The work of nature how to play links golf

how to play links golf
The work of nature
Links courses cop more than their fair share of criticism. But Chisholm
Park professional Andrew Whiley says golfers who are well prepared and
take a positive attitude to a links course will enjoy a unique experience
STORY Andrew Whiley Photographs Paraparaumu GC
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club.
improve your game 41
Andrew Whiley loves playing links golf.
rowing up playing golf at the ‘old’ Miramar
Golf Club, I learned to love the wind and the
bounce and run golf that is links golf. If you
didn’t enjoy the conditions you were not going
to have too many fun days on the course.
I always loved seeing the browning-off of
the golf course because it meant my drives
attained that extra 50 metres of roll, while
playing the par-3 10th hole at Chisholm Park
could mean one day hitting an easy 9-iron and
the next cutting loose with a solid 5-wood.
I guess my love of the links has grown with
my appreciation of the game. From Miramar,
I spent time working at Spanish Bay and
Pebble Beach in California before moving to
the Wanganui Golf Club. Now I am at the
Chisholm Park Golf Links in Dunedin.
Throughout this time, I have encountered
hundreds, if not thousands, of golfers who
either love or hate links golf.
Links golf is an appreciation thing. Like a
famous piece of art, everyone has an opinion
and they are all happy to share it with you.
Just ask the USPGA Tour players what they
think of links golf. The ones who embrace
it play well at The Open while those who
complain about the luck of the bounce and
how their ‘perfect’ shot was rejected by the
course might as well pack their bags and
go home!
All good links golf courses have survived
the test of time and the introduction of new
technology. Where some of the traditional
parkland courses have struggled, with modern
equipment rendering the courses obsolete,
the links golf course design has survived
today’s test of golf with titanium drivers,
hybrids, lob wedges and five-piece golf balls.
Golfers of all levels still find the courses as
difficult today as they did 50 years ago.
What is links golf? The Oxford English
dictionary defines links as: a golf course,
especially on grassland near the sea; sandy
ground near the sea, covered by coarse grass.
Links golf is the work of nature. Starting
with the sandy, barren windswept conditions
and undulations caused by time, the canvas
is set for great golf. Traits of a true links
golf course are that they are located seaside
where the land ‘links the sea’ and they are
built on sand and bleak landscapes. The
course will be buffeted by wind from multiple
directions making for testing golf conditions.
It is the layout and the weather conditions
that make links golf a true golfing test.
Links golf courses are generally laid
out with the ninth green and 10th tee
representing the furthest points from the
clubhouse, meaning you have the outward
nine plus the inward nine back to the
clubhouse. The flow of the golf course rolls
with the terrain and the bunkers are moulded
into the surrounds so as not to lose the sand
out of them when winds sweep across the
course. Trees will be sparse or growing at
angles with the heathery rough and coastal
bushes defining the flow of the course. Stand
on a knoll or rise and most of the golf course
will flow out in front of you.
A links golf course generally dries out
and browns off with weather conditions and
plays hard and fast. The ball will sit down on
Traits of a
true links golf
course are
that they are
located seaside
where the land
‘links the sea’
and they are
built on sand
and bleak
The second hole at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club.
the fairway, you will have blind tee shots
and have to think about your shots into the
green: How will the bounce go? Do I land
short or use the run off the bank to the
right? Do I bump and run it in?
No two days on the links will ever be
the same.
Links golf in New Zealand
The Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is
regarded as the best links golf course in
New Zealand. It is a true gem with flowing
fairways, some short challenging holes, and
pot bunkers that blend into the contours of
the land to ensure a great mental challenge.
The short par-3 second hole, the short par-4
risk/reward sixth, and the 17th all make you
think ‘how do I play this hole today?’.
I’ll show my bias here, as I believe
Chisholm Park in Dunedin is the best ‘true
links’ in that it truly links the land to the
open sea. Muriwai Golf Club, Kaitaia Golf
Club, Waipu Golf Club and Hokitika Golf
Club would rate honourable mentions, in my
book. Miramar Links, Wanganui Golf Club
and Oreti Sands Golf Club (Invercargill) are
not seaside courses but they do have a true
links ‘style’ to them.
Understanding links golf
When Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jnr
and Pete Dye played the Spanish Bay Links at
Pebble Beach – at the annual golf architects
conference in 1990 – I was fortunate to be in
their company, caddying for Trent Jones.
During the round, these three great
designers debated design characteristics that
should be considered in links golf design.
The key points were: the course should be
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The Kataia Golf Club is renowned for being as tough as it is scenic.
playable for all levels of players; from 100
metres out, there must be multiple shots
that can be played into the green; make the
golfer think from the green to the tee – links
golf is like playing chess, you really want to
set yourself up for the next shot; false fronts,
swales and mounding need to challenge the
player and create some illusion, rewarding
good shots and creating frustration for poor
shots; bunkers should essentially be seen
but not heard (blend into the land); weather,
weather and weather – the golf course
should be difficult in all wind directions
thus exhibiting no favouritism in any
prevailing wind.
Playing links golf
First, I see many golfers not prepared
appropriately to play links golf. Wearing the
right gear is a big asset. Wear layered clothing
and a wind/rain jacket with enough mobility
so that you can swing the club while keeping
the wind chill out. Peak hats that can be
tightened are a must, so the wind doesn’t
blow them off, especially when putting. The
secret weapon is to wear wrap-around, lowglare sunglasses as they keep the wind out of
your eyes and you will see terrain definition
much clearer. Wear lots of sunscreen as
golfers often walk off links golf courses with
severe sunburn and windburn.
On the course, you want to have
imagination and the ability to play creative
golf, whether it’s a punchy 3-wood shot, a
knock-down 7-iron from 100 metres out or a
delicate chip-and-run shot. Links golf tee shots
are all about placing the ball on the fairway
and setting yourself up for your next shot.
The 4 or 5 hybrid has become the perfect
bump and run club. You can even use your
putter from several metres off the green.
For your hands, you want to be gripping
down the club. This can also be applied to the
driver to keep the ball down. This shallows
out the swing arc resulting in lower ball flight
which really helps in windy conditions.
Picking the ball clean off the fairway is a
must. This is due to the fact that links golf
courses are drier and the types of grasses
that survive links golf course conditions are
not as lush.
A handy tip to achieving quality iron shots
on links fairways is to play the ball slightly
back in your stance. Make sure you have a
good sand wedge with low bounce as sand in
a links golf course is heavier than a parkland
course. When the sand is light and fluffy, the
wind blows it about.
You’ll enjoy links golf more if you
consider the wind your friend. Many golfers
become frustrated and blame the conditions.
Hit your shots so the wind assists the golf
ball rather than you fighting against it.
When putting in the wind you want
to widen your stance and achieve a lower
centre of gravity to reduce the buffeting
effect of the wind.
Overall, enjoy playing links golf and
the challenges it presents. Accept the
different conditions and take time out to
appreciate the coastal views. You’ll truly
relish the experience.