What is FineGolf?

Many ‘fine’ courses are not predictable and fair: a bit like life.

FineGolf  is played on courses that have a variety of well drained, poor soil terrains, usually linksland or heathland, moorland or downland. They all have predominantly fine grasses and give a high “joy to be alive” feeling.


They require judgement, improvisation and vision as the indicators of skill, rather than relying on brute strength and the length of hitting the ball through the air.


Their fairways are firm, composed of fine, wiry grasses and present a ball sitting down that needs to be squeezed to gain back-spin, rather than scooped from a high grass lie. They are dry, bouncy and running, and brown off in a dry summer.

Speed of play:

FineGolf is played at a good pace. For recreational golf, the greens’ putting speed ideally is around 9′ and for the elite game around 10′.  Faster putting speeds slow the game down worrying about the six footer coming back!

Course Design:

Their design requires shots to be negotiated within the natural movement of the land. Strategic design is favoured rather than penal design. Shot making is required – with the yardage chart of less use, particularly in the wind – and where often shots are more successful the closer they are played to the ground like the bump and run.


FineGolf is more of a challenge to skill and brain than to brawn and the fairways being running and the hazards being where the scratch golfer wants to hit his ball, requires clever placement of the ball rather than just length. The style of bunkering is usually small, deep and gathering-in, rather than huge, flat, and surrounded with a fringe of semi-rough.

Varied, conservationist, (low inputs, lower costs):

‘Fine’ courses are the most varied, produce the most enjoyable playing surfaces, are lower cost to build and maintain, help conserve the environment and encourage natural flora and fauna. They provide what golfers are looking for in terms of greens’ performance of being firm, true and conservationist (low inputs, lower costs).

Courses for all abilities:

‘Fine’ courses become more delightful the more they are studied and played. They offer problems to golfers of all abilities. They are never hopelessly insurmountable for the high handicapper nor fail to challenge and interest the expert.

Well behaved dogs are quite often seen on ‘fine’ courses.


Come off the 18th on a ‘Fine’ course and you can remember each hole whereas, with the bull-dozered sameness of many of the big new lush target courses, one hole is often similar to another in the memory.

Traditional greenkeeping methods:

‘Fine’ courses use conservation greenkeeping methods with lots of regular aeration, without the use of much fertiliser or pesticides and only enough water to just keep the grass alive in a drought.

A typical FineGolf shot with creativity:

..was when Greg Norman, playing in The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008, took a 5 iron to hit his ball only 120 yards into the wind.

It flew no higher than 8 feet off the ground to a plateau green surrounded by bunkers. With a crispness in the strike, he imparted backspin that stopped the ball pin high after two bounces and some roll-out.

The shot excluded the problem of his ball being blown off-line when flying high. It required creativity and unusual skill to overcome a challenge that was giving problems to many of the other professionals who are more used to predictable target golf.  An example being Michelson’s famous six-iron shot from the pine needles with no back-spin, at the Augusta Masters, that stopped the ball by its pitch-mark near the pin just over Rae’s Creek. It was a skillful shot but reliant on the target green being soft and receptive.

The key aspect:

There are many aspects that differentiate ‘Fine running-golf ‘ from ‘Lush target-golf ‘ but the fundamental and most important is that ‘Fine running-golf ‘ is played on fine turf predominantly perennial bents and fescue grasses (slow-growing, deep-rooting, drought-resistant, disease-resistant, conservationist – low inputs, lower costs),  whereas ‘lush target-golf ‘ cultivates annual meadow grass (Poa annua) – (fast-growing, shallow-rooting, thirsty, disease-susceptical, unsustainable – high inputs, higher costs).

The epitome of the ‘Finest running-golf ‘ courses is the style of those on which “The Open Championship” is played.

When “The Open” bandwagon moves on, we are left with an improved, renovated, course that is in the best healthy condition because The R&A pursue a long-term policy of encouraging austere, conservationist, traditional greenkeeping, tested and proven over time and exercised through common sense, that takes into account the needs of the ordinary golfer who wants to play all the year round.

The epitome of ‘Lush target-golf ‘ is the style on which the “Augusta Masters” is played.

In the spring, we all enjoy watching the TV golf extravaganza that is the US Masters, particularly the back-nine holes and the same pin placements that we all know so well. Augusta is an expensively and artificially managed course, set-up just for that one week, with greens of shaved, soft turf. The course is closed for five months to recover.

The quest, often by low-handicap golfers, for ‘shaved’ high speed greens is an infectious disease that has become known as ‘Augusta Syndrome Disease’

We want to hear your views. Please do leave a comment below

Reader Comments

On December 30th, 2008 Ralph Biggadike (USA) said:

This first edition looks terrific. Both Andrew and I found it very interesting.
Best wishes for continued success.

On March 29th, 2009 Laurent Khaiat said:

I like your site. Very well designed and many great comments on great courses.

On April 20th, 2009 Gerald W Stratford said:

Truly well done.
Now, if only you could influence some more courses on our side of the Pond.

On September 16th, 2009 Kevin Munt said:

Coming upon http://www.finegolf.co.uk was one of those lovely little discoveries you get every now and again on the internet. It is very gratifying to find people who still appreciate playing golf off and upon keen fine turf. I am a greenkeeper who was lucky enough to work with Jim Arthur. I worked as Course Manager at Royal Dornoch and Hankley Common golf clubs and they don’t come much better than that to get a lesson in how to play ‘links’ golf.

On October 12th, 2009 Paul Dolton said:

Hi, ,just found your site and am glad to see there are people who want to play the game as it should be.
A while ago I packed in my main job and became a greenkeeper (2.5 years at the oxfordshire and 1 year at southfield GC, braid and colt,)now gone back to old job as it gives me more time to play golf.

The problem seems to me is an obsession with lines and patterns which needs too much water and feed to keep grass lush to make stripping stand out even more. Pressure from members to get their course like the “one they saw on sky last week”.
We need more greenkeepers to stick to traditional ways when it comes to water and feed.

Anyway good luck with the site and look forward to more reviews.

On January 6th, 2010 mike bowline said:

I have played golf in the States for 40 years, and I maintain the four weeks I spent playing links golf in UK were the most fun rounds of my life! Lowest scores? No. Most fun: YES.
Thank you for your excellent site that profers the way the game is supposed to be played.

On September 10th, 2010 Clive Agran said:

I’m a journalist writing some stuff on golf for a website. Needing to find out more about Frank Pennink, I googled his name and discovered this intriguing site. It’s ‘wasted’ half-an-hour of my time but I’ve enjoyed every minute and wish ‘Fine Golf’ the very best of luck.

Dear Clive, How very kind of you to send us your good wishes. Do use the ‘tell a friend’ button on the home page to pass on a message to your golfing friends. The more who are aware of FineGolf the better. Regards Lorne

On May 4th, 2011 Phil Gates said:

A fantastic website that celebrates and supports the values and traditions of british golf. Congratulations to all involved. Phil Gates MG Course Manager St Ives GC

On July 9th, 2011 Duncan Cheslett said:

I had the pleasure of Lorne’s company the other day over 36 holes at Cavendish Golf Club in Buxton. He told me about this website and I have just spent a very enjoyable couple of hours perusing it.

I’m now converted to fine golf. All I have to do is learn to play it!

Keep up the good work, Lorne.

Dear Duncan,
Thank you for your kind comment and your company. It was a most enjoyable day playing the Mackenzie designed Cavendish GC with the ‘World Atlas’ website guys.
Pity the greens are so high a percentage of Annual meadow grass and very receptive but the course design is tremendous and gives many challenges for only 5700 yards.
Best wishes,

On November 28th, 2011 Edward said:

I too love playing the courses mentioned here. However, I think we ought to keep in mind that the high numbers of golfers wishing and able to play many of the courses today makes greenkeeping policies of yesteryear hard to maintain. Many fairways, if left without irrigation, would become dustbowls by August and require re-seeding annually. My own club has 40,000 rounds each year played on it, probably 500% more than 30 years ago.

Dear Edward, Thank you for your valid comment over usage of courses nowadays with all the compaction that gives, aeration becomes even more important. I don’t think anybody says no irrigation. It is over-watering that is the sin economically, agronomically and environmentally.

On October 16th, 2012 Paul Gray said:

What a great concept/campaign. Having grown up on a true links I’ve had my fair share of funny looks when trying to explain to some less informed souls that high drives and backspin aren’t all the game is about. So good to see you encouraging changes in the right direction.

On October 27th, 2019 Brian Nesbitt said:

I live in Melbourne Australia and am a member of one of the sand belt courses. The issue every year is poa anna and vast amounts of time, money and energy are spent on trying to eliminate it. Bearing in mind that Melbourne can see 20C differences between the morning and afternoons and temperatures between in Winter 10C and 40C in summer, would fine grass policies work here in Melbourne? In the past, huge amounts of money have been spent on using chemicals to control the Poa. We do have a good supply of water from a bore.
Dear Brian, I am not a greenkeeper nor an agronomist and do not advise on individual sites. Fescue and browntop bent fine grasses that are indigenous to GB and I certainly like its cool climate and do suffer when there is temperature over 30 degrees for any length of time.
Thank you for your interest

On September 28th, 2020 simon potter said:

Hi, just found your web site, all a bit of a treat really.
Just the kind of golf I for one like I’m trying to photograph courses in this vein. Simonpottergolfphoto.com

All the best Simon

On February 23rd, 2023 Cary Dunhill said:

Hello finegolf.co.uk owner, You always provide valuable information.

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