Blog 76, 11/9/10 - Book Review: 'True Links' by George Peper and Malcolm Campbell; Lake Padden Winter Golf Tour

truelinksIf, God forbid, you're anything like me, then you have hundreds of golf books cluttering your bookcases. Some you love, some you don't care for, some send you to sleep, some make you jump in the car and drive to the nearest range where you can hit the buckets of balls that keep you sane. And, because of your busy schedule and the fact you have quite enough golf joke books already thank you very much, some never even get read.
In amongst my humble collection, there are roughly two dozen volumes on Scotland's links courses, Ireland's links courses, Britain's links courses, Great Britain's links courses, the United Kingdom's links courses, links courses of the British Isles, and the World's great links courses. Together they weigh about 50lbs and, if they were in any sort of order, would take up at least three shelves.
Nearly all of them are wonderful; full of fascinating histories, anecdotes and data, and accompanied by the sort of photographs you just want to step into. They are a pleasure to read and read again.
Golfers - well those with any soul at least - are obsessed with links golf. I was fortunate to play several Open Championship venues while living in Britain (just Turnberry and Muirfield to go) and have also teed it up at several more seaside gems in various corners of the globe - South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, and here in the US at the Bandon Dunes Resort whose eponymously-named original course as well as the second - Pacific Dunes - rank high among the world's best.
My favorite links (my favorite course anywhere, in fact) is the James Braid-designed St. Enodoc in Cornwall, England though I'm not altogether sure why. While immensely enjoyable, it probably isn't among the very best of links, first because it's a little short at just over 6,500 yards and second because its downland holes - 13th and 14th - are terribly bland compared with their near neighbors (the 13th has recently undergone some changes I understand, but I fear no matter how much work is done to it, it will never be as much fun to play as any of the first 12 holes, or last four). Even so, after every visit to St. Enodoc, I come away feeling I could play there every day for a hundred years and never once consider moving on.

St. Enodoc
Though given only a brief mention, St. Enodoc is listed among the 246 courses that the authors of 'True Links' (the book I started telling you about before getting sidetracked by thoughts of hitting the downhill approach shot to St Enodoc's gorgeous 3rd hole) regard as...well...true links courses, genuine articles, authentic. Of course, were adverts in the back of golf magazines to be believed, half the world's 30,000 courses would be links but, by adhering to a fairly stringent definition, America's George Peper and Scotland's Malcolm Campbell arrive at a figure that will surprise many.
They ask all the necessary questions - can a true links course be built or must it simply evolve? Can a true links exist on anything other than true linksland? Must its routing be nine out and nine back? Must the sea be visible at any point during the round? Etc, etc...
Their classification will of course provoke considerable debate, but I for one am happy to concur with most of what Peper and Campbell say. They assert that although certain courses thousands of miles from America's coastlines, a hundred miles from Britain's coastline, and just a short drive from Australia's coastline look and play much like links courses (Sand Hills, Prairie Dunes, Ballyneal, Walton Heath, Sunningdale, Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne, Huntingdale to, eight) they should not be considered as such. I agree. They say Chambers Bay in Washington State, site of the 2015 US Open and a course that describes itself as 'Pure Links', isn't actually a true links and, again, I agree. But whereas they omit Robert Trent Jones Jr's design on the grounds that it is sited on the banks of Puget Sound and not the Pacific Ocean 100 miles away, I would not include it on the grounds that it is entirely man-made. Such is their rationale for leaving out Bayonne GC, just four miles from Manhattan, which was basically built from scratch on a site no one besides Eric Bergstol, whose idea the course was, would have deemed suitable. But then Kingsbarns, Dundonald and Castle Stuart in Scotland and Budersand on the island of Sylt in the North Sea, were all the result of man's ingenuity and some powerful machinery, and yet somehow make it on to the list.
And though Turnberry and Muirfield, the two regular Open venues I've yet to encounter, are generally regarded as two of the linksiest links on Planet Links by most of the links-loving linksters I know, the inclusion of both was bought into question by noted golf commentator Jay Townsend on a forum recently (sorry, can't find it). Townsend thought that because they were positioned significantly above sea level, neither possessed all the characteristics of the Old Course which Peper and Campbell refer to as the Crucible.
The point is that while some will think Peper and Campbell's definition far too broad and their list twice as long as it really should be, plenty more will insist they have been unnecessarily strict and give you 246 more courses worthy of the name. That is part of the reason why books like 'True Links' (list price $40, published by Artisan) exist. To identify the other part, look no further than Iain Lowe's magnificent photographs.

In other news, Lake Padden has published the dates for its Winter Golf Tour (WGT) which starts this Saturday with a bonus skins game. Players should call Greg in the pro shop to make a tee-time, and begin before 1pm. The cost is the green fee + $15. This is a bonus and counts as one side game towards the February WGT Skins Game. The bonus will not be recorded as a WGT event, however. The first official event on the WGT is an individual strokeplay on Saturday the 20th. There is then a two-week gap before the three-person Cha Cha Cha on December 4th. Events take place on each of the next two Saturdays before Christmas. The first WGT Major, the Polar Bear Open, is on New Year's Day and there are events on every Saturday in January thereafter (the second Major, the Mulligan Tourney, is on the 15th). The Tour's third major, the Winter 5-Man, is on February 5th, and the 12th is reserved for a make-up day should any of the scheduled events be unplayable. The final weekend of the WGT is February 19th when the top 16 point-winners play an individual strokeplay and the Tour Skins game. For more info, click here.

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