Peter Masters

Golf World (UK) - - PLAY -

Thanks to the ge­o­log­i­cal quirks of the UK, the home coun­tries are lit­tered with won­der­ful bona fide ex­am­ples of clas­sic links. The same can­not be said for con­ti­nen­tal Europe, where find­ing a gen­uine links course is like try­ing to find a pint of real ale on the Costa del Sol – word has it such a thing ex­ists, but you’d have to know where to look. And even then it might not taste as good.

The num­ber of true links venues in Europe would be fur­ther lim­ited depend­ing on how strin­gently you de­fine the word ‘links’. Just be­ing by the sea­side or with a view of the sea does not, in most afi­cionado’s books, con­sti­tute a gen­uine links.

Dunes are prob­a­bly the pri­mary pre­req­ui­site, fol­lowed closely, and in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, by humps, hol­lows and fes­cue grasses.

That tight, springy, firmly com­pacted turf that makes the per­fectly struck iron sing off the face with a lus­tre rarely matched any­where else is what makes links golf so spe­cial. Park­lands, down­lands, moor­lands and heath­lands all look long­ingly at the links as the clear cham­pion of golf­ing grounds.

But our friends across the Chan­nel are not to­tally de­void of such ex­pe­ri­ences. They do have some won­der­ful ex­am­ples of gen­uine links ter­rain, even if, in cer­tain cases, this style does not last for the com­plete 18. No­ord­wi­jkse in Hol­land, for ex­am­ple, has some crack­ing rugged, dune land holes, while the other Dutch con­tin­gent of Ken­nemer and The Hague are also sand based, fast run­ning tracks of great qual­ity.

Links are more preva­lent along the north­ern shores of Europe, al­though that’s not to say you can’t find rolling seascapes of a sim­i­lar stature fur­ther south. We’ve picked out one such course in Por­tu­gal. The Al­garve has sea­side golf but not proper links, but around Lis­bon there are bet­ter ex­am­ples of a more ‘British’ links.

n Peter Masters con­trib­utes to Golf World’s Top 100 judg­ing pan­els.

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