Birkdale and beyond: the greatest golf links in the world

Links golf — on rugged sandhills linking the land to the sea — presents a particular test, where fresh winds, deep bunkers, rolling surfaces and deep rough challenges players to the end.

The list of courses on the current Open rotation includes some of the finest examples of links golf anywhere in the world.

Here’s a guide to those 10 tracks, plus some some alternative options nearby.

Venue for the 2017 Open Championship, Royal Birkdale is a powerhouse of a links with holes framed by towering dunes.

The Lancashire links, in northwest England, has been in existence since 1897 and is easily recognized by its 1930s art-deco clubhouse which looks like a liner.

The course fans seaward, with the two nines returning to the clubhouse, with flat fairways and fair greens rewarding accurate shots.

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington won the last of the nine Opens at Royal Birkdale in 2008.

Best course nearby: Hillside is a hidden gem and shares the same stretch of sandhills, while Southport & Ainsdale is a two-time Ryder Cup venue which winds through rollings links land.
Royal Birkdale, Waterloo Road, Southport, England PR8 2LX; +44 (0) 1704 552 020
Green fees: From £165-245 ($213-316)

St. Andrews

Known as the “Home of Golf,” the game in various forms has been played over the St. Andrews links since the 15th century.

The historic seaside and university town north east of Edinburgh on Fife’s east coast is home to seven golf courses with the Old Course at its heart.

The venerable layout occupies a windswept triangle of dunes, hills and gorse bordered by the West Sands Beach to the east and sandwiched between the New Course (1895) and the Eden, with the Jubilee, Strathtyrum and Balgove also occupying the venerable links.

The Old Course begins from in front of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club clubhouse and winds out to the Eden Estuary before turning for home, with many blind shots over seas of gorse and fearsome pot bunkers with names like “Hell” and “The Coffins,” which require careful…

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