Especially in the U.S the term “links” is frequently misapplied. “Links” refers to very specific type of course. But nowadays it is common for any golf course that is relatively treeless to call itself a links course, and that’s not accurate.
In America, they get away with it. Most American golfers, have never seen a links course.
The British Golf Museum says that “links” are coastal strips of land between the beaches and the inland agricultural area where crops are grown. This term, in its purest sense, applies specifically to seaside areas in Scotland.
Close to the Beach
They were close to the beach, lots of sand traps were a natural, but the traps had to be deeply recessed to prevent sand from being blown away by the constant wind.
Because the soil was of a poor quality and constantly buffeted by the seaside winds, not much would grow on it-mostly just tall, reedy grasses, and certainly no trees.
Not any course that is treeless
So a true links course is not any course that is treeless.
The term “links” historically applies specifically to the strips of land in seaside areas that feature sandy soil, dunes and undulating topography, and where the land is not conducive to cultivate vegetation or trees.
Built on Narrow strips of land
Links courses were built on narrow strips of land and have often followed an “out and back” routine; The front nine went out from the clubhouse, one hole stringed after the other, until reaching the 9th green, which was the point on the golf course furthest from the clubhouse. The golfers would then turn around on the 10th tee, with the back nine holes leading straight back to the clubhouse.
A links Course Defined:
In modern terms a “links course” is more broadly defined to include golf courses build on sandy soil and that are buffeted by the winds. A links course must play firm and fast, with sometimes crusty fairways and greens that feature many knolls and knobs to create odd bounces and angles. And of course a links course needs to be relatively treeless with a native rough that is tall and thick.