Links appeal: Article published in Golf Monthly online edition June 2018
Links appeal; Playing every links course in the British Isles
Charles O’Reilly’s age and handicap amount to a par score at Royal St George’s. Scoring average there; the age of Methuselah. A self-confessed traditional links enthusiast searching for the perfect links experience. I have challenged myself to play every links course in the British Isles and record the experience at www.thelinksgolfer.com.
Why Links golf?
A sun burned face, wind ruffled hair, sand in your collar, and a grin on your face. Another day on the links. See also; rain stung eyes, numb fingers, salty hair and a grin on your rosy cheeks. The only constant is the grin. Golf in the raw. Man and ball against the elements. You, your God and your scorecard. A primitive yet profound experience am I reaching too far? Is it transcendental?
I remember my first links round at St George’s and I loved it, not the score, obviously, but the tight turf, beautiful greens, rollicking fairways, knee length rough; definitely a two handkerchief course a red one to mark the ball, if found, and one white one for waving. There was also sensational sea food and good company. It instilled a love of seaside links, a desire to get better, and to discover the traditional links these islands have to offer.
I haven’t quite accepted that I will only ever be a moderate golfer with a handicap hovering just above the single digits. Good enough to tackle most courses but unlikely to tame any. I have felt the occasional high and have a thorough knowledge of the dark side.
Why the British Isles?
My grandmother hated sailing so when my grandfather went down to the sea she visited a different county every year staying with friends, being passed onto friends of friends, and got to know the country. Furthermore, she was always back to hand out the prizes at the regatta tea. Simple. Too often we jump on a plane to find something special, and rarely find it, yet there is so much to love in our own country. Conjoining my love of links golf with a desire to explore my own country my challenge was forming.
The geographical spread of links golf can be summarised as a story of the British Army, railways and Donald Trump’s spiritual forebears if that is an allowable phrase. There are examples of the British Army building courses in Ireland, railways opening up whole sections of the coast and entrepreneurs and golf fanatics building links on suitably unsuitable land. Dooks in Kerry, Ireland, can point to all three elements being fundamental to its birth, growth and regeneration.
Many traditional links courses are unfashionable because they appear unsuited to today’s equipment. They cannot, on their confined strips of land, be re-configured to suit pumped up youngsters but they require great subtlety. Every passing cloud changes the shots required, imagination is essential; you need to visualise how the ball will carry and run and having visualised the shot, it is extraordinary how often it turns out that way. Literally. But people bypass these glories for the new 8,000 yard layout which has to compromise character for length and hasn’t had the time to be softened and adjusted by the climate and different hands to bring past and present together. Let’s celebrate these old places handed down to us and not forget the game we inherited.
But where to start? An Australian guide, obviously, not that Darwin and Rountree, Steel and others were not useful, but David Worley is the fellow. Ex amateur tennis player an 11 handicapper, he has visited, recorded and photographed 165 links courses in the UK and Ireland. His book ‘Another journey through the links’ is a great start. He will save you a lot of time and he doesn’t put himself front and centre or go on about seafood or fallibility. He is not self-indulgent
There is a purpose beyond my indulgence which is to celebrate two people close to me that live with Alzheimers. A brain disease. The only top ten cause of death in the UK for which there is no current cure, proper diagnosis or alleviation. Over 40,000 people under 65 live with it. It is not an inevitable part of ageing. If we can devote the same resource to it as we have to cancer we can find answers quickly. But Alzheimer charities only receive £1 for every £20 Cancer research gets. Alzheimer’s Society invests in different research projects to find cures and diagnostic tests as well as caring for those living with the disease. https://www.thelinksgolfer.com/blog/2018/4/27/alzheimers-society
I am raising money through clubs donating my green fee to the charity and every Club has been very responsive. In addition, I am selling TheLinksGolfer caps. Made of high quality, enzyme washed cotton, with an adjustable brass buckle I have found sponsors who donate the caps so that every pound you give goes directly to charity. On sale for £15 plus £1 per cap p+p in the UK. You can email me with your name and address at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a cap in black, navy, red, royal blue, light blue or sage and pay via internet banking to TheLinksGolfer 30-90-89 Account 36778160
To stop my head from bursting, boring my wife to death, and keeping my psychologist sane I write down my experiences in a secret corner of the internet www.thelinksgolfer.com and occasionally illustrate them via Instagram TheLinksGolfer. There you will find reviews of the courses and seafood, and the stories and people I meet as I wander peripatetically. I can be seen, in the smart cap, talking to myself; blobbing and blogging.
Would you join me?
Your reward for reading thus far is an invitation to join me at your nearest links to tell me stories of wonder about your part of the British Isles and the glories of links golf. Email me and I will endeavour to meet you when I am next heading your way.