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.