For many golf fans – this writer included – the next few weeks represent the best time of year to be a spectator of the professional game.
Starting at this week’s Irish Open, we will be treated to the delight of watching some of the world’s best men, women and seniors testing their games at Lahinch, Royal Portrush, Renaissance Club and Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.
It’s links golf season in Europe, which means less Trackman and more imagination as weather, firm conditions and the subtle nuances of seaside golf conspire to produce what are always some of the most entertaining tournaments of the year.
One of the great things about golf is the diversity of its playing fields and there is room in the game for all types, from the inland tree-lined variety to mountain courses.
But it is almost unanimous among those who have experienced it that by far the most joyous form of the game is that which is found on the links of Scotland, England and Ireland.
The primal golf adventure that is human vs nature is never more obvious than when playing its most historic courses.
Wrinkled terrain carpeted in tight fescue grasses that – when firm – see the ball bounding almost unthinkable distances after landing and require discipline and imagination to navigate.
(Remember Tiger hitting only one driver in 2006 at Hoylake? Genius.)
Of course when the weather turns, the courses play completely differently as high winds and driving rain can turn a docile test into a ferocious beast.
(Remember Tiger shooting 81 in a hoolie in the third round at Muirfield in 2002? Brutal.)
Links golf is a form of the game all its own and whether playing or watching the intrigue is in whether the golfer can both see AND execute the shots required.
“It’s links golf season in Europe, which means less Trackman and more imagination as weather, firm conditions and the subtle nuances of seaside golf conspire to produce what are always some of the most entertaining tournaments of the year.”
Woods is a self-confessed lover of the links game and summarised why last year ahead of his T6 finish behind Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie.
“It’s my favourite type of golf,” he said. “I enjoy this type of golf because it is creative and you have to use your mind.
“We’re not going to get the most perfect bounces. A certain shot that is hit where you think is a wonderful shot down the middle of the fairway could bounce some weird way. That’s just part of it. That’s the fun challenge of it.”
His love affair with links started as an amateur in 1995 on his first visit to the driving range.
“It was one of the cooler things, just staying on the range and hitting the ball at the 100-metre sign,” he said.
“I was hitting 9-irons and 4-irons and 5-irons and just having a blast trying to hit that sign.
“I remember my dad on the range with me saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 sign?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.”
Certainly there’s a place in the game for the type of golf we see most weeks on all the world’s main Tours.
But every now and then it’s nice to know that having 186 yards to the flag doesn’t mean simply hitting a solid 6-iron and watching the ball stop where it lands because that’s what Trackman has taught you to do.
I’m with Tiger on this one: for pure entertainment (and professional golf is only entertainment) nothing beats links golf and the vagaries it throws up.
If only we could have more of it.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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