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The Open: What makes links golf so special?

The Open Championship is the oldest golf tournament in the world and one of the most prestigious, as the world’s top players battle it out to win the famous Claret Jug.

Unlike the other three Majors, the Open is always played on a coastal links golf course, but what does the term "links" actually mean?

The Open LIVE: Leaderboard, tips, odds and updates

WhatThe Open Championship
WhereRoyal Liverpool GC, Hoylake, Merseyside, England
WhenThursday 20th July - Sunday 23rd July 2023
How to watchbet365 Live Golf Tracker, Sky Sports Golf & Sky Sports Main Event
OddsRory McIlroy 15/2, Scottie Scheffler 9/1, Jon Rahm 9/1, Brooks Koepka 14/1, Cameron Smith 14/1, Jordan Spieth 18/1

Links golf explained

Lovers of "links golf" often call it the purest form of golf, and players often find themselves battling against the elements.

The terrain is usually open with few if any trees and unlike other courses that have been built, the layout is normally shaped by nature.

Coastal sand dunes have little use for housing or farming, but the land is usually the perfect canvas for a golf course and the weather often plays a massive part in the final outcome, with the strength of the wind a crucial factor.

Links golf courses are known for their deep pot bunkers, while the rough can often be made up of bushes. Links courses usually drain very well, meaning players never typically have the excuse of the surface being unplayable.

While big hitting can be the recipe for success on the PGA Tour, blasting the ball off the tee is not necessarily valuable on a links layout where players have to deal with sloping lies the likes of which they are unlikely to experience in their regular tournaments.

Players will have to get creative and that should make for a fine spectacle.

Stars who have mastered the links

Some golfers are well suited to the firm fairways, undulating terrain and huge greens, while others struggle to find the formula to links success. 

Englishman Harry Vardon leads the all-time Open Championship list, with six victories to his name – with his first in 1896 and his last coming in 1914. 

Four players have lifted the Claret Jug on five separate occasions – British duo James Braid and John Henry Taylor, Australia’s Peter Thompson and American Tom Watson. 

Jack Nicklaus holds the record for the most amount of Major wins, 18 in total, with three of those wins coming in The Open – in 1966, 1970 and 1978. 

Tiger Woods is one of nine players to have three Open victories to his name, with the last of his three wins coming at Royal Liverpool in 2006. 

Open links venues

There are currently 10 venues on the Open Championship schedule, dotted around the UK from the south of England all the way to central Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland. 

The furthest most southern venue is Royal St George’s, situated in Sandwich, Kent, which held the tournament for the first time in 1894. 

There are no fewer than three Open courses in the north west of England – Royal Lytham & St Annes, Royal Birkdale and Royal Liverpool (Hoylake). 

Scotland is the traditional home of links golf and has five courses on the Open list, Royal Troon and Turnberry on the west coast and Carnoustie, Muirfield and St Andrews – commonly described as the home of golf. 

Royal Portrush in County Antrim is the 10th venue, having been re-added to the roster in 2019 – hosting the Major for the first time in 68 years. 

Other links courses to previously host the Open Championship include Prestwick, Musselburgh, Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s Golf Club.

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