True Links summary review

Added on January 28th, 2013 by
Posted in book, General


True Links’ reviewed in summary 


This 308 page, 11” by 11” glossy, is written by two of golf’s most highly respected journalists, George Peper (ex-editor of American Golf Magazine) and Malcolm Campbell (ex-editor of Britain’s Golf Monthly). After researching in depth and combining all their enormous knowledge of golf, they have created their definitive list of 246 of what they call ‘true links courses’ across the world. (210 in GB&I)

true links, george peper, malcolm campbell, There is an excellent chapter called ‘The Creators’ which is an absorbing history of the leading golf course designers from Old Tom Morris right up to Tom Doak/Ben Crenshawe. All the historic changes are captured, driven by the ball (500 years of featheries, 50 years of gutta percha, 100 years of Haskell) through the golden ‘running’ era up to the 1960s, the gradual ‘Americanisation’ of UK inland golf (and some seaside!) in the 1970s, 80s and 90s when TV target-style ‘conurbation’ courses caught our imagination. Finally, the chapter recognises that in the last ten years there has been in the building of British golf courses, the move towards natural minimalism combined with fine turf, giving us again a trend to the ‘firm, running’ game, the most enjoyable game for all levels of golfer throughout the year.

As far as I am aware they are first in giving a comprehensive account of ‘links’ courses lying outside GB&I, around the world. This is an important addition to our knowledge of worldwide ‘running’ courses.

One can repeatedly agree with the attitude, philosophy and descriptions of what is, in their words, ‘the crème de la crème of golf’, and their attempts to get to grips with what ‘the running game’ is all about and what makes it so much the most enjoyable form of golf to play all the year round.

They nevertheless through attempting to define the most enjoyable golf as ‘links’ rather than the ‘running game’ put themselves in a quandary when they decide which courses should be in their list and which left out.

See the full book review for a detailed discussion on this confusion.

It is much to their credit that Peper and Campbell do not fall into the lazy trap of so many golf journalists who find it easier to write about the profession of golf architecture than the profession of greenkeeping and agronomy. Those journalists just seem to find it more comfortable to criticise or praise the aspect of the design of a course and ignore its agronomy. Why is that so?

As Ray Day, the well experienced course manager at Saunton, North Devon, said to me recently, “it is the fine, firm turf that brings the course design alive”. 

One sensible answer is that to keep up to date with the particular health (turf-wise ) of each course is very difficult. Any turf can be wrecked within a short period of mismanagement.

Perhaps one of the problems is that some fine golf clubs like to talk up the amount of bent/fescue turf they have, without admitting the true extent of the weed, annual meadow grass (Poa annua) in their greens. Greater transparency and better measurement of ‘reliability and trueness’ of turf, would help raise standards. 

Golf is a sport and it will live or die based on enjoyment, not some artificial geographical or design construct. The ‘firm, running game’ of golf is so much more fun and challenging for all levels of golfer, all the year round, and to deliver this, the authors recognise, depends on a subtle amalgam of natural greenkeeping and indigenous bents and fescue grasses.

So in summary, this book gives an excellent commentary on the golf we love most, which gives us that ‘joy to be alive’ feeling. While there is both goodwill and confusion at the heart of this book, it is well written, packed with useful information and should be on every golfer’s reading list.


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