Lesson In Links
Control your trajectory for better scoring
Any golfer worth his salt dreams of trying his hand on a true links golf course. Turnberry, Kingsbarns, Royal Dornoch, even Carnoustie—they all present challenges that inland courses, protected from the elements, simply can’t muster. The soft fairways that prevent errant drives from running into the rough don’t exist. Spongy, well-watered greens that receive approaches of all kinds just aren’t there. It’s a whole different style of play that favors putting over pitching and low, authoritative punch shots over high, spinning floaters. Above all, links golf demands imagination.
To understand how native players of links-style golf feel, one only has to listen to PGA professional David Thomson, who teaches at the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in Dornoch, Scotland. “American-style golf doesn’t take anything up here,” he says, pointing to his head. “All you have to do is hit it on the fairway and hit it on the green. There’s not much to it.”
Now, many of us would scoff at Thomson’s assertion that target golf is as easy as that, but in reality, he’s more correct than many would like to admit. Simply tee it up on a seaside track with 30 mph winds, firm, tightly mown fairways and rock-hard greens, and you’ll find out. Iron shots that aren’t hit cleanly will struggle to get airborne, and drives that balloon will wind up a good 40 or 50 yards shorter than expected.
Because the conditions are so much more challenging than those on most target golf courses, scoring on a links course demands a wider variety of shots. Trajectory control is key, particularly in scoring situations inside 100 yards.
In light of this fact, we retained the help of Guy Redford, who currently teaches at Dundonald, the newest course affiliated with the fantastic Loch Lomond Golf Club (designed by Kyle Phillips and located near the town of Troon). Redford is particularly well suited to provide links instruction, not only because he grew up playing in the brisk Scottish winds, but because he has been privy to many of the best traditional tips for scoring. Of course, these same techniques can be utilized anywhere the wind blows and where conditions are less than ideal.
The Low Runner
On target-style golf courses, approaches from 100 yards and closer generally demand a high, spinning sand- or lob-wedge shot. When it comes to windswept links courses, however, this type of shot can be extremely difficult to execute, if not impossible. Not only does the wind interfere with both trajectory and accuracy, but the tightly mown or dormant fairways (depending on the time of year) make nipping clean wedge shots a difficult task.