured. Greens are hand cut every day, fairways flawless and bunkers pristine. There are endless myths about how Augusta looks so green, some say there are filters over the TV camera lenses to make the grass appear greener, others argue that grass and water hazards are actually dyed using a food colouring solution. One thing that we do know for certain is that the amount of hard work and budget in the upkeep of this iconic course is frightening. Whilst the Masters takes place on the course there are upwards of 15 greenkeepers assigned to each individual hole.

Links Golf Courses

Links Golf has often been referred to as a true test of golf. The term ‘links’ isn’t actually term specific to golf courses. It is simply a strip of generally undulating, but always sandy, terrain linking the sea and the arable farmland around the edges of the UK. As it often went unused, this was the ideal ground for sporting pioneers on the east coast of Scotland back in the 15th and 16th centuries, as they created the game of golf.  Unlike the parkland golf courses, links tracks are very natural. The grasses on a links course are easily maintained and thanks to their sandy base they drain very well, this means that links courses are very rarely, if ever, unplayable due to rain. Links courses can be found all across world, however Scotland can proudly lay claim to possessing more links courses than any other country, with 100 in total.

Links golf courses look very different to your ‘typical’ golf course. Links look very pure, and golfers play to the contours of the land. Fairways and greens tend to burn in the summer months and have more of a brown tone to them, as a result of this the course tends to play very firm and fast. Links courses tend to feature a lot of bunkers. These bunkers tend to be a lot deeper than parkland courses, with many links courses boasting ‘pot’ bunkers which can be 10+ feet deep. A true links course will consist of an outward nine in one direction along the coastline, followed by an inward nine which comes back in the opposite direction.

Like every golf course, links golf can prove very challenging. One of the biggest struggles when playing links golf can often be the windy conditions. Being on the coast, the wind speeds are typically much higher than when playing on an inland course… consequently golfers are forced to adjust their game. It is often said that the game is played “closer to the ground” and since the terrain on a links course is usually very firm, players will use more bump-and-run type shots. Typically, a links golfer will have a much lower ball flight, this helps to lessen the effects that the usually violent coastal winds have on your shots. Links greens are particularly hard and fast, trying to get the golf ball to stop on the putting surface can be very tough… especially when taking the wind into consideration.

 

Referred to as the home of golf, St Andrews Links can be found on the east coast of Scotland. Hosting seven different golf courses, St Andrews is a golfer’s heaven. The most famous of the seven is of course, the Old Course.  The oldest and most iconic course in the world, the famous Swilcan Bridge and Hell Bunker are recognised by golf fans globally. Around 45,000 rounds of golf are played on the Old Course each year, with everyone desperate to follow in the steps of many greats over the years. The Old Course is a British Open venue and has seen many iconic moments during the last 150 years of hosting the event, with past winners here including Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods.