Great Tips for Playing Links Golf
While the U.S. has several excellent links-style courses, they provide only a cursory introduction to what you’ll find on a true links course in Scotland and Ireland, where you’ll battle prevalent wind and rain and often cold conditions. Enhancing the challenge is heather, gorse, tall grasses, thick rough, undulating, firm fairways and mogul-strewn greens.
Playing true links golf requires a strong mental approach and a variety of shots you don’t normally hit on a typical inland American golf course.
Here are a few tips to help lower your scores and make the true links experience more enjoyable:
Hit Controlled Drives-When the wind is howling and you’re standing on the tee staring at a fairway dotted with bunkers and framed by gorse and tall grasses, your main objective should be to keep the ball in play. Gripping it and ripping it with no concise strategy is a recipe for disaster. There’s a time and place for the long ball and a windy links course is not it. You should tee the ball lower, grip down on your driver, take a shorter swing and keep the club head lower during the follow through to hit a knock-down, controlled drive.
Execute the Bump and Run-On a windy and rainy day, hitting high and beautiful looking wedges into a green is really not a viable option if you want to get close to the hole. A common shot you’ll incur is the 50 to 60 yard approach with an open front green into a strong wind. What do you do? Here’s the advice Colin Montgomerie gives in the book “How to Play Links Golf” by Martin Davis: “Select a four, five or six iron, play it back in a narrowed stance, hands set forward and your weight mostly on your left side. Take a waist high back swing (or less), mostly with your hands and arms, hitting down on the ball to an abbreviated, rounded low-hands finish. If the terrain is fairly flat, don’t let the toe of the club pass the heel; if you have to reach an elevated green, allow the toe to pass the heel so as to impart some hook and spin and hence put some additional “run” on the ball.
Just Get the Ball Out-One of the easiest ways to compound your problems and have your score balloon faster than points at an NBA game is to go for hero shots from fairway bunkers on links courses. When you have a high front bunker face and you definitely can’t reach the green, you should consider playing out sideways or even backwards. It may seem like a surrender (which it is, to a degree), but the object is to get the ball in play on the fairway and reduce your chances of a major disaster. In greenside bunkers, many amateurs are defeated mentally before they even swing. Hitting the ball over a radically high walled bunker plays havoc with your mind. The key is execute a good set-up, swing the club on line with stance and alignment, strike the sand behind the ball at a predetermined point and aggressively follow through. It sounds so easy, but there’s always a tendency to peek and , if you do, bad things will happen. If you’re a mid-handicapper, your first goal should be to escape successfully the first time.
Don’t Over Analyze Your Putts-Getting the correct distance is more important than the line. Advises Montgomerie: “Don’t fall into the trap of looking for breaks that aren’t there. Trust your instinct. If you can’t see an obvious break, chances are there isn’t one. And even if there is, it’s only going to be subtle. On a putt of under 10 to 15 feet or so on most traditional British greens, if you hit the ball firm and straight, you’ve got a great chance of holing it, even if the ball drifts off line by a couple of inches.