Every year this time, you hear it from some golfer sitting in the sports bar with the British Open playing on the big-screen TV. He's been to Ireland or Scotland and played ye olde courses over there and he's droning on and on about it, as if it weren't actually a place on earth built by people, but a paradise in heaven, hand-crafted by angels.
Yeah, it gets a little tedious sometimes, doesn't it? Still, I've played many of those European links courses and thoroughly enjoy them. I like the wide open fairways, the gorgeous heather, the way the best of them bleed into their surroundings between the sea and inland spaces.
That's why so many golf course builders in the U.S. try to describe their courses as "links courses." In fact, there are only a handful of true links courses in the U.S. or Canada.
But, there are a ton of interesting Florida courses modeled after them, usually called "links-like" or links-style" layouts. Here are some of my favorites, and make sure you check out the slide show at the bottom:
- The New Course at Grand Cypress is Jack Nicklaus' tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews, including the famed "hell bunker." The New Course also has fescue, hidden pot bunkers, stone walls and long, grassy mounts and "burns." All hail Scotland!
- Royal St. Cloud is a very affordable, links-like experience in a cool, little town. Wide, rippling fairways and no rough, this is a place where you can hit those low runners up to the fast greens like they do in the British Open.
- The International course at Champions Gate was designed by Australian Greg Norman, who modeled it after the Melbourne Sand Belt courses of his home. Fun course, and tough when the wind rears up over the central Florida plains.
- Crooked Cat at Orange County National is 7,278 yards with large, sloping greens, steep grass and sand bunkers. The course has 50-foot elevation changes, and routing twists and turns so the wind is almost always coming at you from different directions.
- Perdido Bay Golf Club was originally a heavily-treed, parkland layout, but after Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, as well as some good bulldozer work, it now sports a links-like feel.