When we think of the British Open we think of history, we think of the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player, and of course the likes of St Andrews, Royal St George’s and Muirfield.
This year the circuit’s oldest major has arrived in Hoylake at Royal Liverpool, but what makes this tournament, and in particularly links golf, so special?
Firstly, it’s unpredictable. US Open Champion Martin Kaymer recently said that “there’s never really a standard gold shot” on the links, and that’s true. The many factors of links, means each day can be different, and knowing the course is key.
Preparation is vital, but the uncertainty of weather along the coast can make it a nightmare for golfers, but incredibly exciting for fans.
The wind is of course a major problem to overcome, and this is perhaps why the Open is considered the most prestigious major of all, because it requires a heck of a lot of skill. Players need to control ball flight and spin in order to keep it as low as possible and out of the breeze, something of which was typified by Tom Watson in the late 70s and early 80s going on to win five Claret Jugs.
In essence, right across the course links play requires more skill, more understanding, and certainly more patience. Rory McIlroy grew up on links as a youngster, so it’s no surprise to see him lead the pack in the early stages at Hoylake, whilst others who have learnt their trade on the British courses have seen success in the last few years including Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington.
It’s a favourite for those with a solid short game, and for those wanting to improve theirs. Typically built on sand dunes and often very large, it can often leave a tough task when you’ve finally made the green, with run off areas cut very short, making a mountain out of even the tiniest of errors.
Throughout the courses the beauty of playing links golf is the challenges the tiniest errors leave you. It’s difficult to get a pretty round as the wind blazes in from the ocean, but like any sport – you can’t help admire the touch of class, talent, and sheer skill that sees a player through adversity.