In the spirit of the 146th Open Championship in Southport, UK this week I would like to offer some tips to making the most out of your links golf experience. The land on which links courses are built have a few common characteristics that set them apart from parkland or desert courses like undulating land, gusty conditions and long grasses or gorse(spelling?). The following are just a few things I have learned the hard way but may help you:
- Bring rain gear – Despite the great forecast, there is a great chance that at some point during your round you will get chilly or wet. The wind/rain jacket and pants will help with that. The umbrella that you should also bring could shade you from the sun if the weatherperson guesses correctly that day. Try to buy rain gear a little big so that it does not restrict your swing for the best results.
- Play the ball low – Too many times the wind has died down enough for me to play aggressive and hit the driver only to gust and blow my ball into trouble. When able, take less loft and remember that the closest to the ground that you play the ball, the more predictable the shot will be. Playing a 60 degree wedge from around the green is not the greatest option every time in links golf. Playing less loft and controlling your swing tempo will ensure that you hit better shots that pierce through the wind.
- Control your emotion – It is very easy to get angry when your tee shot hits the left side of the fairway and rolls all the way off the right side into a blackberry bush but to master the links you have to be mentally prepared that those things can happen. When you are prepared, it sets your mind into a state where you can focus on a solution for the upcoming shot instead of dwelling on the unfortunate result of the previous shot. You might even get a lucky break to even it out…if the gods are on your side.
- Take a local caddie – The most knowledgeable people on the links course you’re playing are the caddies that walk the grounds everyday. No member or pro has the experience that the caddie has on that particular course. Most caddies are decent golfers themselves (this happens through a process known as osmosis) and could shed some light on the subtleties of the greens or a different aiming point off of the tee. Take a caddie and enjoy the walk.
I hope this helps you have more fun with links golf and maybe even help out your scorecard a bit.