Definition: Many golfers use "links" and "golf course" interchangeably. But "links" is actually a specific type of golf course.
A traditional links course will have many - perhaps all - of the following features:
• The course is built along the seaside;
• The soil is sandy and drains easily;
• The course is laid out naturally, so that unusual bumps and slopes in the fairways and greens remain, rather than being smoothed over;
• The rough features natural seaside grasses;
• Bunkers are numerous, and while they range from very small to very large, are typically deep (to keep the seaside breezes from blowing the sand away)
• Fairways are rarely (if ever) watered - except by nature - and play firm and fast;
• Links courses usually have few if any trees;
• The course routes out and back. The No. 1 hole begins at the clubhouse and the front nine plays straight out so that No. 9 is farthest hole from the clubhouse; the direction turns back in at No. 10 and the course ends with No. 18 back at the clubhouse.
Golf originally developed on the links of Scotland, and many of the most famous golf courses in Britain and Ireland are links courses. For examples, see The Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal Birkdale and Turberry Ailsa.
For more on links courses, see our History FAQ entry, "What is a links course?
Different types of golf courses
Also Known As: Links course, golf links