Don't the bunkers already SEEM this deep?
What's A Links Course?
By KorryFranke on 7/12/07
Next Thursday, July 19, marks the beginning of what will surely be yet another classic Open Championship. This year's competition returns to Carnoustie, Scotland where in 1999 players were treated to thick roughs, howling winds off the North Sea, and fairways cut at some points as narrow as 9 paces! In fact, many players refer to Carnoustie as "Carnasty" because of how difficult this course seems to play.

The Open Championship is one of the only times each season that the PGA plays a true links course. But what the heck really is a links course and how did the name evolve? The answers to these questions are found on the cold coasts of Scotland.

Scotland, the northernmost portion of the island of Great Britain, is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the incredibly turbulent North Sea. It's on this coast that the game of golf is said to have originated with countless famous courses peppering the landscape.

As it turns out, farming was an important part of inland Scotland's economy many years ago. The land near the coasts, however, was deemed unacceptable for agricultural uses. These coastal strips, or "links" of land, between Scotland's coast and mainland had sandy soil and constant heavy winds that prevented almost anything from growing except tall, reedy grasses.

Yet the farmers' loss was most certainly the golfers' gain! Someone decided that these thin links were not useless and that they could instead be built into challenging golf courses. And the links course, and maybe even golf itself, was born.

The links course traditionally follows the "out-and-back" style where holes 1 thru 9 go away from the clubhouse and towards the water and holes 10 thru 18 return back to the clubhouse. While most links courses have very few, if any, trees due to the rough and sandy soil, that same sandy soil was perfect for making many, many sand traps... except for one thing- the pummeling North Sea wind! So to prevent the sand from constantly blowing away, bunkers were dug deep into the ground (5 feet or more is definitely not uncommon... some of them seem like they really should come with a ladder!) where the punishing wind would leave most of the sand in place. Needless to say, this combination of tall rough, high winds, deep bunkers, and hard, fast greens gives links courses the extreme difficulty that makes them so famous... or infamous!

As always, if you find yourself pondering over some question relating to the game, feel free to send it my way and I'll track down an answer for you.

Email Korry your questions at

Korry Franke is a Boeing 757 and 767 pilot for Continental Airlines where he flies out of Newark, NJ to destinations across the US and around the globe. He lives in Bethlehem, PA where he spends most of his time on days off at the driving range or out on the golf course giving his game the practice it so desperately needs.

[ comments ]
JimReid says:
Excellent report!! This is really cool. There are a lot of terms like this that I've wondered where they came from. I'll start listing them and maybe Korry can answer more!!


Jim Reid
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