Modern links among GB&I's best tracks
If a person were to distill the essence of golf in Great Britain and Ireland to a few words, like a marketer trying to identify brand strengths, he probably would hit upon adjectives such as historic, timeless, pure.
We go there – or dream of going there – because we want to see where the game was first played, experience the purity of links golf on a wind-whipped day and perhaps even test ourselves on Open Championship courses where we’ve seen so much history made.
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Long before most golfers ever make their first trip to the United Kingdom or Ireland, they have a lengthy mental list of trophy courses they’re aching to visit – places such as Carnoustie and Muirfield – that date to the 19th century. That will never change because those courses, and many others, are timeless.
What has changed in recent years is the emergence of new trophy courses that already are approaching the mystique of some of the great old links. That’s evident when reviewing the lists of Golfweek’s Best Classic (pre-1960) and Modern (since 1960) Courses of Great Britain and Ireland. The golf tourists’ bucket list now includes courses that don’t date more than a few years, much less a century.
If you go to the Old Course, you have to make the 10-mile drive to Kingsbarns, the top-ranked course among Golfweek’s Best Modern GB&I Courses. Whereas once you traveled to the Scottish Highlands to visit Royal Dornoch and Nairn, you now can add to your itinerary Castle Stuart and Carnegie Links (Nos. 2 and 21 Modern, respectively). If you go to Ballybunion and Lahinch, you might as well continue on to Waterville and Old Head (Nos. 4 and 7 Modern, respectively). And it would be a shame to make the drive north to Royal Portrush and not to take a day and stop at Lough Erne (No. 10 Modern).
We could go on, but you get the picture. The Old Country’s attraction always will be its historic links. But the Modern courses – many of which look historic through their reinterpretation of the links motif (see Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart, etc.) – make the journey all the more compelling.