What we will hopefully do though is take an in-depth look at all the shades of grey and evaluate golf courses considered to be on the links spectrum and try to place each one somewhere along it.
You can then draw your own line in the sand as to what you personally deem to be a true links golf course.
To skip the article, which gives the reasoning behind it, you can view my own personal list of all links courses in Great Britain & Ireland.
To help compile the piece we have considered over 200 golf courses and tried to place them into various sections along the continuum. Information has been extracted from several sources as well taking into account my own personal experience of playing the vast majority of the venues.
For the purposes of this essay we are focusing on golf courses in Great Britain & Ireland (and the Isle of Man). We do very much hope to expand it to the Channel Islands, Europe and the Rest of the World over the coming years!
If nothing else I hope it provides some pleasure in reflecting upon the many wonderful golf courses that we have dotted around the coastline of the British Isles and perhaps even help you manage your expectations when seeking out your next links adventure.
Considering The Classics
Our starting point for considering golf courses that fall onto the links spectrum begins with the Classic Golf Links of Great Britain & Ireland book penned by Donald Steel in 1992. In this excellent book Steel enthuses about 75 courses that he considers to be the finest seaside links. 72 of them meet our geographic constraints.
• Berwick upon Tweed (Goswick Links)
• Burnham & Berrow (Championship)
• Felixstowe Ferry (Martello)
• Great Yarmouth & Caister
• Littlestone (Championship)
• Prince's (Shores, Dunes & Himalayas)
• Royal Birkdale
• Royal Cinque Ports (Deal)
• Royal Liverpool (Hoylake)
• Royal Lytham & St. Annes
• Royal North Devon (Westward Ho!)
• Royal St. George's
• Royal West Norfolk (Brancaster)
• Rye (Old)
• Saunton (East)
• Seaton Carew
• Silloth on Solway
• Southport & Ainsdale
• St. Enodoc (Church)
• Trevose (Championship)
• West Cornwall
• West Lancashire
Isle of Man
• Royal County Down (Championship)
• Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
Republic of Ireland
• County Louth (Baltray)
• County Sligo (Rosses Point)
• Royal Dublin
• Carnoustie (Championship)
• Crail (Balcomie)
• Cruden Bay (Championship)
• Elie (Golf House)
• Gullane (No 1)
• Leven Links
• Luffness New
• The Machrie*
• Montrose (Medal)
• Nairn (Championship)
• North Berwick (West Links)
• Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie)
• Royal Dornoch (Championship)
• Royal Troon (Old)
• Skibo Castle*
• St. Andrews (The Old Course)
• Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)
• Western Gailes
• Pyle & Kenfig
• Royal Porthcawl
• Royal St. David's
We are unaware of anybody daring to claim that any of the above courses cannot be classed as a genuine links. Some of them may indeed embody the true spirit of the links game more than others but in terms of defining each one as a links I think we are fairly safe.
The only one I would potentially question from personal experience is Felixstowe Ferry which certainly plays less links-like than the others for the majority of the round, certainly until the closing few holes. Although further down this page two of the above links are actually brought into doubt based on their geology.
I suspect this editorial will be lengthy enough without going into the miniature of the above 72 courses and my intention is not really to split hairs at the top end of the spectrum anyway.
Otherwise we could be asking if the three holes on the other side of the railway at Tenby demerit it from links status or does the front-nine at Pyle & Kenfig really class as links? Where is the sea at Lytham and what about all the trees at Formby? How genuine a links is the middle part of the round at St. Enodoc or holes six to ten at Prestwick for that matter? Parts of Westward Ho! and Montrose will soon be underwater so what about the new holes? Nairn dips out of the linksland momentarily and heaven forbid should the high holes at Dornoch (7th) and Cruden Bay (9th) count as 'proper' links? Ultimately if you put any course under the microscope you will find flaws and blemishes.
On a side note I do wonder whether West Cornwall and Great Yarmouth & Caister would be included if the book was rewritten today, almost three decades since it was first published. Not because of their links credentials per se but because it is debatable if they could be deemed ‘classic’ in a similar grouping to the others. That's my personal view anyway.
Crail (Balcomie) may also have a similar, albeit smaller, question mark hanging over its head for inclusion nowadays but this is perhaps missing the point of what we are hoping to achieve here. Undisputed links golf courses they certainly are.
It's also worth noting at this early point that The Machrie and Skibo Castle have both been significantly redesigned since the book was written and we touch on these two courses later on.
In summary, the book gives us a fantastic introduction to the criteria required for an authentic links golf course, especially towards the top end of the spectrum.
The Truest Of Links
There are of course many more links golf courses in the United Kingdom and another book, "True Links" by George Peper & Malcolm Campbell released in 2010, does a superb job at shining a light on these.
As you would expect none of the golf courses in Steel’s book are omitted from this publication whilst the authors add another 137 located in GB&I. However, as we will discover later, there are a few debatable inclusions and more importantly a number of clear omissions.... we’ll get to those soon too.
Like I said earlier it’s also important to note that we are not trying to put a total on the number of links courses, we are just trying to highlight where on the links spectrum all the various courses lie. A true links to one man is not a true links to another.
After rightfully appointing The Old Course at St. Andrews as the crucible of links golf the book then features two categories called the ‘Icons’ and the ‘Classics’. As you might expect the majority of courses placed into these two chapters also feature in Steel’s book but there are a good handful which we are yet to see thus far.
• Castlerock (Mussenden)
• Portstewart (Strand)
Republic of Ireland
• Ballyliffin (Old)
• The Island
• Murcar Links
• St. Andrews (Jubilee)
• St. Andrews (New)
Brora and The New Course at St. Andrews are deemed worthy of being an ‘icon’ whilst Castlerock (Mussenden) and Portstewart (Strand) in Northern Ireland are bracketed within the ‘classics’ along with Murcar Links and St. Andrews Jubilee in Scotland. In Ireland Ballyliffin (Old), Enniscrone and The Island are all included as classics. We're more than happy to include all nine of these alongside Steel's selections amongst the upper echelons of links golf courses.
Transgressing slightly for a moment, the authors also include a category on modern links golf courses - many of which were built after Steel’s book was written. There's no doubt that these creations look, feel and play like a links (certainly to the untrained eye) but die-hard purists will perhaps question if the following venues, the majority sculpted with heavy machinery and which often imitate rather than utilise natural landforms, can be deemed ‘true’ links in the strictest sense. One could go as far as bracketing them as 'faux-links' and this is why we list them here separately.
Before you object, a reminder that this article is not so much intended to consider the quality of the courses - many of the below are undeniably exceptional - but more their authenticity as a 'genuine' links golf course. Some of the courses in Ireland have had more time to mature with some now four decades old.
Republic of Ireland
• Ballybunion (Cashen)
• Ballyliffin (Glashedy)
• The European Club
• Portmarnock Hotel & Links
• Rosapenna Sandyhills
• St. Patrick's*
• Castle Stuart
• Dumbarnie Links*
• Machrihanish Dunes
• The Renaissance Club
• St. Andrews Strathtyrum
• Trump International*
• Turnberry Kintyre (now King Robert The Bruce)
Skibo Castle is also mentioned in the True Links book as a ‘modern’ which, and as we mentioned earlier, is because the current layout differs significantly to the one Steel wrote about and it should probably be moved to this section. As noted previously as well, the present day Machrie is also greatly different to the one Steel described and would now arguably fit better onto this contemporary list.
Meanwhile, The Renaissance Club isn’t specifically listed in the moderns section of the book but clearly meets the criteria so we have included it here along with the recently opened Trump International, Dumbarnie Links and St. Patrick's which would no doubt be included if an updated edition were to be released. I have also taken the liberty to include Portmarnock Hotel & Links and Sandyhills at Rosapenna in the modern category.
So what of the rest? There are another 100+ courses in the True Links book which we have not yet discussed up to this point. And this is where things start to get a little cloudy and subsequently down right murky.
Firstly, there are some courses which I would specifically like to highlight as I think they arguably belong in the discussion with the courses above rather than the ones which we will come to afterwards.
• Saunton (West)
• St. Annes Old Links
Republic of Ireland
• Donegal (Murvagh)
• Narin & Portnoo
• North West
• Fraserburgh (Corbiehill)
• Glasgow (Gailes Links)
• Gullane (No.2)
• Moray (Old)
There is no question that when playing any of these courses you are enjoying authentic links golf although as we’ll see in a little while one of these courses is called into question as a genuine links.
I would next make a case for the following courses being rightly classed as ‘true’ links and push them closer to the top end of our scale than the bottom. They may not be household names or appear on many bucket-lists but true links there is no doubt.
• Rye (Jubilee) (12)
• Castlerock (Bann) (9)
• Kirkistown Castle
• Royal County Down (Annesley)
• Royal Portrush (Valley)
Republic of Ireland
• Connemara Championship
• Laytown & Bettystown
• Mulranny (9)
• Portmarnock (Yellow)
• Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris)
• Rosslare (Old)
• Cruden Bay (St Olaf) (9)
• Fortrose & Rosemarkie
• Gullane (No.3)
• Isle of Harris (Scarista) (9)
• Kilmarnock (Barassie)
• Kings Links
• Monifieth (Medal)
• Musselburgh Old (9)
• Prestwick St. Nicholas
• Royal Troon (Portland)
• Shiskine (12)
• Spey Bay
• West Kilbride
• Wigtownshire County
• Borth & Ynyslas
Moving down the spectrum the below venues are also very much what I would deem to be a links course although there is no denying that they have moments during the round which could make you question their 100% authenticity – by that I mean there are at least a couple of holes which would not qualify as genuine stand-alone links holes (at least in my book) - but the remainder of course makes up for it so they get our backing.
• Bude & North Cornwall
• Burnham & Berrow (Channel) (9)
• Minehead & West Somerset
• Weston Super Mare
Republic of Ireland
• Achill Island
• County Sligo (Bomore) (9)
• Cruit Island (9)
• Enniscrone (Scurmore) (9)
• Gweedore (14)
• Lahinch Castle
• Rush (9)
• St. Annes
• Carnoustie (Burnside)
• Durness (9)
• Montrose (Broomfield)
• Moray (New)
• Nairn Dunbar
• Peterhead (Old)
• Royal Dornoch (Struie)
• St. Andrews (Eden)
• Strathlene Buckie
• Tarbat (Portmahomack) (9)
• Troon Municipal (Darley)
• Troon Municipal (Lochgreen)
• North Wales
Next is another group of golf courses which I would just about class as links (on a good day) but feel they do not fully capture the true essence of the game for large parts of the round, often playing over heavier soil and off lusher grasses. That’s not to say there aren’t some fabulous (often stretches) of excellent true links holes but their lack of linksyness for prolonged periods does force them down the spectrum and some may conclude they are not really true links, certainly not the complete package.
• Portstewart (Riverside)
Republic of Ireland
• Rosslare (Burrow) (12)
• Carnoustie (Buddon)
• Isle of Skye (Sconser) (9)
• Traigh (9)
A number of courses in the book are deemed a links because at least 50% of the holes are links. That obviously means some of these courses have holes which are patently not links, in some cases half the round.
The courses in the group directly above have holes which are not bona fida links but usually these are parts of the course which transition away from the sea as the routing moves inland. The below courses are more obvious in that some of their holes are not akin to links at all and don't pretend to be.
In more than a few cases it is where additional non-links holes have been added to an existing 9-hole links. The authors draw the line at 50% for inclusion in the True Links book whilst others may be more or less lenient in their definition. I think 'part links' is certainly a more accurate term.
• Southport Municipal
• Bushfoot (9)
• Portstewart (Old)
Republic of Ireland
• Sutton (9)
• Newburgh on Ythan
• Swansea Bay
In closing our lengthy analysis of the True Links book it should be noted that Sandilands has now closed and Southport Municipal probably should not have been included at all.
We will soon dig deeper and try to evaluate which other courses possibly shouldn't have made the grade either.
Getting Real With Top 100
The story doesn’t end with the True Links book because on my travels I have encountered a number of links courses that are not mentioned in the hardback.
"No way?", I hear you say. But 'tis true.
I'm not sure if they were considered and subsequently dismissed or if they were just overlooked in error. I strongly suspect the latter for most of them.
And it would appear I am not the only one who thinks this because our next source of information when it comes to dissecting the links spectrum is from the excellent Top 100 Golf Courses of the World website who produced a news article in 2017 (updated in 2021) giving their own version of the 240 ‘Real Links Golf Courses' in Great Britain and Ireland. Of course we just take a look at the 187 situated in the UK.
Interestingly what this article also does is list a number of courses that they investigated to see if they were links courses but ultimately decided they were not. On this list Sheringham is the most controversial as they claim the chalk-cliff geology does not give it links status. Technically that may be correct but perhaps because of sand blown up from the sea over the centuries the turf and natural contours match some of the very best links courses in my view. As we discover later the geology and topography of a golf course can change over time.
They also highlight (quite correctly in my opinion) Southport Municipal as not being a true links and also dismiss Traigh. They do however keep Bushfoot and Isle of Skye (which I would probably ditch).
On the flip side a couple of courses crop up on the excluded list that they considered and dismissed but where I would argue to the contrary. Those being the Cumbrian duo of Dunnerholme and Silecroft. The second is admittedly touch and go so we'll just exclude that but the first is a lovely hidden away links and should make the grade so we're going to add that.
We’ll come back to their list of 'not-links' later as it does a great job of ruling out many other contenders or at least gives us a discussion point to say 'yay' or 'nay'.
As for courses they do include on their real links list we see several new faces which the True Links book missed.
These include Abersoch which I feel should fall into 'part links' section alongside the likes of fellow Welsh half-and-halfers Pwhelli and Porthmadog. Another course in the principality, Angelsey, is also correctly identified as being a links.
Pleasingly Dunstanburgh Castle, Furness, Warren Municipal and Warren Dawlish (all rustic old links) also feature as do a couple of Scottish nine-holers on the Moray Coast; Rosehearty and Covesea.
It is also good to see the nine hole relief courses at Kilamarnock (Hillhouse) and Machrihanish (Pans) given their dues as it is the 18-hole Silverburn at Royal Aberdeen and Ashludie at Monifieth. For the most part these 'second' courses play over similar terrain to their big brothers although at Aberdeen there are only nine true links holes so we can confidently place this one in the part-links section.
The Balgove at St. Andrews is also included - it is certainly linksland (albeit very flat) although you will need to decide yourself if a 1,520 yards, par 30 beginners course meets your own criteria. For the record, unlike Steel and Peper & Campbell, they include the Himalayas nine at Prince’s as a separate entity.
Spanish Point in Ireland also gets the nod even though it is not in the True Links book.
One course that has slipped through the net is the Arran course at Turnberry. This is the resorts third course and is a lovely nine-holer. In short, the Top 100 website have correctly identified several links courses which the True Links book didn't.
There are also three courses which are very much borderline links and I have a tough time myself deciding which side of the line to come down on. I think you could make a strong case either way for Wick, Golspie and Powfoot. I'm not convinced the turf at Wick is true enough, Golspie could arguably be classed as part-links and with regards to Powfoot it is very, very close and my gut feel is that it doesn't quite do enough. However, perhaps we should side with the Top 100 guys on this and based on the fact that if some courses in the True Links book are linksy enough to make the grade then these should be too... plus proof is coming further down this article that they should ALL be deemed links.
Ultimately it is courses like the three above (along with others we will see below) which actually inspired this article. I'm very reluctant to say they are 'true' links courses but I'll admit they do fall onto the links spectrum somewhere.
So in a black and white world that gives us the following courses which should indeed be classed as links which are not included in the two books we looked at earlier but are on the Top 100 list. Then there is Dunnerholme where I am going to include it as a links too.
• Dunstanburgh Castle
• Prince’s (Himalayas) (9)
• Warren Dawlish
• Warren Municipal
Republic of Ireland
• Spanish Point (9)
• Covesea (9)
• Kilmarnock (Hillhouse) (9)
• Machrihanish (Pans) (9)
• Monifieth (Ashludie)
• Rosehearty (9)
• Royal Aberdeen (Silverburn) (part)
• St. Andrews (Balgove)
• Turnberry (Arran)
• Abersoch (part)
Adding to the fogginess of defining a true links there are some courses that the Top 100 website do include in their list but I would be reluctant to approve of myself.
Both courses at Archerfield in East Lothian get the green light thanks to their sandy soil, and in the case of the Dirleton there is maybe more of a case, but they would both just fall short for me.
They also include Cardigan in Wales which has a few exhilarating links holes at the very end of the round but for the preceding 15 holes it is not really links ground - you could perhaps pop it in the 'part links' section but does three holes really qualify it?
It’s kind of understandable why Fairhaven, Formby Ladies and Scotscraig do make their list, and I’m sure the panel will also have been on the fence to some degree when ultimately deciding, but my personal view is that this trio do not quite merit the links tag. Geologically Formby Ladies and Scotscraig may be classed as linksland but from a playing perspective in the 21st Century (the opposite case to Sheringham) neither resemble a links golf course and whilst Fairhaven may look like one at times it just doesn't do enough for long enough to be awarded links status in my book. We'll come back to Scotscraig.
There are a further 2 courses on the updated Top 100 ‘Real Links’ list that I cannot vouch for personally as I've not seen them.
• Littlestone Warren
My gut feel is that I suspect Littlestone Warren in Kent has a good chance of passing the links test but Ardglass won't quite do enough, but as I said they get the benefit of the doubt for now.
Looking in more detail at the Top 100 exclusion list and further to those courses not previously debated - either for or against being a real links - the following courses were also dismissed as being links by the Top 100 website. I am in agreement with all of these except those with an * as I have not seen them yet but am happy to bow to their greater knowledge although we will see later on that four of them should perhaps have been included based on their geology; Anstruther, Ballycastle*, Bamburgh Castle, Bull Bay, Connemara Isles, Cork*, Crail (Craighead), East Devon, Eyemouth, Felixstowe Ferry (Kingsfleet)*, Fraserburgh (Rosehill)*, Ganton, The Glen, Greencastle*, Isle of Barra*, Kilkee*, Longniddry, Maesdu*, Mullion, Nairn (Cameron)*, Nefyn, North Shore, Old Head*, Peterhead (New)*, Portpatrick (Dunskey), Sanday*, Southerndown, St. Andrews Castle, Fairmont St. Andrews (Kittocks & Torrance), St. Enodoc (Holywell)*, Stromness*, Thurlestone, Trevose (Headland)*, Westray*, Whalsay*.
Our Links Journey Continues
We’re now just looking for golf courses that have not been discussed in detail so far but may indeed be links. This is where the real detective work begins. But surely there can't be any more I hear you say! Let's see.
Our next point of reference is a book written by David Worley – Another Journey through the Links.
In this book we discover the inclusion of the Castle Course at St. Andrews, Crail (Craighead), Fairmont St. Andrews (Torrance & Kittocks), Ganton, Mullion, Old Head, Southerdown and Nefyn.
I would not deem any of these to be classed as a links course and neither does the Top 100 website as they all feature on its exclusion list.
The Castle course and both layouts at the Fairmont Resort were built on cliff top farmland and although they may look a bit like a links the turf is clearly not links ground and doesn't play that way nor do most of the holes at Nefyn. Southerndown does play very links-like but is actually download whilst Ganton is an odd one. I have heard a few people claim it should be classed as a links based on it's location next to the sea several thousand years ago (!) and whilst this could be considered a logical argument it sadly doesn't get my approval and I am going to label it with a term I hate to use; inland links. I haven't actually seen Old Head but the general consensus is that this isn't a links.
The Craighead at Crail crops up in later discussions and perhaps makes the strongest case for being a links but I'm not for turning.
Sadly this book, whilst showcasing many genuine links, doesn't really give us any new material that we don't already know about.
Introducing Robert Price
The following section will only help us identify or debate more links golf courses in Scotland but I feel it is an important one and really emphasises the fact that it is impossible to put an overall total on the number of links in existence and to some extent simply highlights the follies of even trying to determine what a links is!
But further down the rabbit hole we go.
In the book (last edition updated in 2002) Price takes a geological look at the land upon which over 500 Scottish golf courses cover. As we have already touched on different parts of the same golf course can play over different soils and terrain but in summary the author claims of the 538 courses in the book 113 have links characteristics but only 92 of them can be classed as genuine links.
It is important to note that he states in this fascinating book that "it is a gross over-simplification to put all links courses into one class" and "these are broad classifications because there are numerous and significant landform variations within each site."
It's also worth saying that the author explains how the geology, specifically the vegetation, of the land can change from one category to another over time naturally but also by man-made decisions such as fertilisation and land management.
Each golf course in the book is assigned one of 11 "Landform" variables of which 'links' is one. Other coastal courses might be classed as 'raised beach' or 'raised marine platform' for example but would not judged to be links in the strictest sense. Every course is also assigned one of 4 "Vegetation" labels; parkland, woodland, moorland or links.
The 92 courses that Price highlights as the real deal have 'links' for both categories. That obviously leaves us with 21 courses that are predominantly links in vegetation but not in landform so cannot be given the official seal of approval.
As you might expect things do get complicated now and subjectivity comes even more to the forefront because although you would think this scientific assessment should prove more authoritative than a persons own definition of a links it does throw up some dilemmas based on what we have looked at so far and what we have potentially erroneously concluded are indeed a true links.
Backtracking first of all, of the 25 Scottish golf courses that Steel selected in his Classic Links book. According to Price only 23 of them can be classed as a genuine links. Skibo Castle and Dunbar are the two which he does not give full links status to, both falling into the 'raised beach' criteria for the landform category.
As explained earlier Skibo has been significantly altered since both books were published so we're going to take this out of the equation, although it's worth noting both publications do discuss the same course in time and even Price describes it as a 'traditional links' when writing about the course in one of the chapters. Maybe this was a classification error?
We were also very surprised to see Dunbar not listed as a true links especially as Price talks about the course as a links elsewhere in the book and it clearly is (in my opinion anyway).
We move next to the True Links book. From the icons and classics chapters Brora, Murcar and both the New & Jubilee at St. Andrews are as expected classed as links. Of the modern courses mentioned in the book only Kingsbarns, St. Andrews Strathtyrum and Craigielaw were in existence when the book was published and are all down as links (as was the now extinct Kintyre at Turnberry). It would be interesting to see what Price has to say about Dundonald, Castle Stuart, Machrihanish Dunes, Renaissance Club, Trump International and Dumbarnie Links.
The majority of the other courses in the True Links book also correspond with Price's assessment of a links courses but there are some significant conflicts where the book indicates they should not be 'true' links.
Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Isle of Skye and Irvine are not down as links for both categories (they all have 'raised beaches' for landforms) whilst Durness, Hopeman and Strathlene Buckie are all classed as being on a 'raised marine platform' for their landforms and 'moorland' for vegetation - no mention of links at all!
Balnagask (Nigg Bay) is listed as 'parkland' on a 'raised beach' and Cullen is featured as a mix of raised beach & marine platform coupled with links & moorland!
Meanwhile, we've already talked about part-links courses and Newburgh-on-Ythan slips into this category with a mix of links/upland and links/moorland taking it out of the true links definition. So in theory, and for the avoidance of doubt, these nine courses should perhaps be omitted from being deemed a true links despite being included in both the True Links book and in the Top 100 Real Links list.
This revelation at the very least pushes them down the spectrum.
Comparing the book further to the Top 100 Real Links list - and mainly courses which were not included in the True Links book - we discover that Rosehearty and Monifieth (Ashludie) are indeed links and the Balgove should be included too. Further proof that the second courses at Machrihanish (Pans), Royal Aberdeen (Silverburn) and Kilmarnock (Hillhouse) should be also classed as links can be found in the book whilst other venues which found themselves on the fence earlier (Golspie, Wick & Powfoot) will be pleased to see the evidence does indeed point to the fact they are genuine links.
Covesea is not mentioned in the book but this is mostly links although with it just being nine holes perhaps the 'part-links' section would be more suitable.
As for the ones I personally ruled out, the courses at Archerfield were not built in time to feature in the book so we are none the wiser here but Scotscraig is deemed to be a links on both landform and vegetation so whilst I do not see it myself I cannot argue with the facts and it possibly does need adding to the links list!
Eyemouth is down as raised beach/moorland adding further weight that it is not links and having visited recently I can confirm it is not. Interestingly some courses mentioned above (Strathlene, Durness & Hopeman) do have the same categorisation as Eyemouth and I'd personally sway to these being links in my own view, certainly the first two.
Westray is not classed as a links in the book (undulating/moorland). Another contentious issue is that Crail (Craighead) is listed as a links on both fronts in the book whereas the general consensus up to now is that it firmly isn't - I must say I would not deem it to be a links myself.
However, the book does allow us to rule out any notion that the nearby Fairmont St. Andrews courses are links. And although the vegetation at Anstruther is deemed links the landform is raised beach so we are happy to finally dismiss this course too. Price also concludes that although they have some links qualities The Glen (raised marine platform & links) and Longniddry (raised beach & links/parkland) cannot be given 100% links accreditation. Interestingly Traigh (in the True Links book) is down as links (for both landform & vegetation) which is contrary to what the Top 100 site believe.
Adding to the complexity of it all even further there are some courses on the Top 100 exclusion list that do make the links list in Price's book. Sadly, I have not seen any of them to pass comment. They are:
• Isle of Barra
• Fraserburgh (Rosehill)
• Nairn (Cameron)
• Peterhead (New)
Price also gives us some new, perhaps controversial, considerations stating that the below courses also meet all the criteria for being a genuine links:
• Elie Sports
• Murcar (Strabathie)
• Solway Links
• Troon Fullarton
The only ones I have seen myself are the Strabathie at Murcar (it would just about pass the test) and Troon Fullarton which is certainly a links and is located inside the Lochgreen links (this is now included in the updated Top 100 list) but I cannot vouch for the others. I have my doubts about some in particular; Gairloch & Scoonie.
In addition to the discussions above we would also like to throw in some more courses not previously mentioned that are definitely not links but are misleadingly included on a Wikipedia page detailing "all the links golf courses"; Royal Cromer, Caldy and Machynys Peninsula.
The article does say "also included are many "links-style" courses and courses that share many of the features of links courses" which pretty much discredits it as a valuable source of information for our purposes.
That said, the same wiki article does include five previously unmentioned courses that I would agree with and say they are links so let's belatedly add these!
• Warkworth (9) (now included in the updated Top 100 list)
• Alnmouth Village (9) (now included in the updated Top 100 list)
Republic of Ireland
• Buncrana (9)
• Girvan (part links)
• Kinghorn (now included in the updated Top 100 list)
It should be noted that Robert Price does not have Kinghorn as a links but its classification (raised beach/moorland) is the same as some courses included in the True Links book.
Whilst Girvan is down as links vegetation but not links landform. However, there is no doubting that the first eight holes are pure links. The final ten are certainly not so we can place this in the part links section.
Other courses in the wiki article that claim to be links are below although our research would suggest most are probably not or at best it is inconclusive. Brighouse Bay, Buckpool, Bute (Kingarth), Maryport, Craignure, Machrie Bay, Garmouth & Kingston, Portpatrick (Dinvin), St. Medan, Tobermory, Royal Tarlair, Stonehaven, St. Bees, Falmouth, Ilfracombe, Freshwater Bay, Gosport & Stokes Bay, Clacton on Sea, Frinton (Havers & Kirby courses), Gorleston, Blackpool North Shore, Iona, Uig Lodge, Newport Links, St. Davids City, Cairndhu, Larne, Otway, Kilkee and Wicklow.
Brighouse Bay, Buckpool, Bute (Kingarth), Craignure and Machrie Bay are all mentioned in Robert Price's book as having links vegetation but not links landforms so we are happy to rule these out but your own criteria may differ. And whilst we have returned to Price's book for completeness's sake it's worth noting some other courses that fall under a similar heading (but are not in the wiki article or elsewhere) would be: Brodick, Carradale and the Isle of Eriska.
As for Garmouth & Kingston, Portpatrick (Dinvin), St. Medan, Tobermory, Royal Tarlair and Stonehaven Price concludes none of these are predominantly links for either landform or vegetation so they should be completely disregarded. Iona and Uig Lodge are not mentioned in his book.
Maryport is one that could have the best case. Robert Kroeger in his book Golf on the Links of England describes it as follows, "This will not compete with a Rye or Littlestone, but it does offer links golf."
And following the updated version of the Top 100 Real Links we should now include Newport Sands (Newport Links) which has come to light as a true links (potentially part-links) in Wales and potentially St. Davids City.
A few other courses have cropped up in general discussion about potentially being a links. From personal experience I will immediately rule out Aldeburgh, North Foreland, Whitby and Holyhead but cannot say for certain about Axe Cliff, Bigbury, Carlyon Bay, Magdalene Fields, Mundesley, Lydd, Whitstable & Seasalter, Cooden Beach and Bridport & West Dorset. I think some of these could be best described as 'cliff-top links' but in all truth we can confidently remove the word links.
Over to You
Well done if you have read this far. You are clearly a links aficionado!
So, you've heard what I think. What I now want to know is what you think!
Are there any courses mentioned above which you do not think should be links or are there some that we have not even mentioned and have slipped through the net? Which ones would you move up or down the spectrum?
Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @GolfEmpire_Ed
And One More Thing
If you are looking for a full list of links golf courses you will find that here which is categorised on my own personal opinion.
I'll disappoint the number chasers straightaway by saying the purpose of this article is not to put a numeric total on it. Nor do we think that is even possible.