"True Links" the best golf book of 2010
“I love links golf – but it was not love at first sight.”
Those words, written by Tom Watson as the foreword to the new book, “True Links,” certainly apply to me.
Seven years ago, I had no clue how a links course looked like or felt like to play.
I had written and reviewed “links” golf courses in the U.S., places with double greens and pot bunkers, courses tucked along the coast that had links in their names (think Pebble Beach Golf Links and Harbor Town Golf Links). But not until I stepped off the plane in Wales and stepped onto the first tee at Royal Porthcawl did I truly get it. That day in 2003 was a rude introduction to links golf. The wind was howling so hard that pitching wedges became 5 irons downwind and balls blew off the greens. But a handful of golf trips to Ireland later and I’m truly a convert. Links golf is the best golf. Period.
And that’s what makes the release of the book, “True Links,” so fascinating to legions of links golf fans. Authors George Peper, the former editor of Golf Magazine, and Malcolm Campbell scoured the planet to find and define the world’s definitive list of links courses. They came up with only 246 by their standards.
They define links with several key criteria – sandy terrain near the ocean populated by few trees. These courses feature fast-running fairways and greens that accept run-on approaches, all accompanied by swirling maritime winds. (They broke it down into three categories: Terrain, Turf and Weather).
The usual suspects are profiled, golf kingdoms like Ballybunion and Lahinch in Ireland, Royal County Down and Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, and the Old course at St. Andrews and Carnoustie in Scotland.
Their research attempts to put to rest any debates about links golf in the United States. Pebble Beach is a links in name only. The only “true links” are the three oceanfront courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (Old MacDonald, Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes) and a course on Cape Cod.
The authors decided that by their definition, inland courses that look like links and play like links – think Sandhills in Nebraska – can’t be “true links.”
I’ve been lucky enough to tee it up at a handful of them – Royal Porthcawl, Royal St. David’s, Pennard and Pyle and Kenfig in Wales; RCD, Portsalon, Ballybunion, Lahinch, Enniscrone, Doonbeg, Dooks, Donegal, Royal Portrush, Waterville, Tralee, Seapoint, County Louth, Royal Dublin, Portstewart, Rosapenna’s Sandy Hills and Old Tom Morris and Ballyliffin’s Old Links and Glashedy Links, all in Ireland – but I’ve got so much more to see, in Scotland especially.
I found the most interesting chapter to be devoted to the men who designed the links, touching on the contributions of Old Tom Morris through Ireland’s Eddie Hackett and Pat Ruddy to America’s own Tom Doak.
Combine the rich text, filled with so much historical information, with more than 300 photos and you have simply the best golf book of 2010, hands down. Published by Artisan Books, “True Links” retails for $40.
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