For many golfers and golf fans around the world who consider themselves traditionalists and I include myself here, the next three weeks on the European Tour are going to be pretty special.
Why? Essentially because the next there tournaments are being played on links courses. For me, links golf is true golf, the very heart and soul of the game.
By their very nature, links courses and their proximity to the coast tend to provide a different test to the courses the European Tour visit week in, week out. Winds blowing in off the sea, fast firm fairways, “unfair” bounces, pot bunkers and undulating greens should all make for great viewing.
More importantly, it will be great for the players. The skills they hone on ranges and courses around the world will be challenged on an entirely different level. Links golf is often described as the thinking man or thinking woman’s game.
Standing on the tee and lashing driver before taking dead aim at the flag from the fairway will hopefully not be in evidence on every hole at Lahinch GC, venue for this year’s DDF Irish Open, The Renaissance Club on Scotland’s Golf Coast, host venue for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and Royal Portrush, for the jewel in the links series crown, The Open Championship. The need to create all sorts of shots appropriate to the weather and course conditions will undoubtedly ensure that every aspect of the players’ games will be put to the test.
Forgetting about the golf for a minute, one thing that all these events will have in common will be the festival atmosphere. Having been to numerous Irish Opens over the years, it’s fair to say the Irish rank up there with the very best when it comes to their appreciation of the game and they certainly know how to party! With record crowds expected at both Lahinch and Royal Portrush, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these will both be exceptional events.
Closer to home for me, quite literally across the street from my base at Archerfield Links, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club also promises to be an outstanding week. East Lothian, or Scotland’s Golf Coast as it is known is one one the finest stretches of golfing land to be found anywhere on the planet. With twenty three courses in what is a small county, the only other place that comes close is Melbourne’s sand belt.
With so many courses, including the likes of Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane and Dunbar (the list is literally too long to include every one of them) East Lothian is full of golfers and golf fans. The fact that it is only a short drive from Scotland’s magnificent capital city of Edinburgh along with an incredibly string field will ensure golf fans will come out in their droves. Rory McIlroy’s participation will surely be a massive attraction.
If you have the opportunity to attend any or all of these events, please do so. You will not be disappointed.
Going back to the golf itself, creativity and shot-making, essentially the art of playing golf, will be at a premium. Selecting the correct club from the tee to avoid running into fairway bunkers, landing the ball 10 or 15 yards short of greens and the use of imagination on and around the greens will all be required if these great professional golfers are to succeed over the coming weeks.
To play great golf, it is essential to control two things, your golf ball and yourself. Links golf will test both skill sets to the extreme.
Yes the ball might bounce left, right, high or low when you are expecting it to do something entirely different but ultimately, the players are going to have to deal with that and everything else that is thrown at them.
Dealing with adversity may well be what separates the men from the boys in the end.
Every golf shot you hit has three component parts – Preparation, Action and Reaction or PAR – what you do before you hit the shot, what you do during the shot and how you react to it. Think about that for a minute. Now think about which parts you can control and which part you spend most of your time working on and paying attention to.
The likelihood is that when you go to the range to work on your game, you will spend the majority of your time working on the part you CANNOT control, the Action, or the shot itself.
Over the coming weeks, pay particular attention to what these great players do before and after every shot. Preparation and Reaction are largely overlooked by most golfers but not by those at the top of the tree.
This run of links golf provides an unmissable opportunity to watch and learn from the very best. Time is finite, so make sure you use that time wisely. You never know, it might just help you to become more creative in the visualisation and execution of your shots and putts.
Once you release that inner creativity, your inner artist, there is every chance you will discover or rediscover your love for links golf, which in my humble opinion, golf on it’s purest and finest form.