Links Magazine, a favorite of mine, is asking readers to post their #LinksLoves this January. Not necessarily the best courses we’ve ever played, but some of our favorites – often for sentimental reasons.
So while I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some of the top ranked in America (Bethpage, Ridgewood, Streamsong, Wannamoisett, Winged Foot, Yale) and the World (The Old Course), many of my favorites are those less heralded tracks that are simply a blast to take on each time.
You’ll notice a heavy Donald Ross flavor to the list. His Northeast courses suit the eye of this hacker who loves a wide driving area and a challenging green complex.
Here are a few crowd-pleasers:
Fenwick (Old Saybrook, CT): Nine-holer that oozes old-time charm on a spit of land in the Long Island Sound. Amid the usual obstacles of sand and water, duffers contend with a chapel, bizarre mounding and multiple shots traversing the streets in this tiny hamlet. Birdies are common. So are antique cars on the narrow roads.
Kingarrock (Cupar, Fife, SCO): Full credit to Ollie Horowitz who recommended Kingarrock to me before my wife and I traveled abroad in 2014. Nestled on an estate between St. Andrew’s and Edinburgh, it’s worth the stop. Not for the course itself, but for the chance to play with hickory clubs. That’s right, you get five clubs, a bag, a few balls, some tiny tees and a nip of whiskey along with a history lesson before stepping up to the first tee. It still ranks as the most fun my wife has ever had on the course.
Pinebrook (Bradenton, FL): Typically occupied by retired snowbirds, Pinebrook would make a hell of a spot for an afternoon bet with the guys. At just under 4,000 yards, but featuring water on every hole, this executive course was built as a par 68 with 200 yard dogleg par 4s. USGA rules changed par to 61 a few years ago, but trying to knock a 5-iron onto the green into the breeze on the 190 yard ninth hole with a bunker in front and water on all sides is more than enough of a challenge. You’d be hard-pressed to find a spot with as much opportunity for 2s and 6s on the card.
Ramsey (Ramsey, NJ): My home course as a child with so many great memories, mostly of later afternoon rounds with mom, dad, brother – or all three. It’s too short, too narrow, too quirky….but just right. Lots of birdie potential when 370 yards is a “long” par 4, but with out-of-bounds lurking – railroad tracks, busy streets, backyards and swimming pools are all just steps away, you can’t miss left and you can’t miss right. I love the 18th as a finisher – a wide open 280 yard closer with the nastiest two-tiered green on the course. Need a birdie to break 80? You know you’ve got a chance.
Shennecossett (Groton, CT): I stumbled across this course by chance – we got married nearby and I was looking for a course that weekend with some groomsmen. We didn’t get out then, but I made a mental note to head back. The holes along the Thames River get all the publicity, but the Ross-designed course has so many great ones. The driving areas are vast, but the greens won’t hold a shot from the wrong side of the fairway. Another great finishing hole with a bunker 250 from the tee – carry it and you’ve got less than 200 to go with a clear look at the green and a chance for eagle. Play left of it and you’ve got a blind 3-wood to try to get home in 2.
Spanish Point (Spanish Point, Clare, IRE): A spur of the moment decision to play after a visit to the Cliffs of Moher. I walked up with no clubs, hardly any cash (cash only) and a pair of jeans. I had the course to myself in the early evening sun for my first links experience. Huge dunes surrounding the first green are just a taste of what is ahead. The awesome green complex at #3 and #7 and the stunning views from the tiny 8th are just a few of the highlights. A funky course, a lot of fun and one I’ll always remember fondly.
Triggs (Providence, RI): Triggs is an old-time Donald Ross design, smashed into the city streets in Providence. The first time I played it I got tired of waiting for a cab back to campus at Prov. College so I walked (with clubs in tow). It wasn’t my best idea. Nonetheless, twisted and funky, it has some great par 3s (#7 and #14) and birdies awaiting on the par 37 back nine.
Wachusett (West Boylston, MA): I came across Wachusett by accident and it’s certainly off the beaten-path, but another Ross gem in New England. Tees close to greens make for a nice walking course though elevation changes keep things interested. The stretch of 7 through 13 features some really great holes, especially the recently updated #12 – a trying par 4 with a narrow driving area and uphill approach.