Links Golf: Brown is beautiful


Every July during The Open Championship, images of faded green and brown fescues beam back to the high-def televisions of the United States, where golfers are accustomed to the manicured emerald green fairways of parkland golf.

Links golf — the original style of course design that came about naturally along the coasts of Scotland — is often misunderstood by the uninitiated, especially during The Open Championship. This week at Carnoustie, the siren calls have predictably come again.

Of course, the whole idea of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is rooted on this most traditional style of the game. And we happen to think the faded green and brown turf (we prefer the term “tawny” actually) of links golf is quite beautiful and presents the most enjoyable form of golf.

George Peper, an authority on links golf who co-wrote True Links with Malcolm Campbell, describes (with help from the British Golf Museum) links golf as “a stretch of land near the coast on which the game is played, characterized by undulating terrain, often associated with dunes, infertile sandy soil, and indigenous grasses such as marram, sea lyme, and the fescues and bents which, when properly managed, produce the fine, textured, tight turf for which links are famed."

“Formed more by Mother Nature than man,” the original courses in Scotland gave birth to links golf, Peper wrote in his 2010 book, adding that only 246 of the 30,000 courses worldwide are true links courses.

As most any Bandonista knows by now, Mr. Mike Keiser set out to bring links golf to the United States. Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Old Macdonald (whose namesake, C.B. Macdonald, brought the foundation of links golf to the U.S.), are three of those true links courses described by Peper (Although Bandon Trails plays exactly like a links course, it is just inland enough to not make the list).

When Bandon Dunes opened in 1999, links golf was almost entirely absent from the U.S. In America, parkland-style courses — think Augusta National — dominated golf course design for the entire 20th century.

Why did Keiser envision bringing the classic links designs back to the U.S.? He had made a habit of playing the great links courses of Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales. And he had come to love the style.

Links golf is played differently than the aerial game so common at American parkland courses. At Bandon Dunes — like Carnoustie and St. Andrews — those tawny fescues laid over sand create a naturally firm and fast surface. Coastal winds are ever-present. The undulating, uneven surfaces factor into every shot, and the tight lies of the fine fescues dictate club selection.

These characteristics force golfers to play a game closer to the ground. Wedges play a diminished role in links golf, giving way to bump-and-run shots that are often a much smarter play. Lower ball flights are prized to minimize the effect of those winds. With tight lies that characterize those firm, fast fescues, a putter is almost always a reliable weapon ... even from the fairway.

“Wind and water, hillocks and hollows, mounds and pits, marram-grass and bents — these are the hazards of the links; and while they are all difficult to contend with, there is not one of them which cannot be overcome by the skill of the golfer,” wrote Robert Hunter, an early 20th century author and golf course architect.

Links golf encourages imagination. Rarely is there just one obvious route to the hole. Recovering from a bad shot often comes down to finding the alternative route or a different kind of shot.

This is where the magic of links golf really comes from, even if it takes some getting used to for American golfers. Just ask Tom Watson, a five-time Open winner who embraced links golf more than any other American professional.

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“Even though I won the Open in 1975 and 1977, I still didn't like the way the game had to be played on links courses because I was so conditioned to play the ball high in the air.” Watson said in a 2009 interview. “Links was the antithesis of how I played. I started to realize I had a love for links golf in 1979 when I made the decision to stop fighting it and play the ball along the ground and not get upset when the bounces didn't turn out the way I wanted. I think it goes back to my childhood when I had to play the ball along the ground because I couldn't get it up in the air and I couldn't hit it far enough so I had to bounce the ball onto the greens [laughs].

“American golf is so predictable it sometimes becomes boring,” he added. “Everybody plays the same shot the same way. Whereas links golf is so unpredictable. That's its beauty.”

As American golf fans watch the greatest golfers in the world battle Carnoustie this weekend, remember that those tawny fescues are no accident. As young Spanish star Jon Rahm said this week upon his arrival: “I forgot the fact the R&A lets Mother Nature set up the course.”

Letting nature dictate the game? At Bandon Dunes, this sounds like music to our ears.

FEATURED INTERN: The Magic Man | Lucas Beaudoin


Lucas Beaudoin can be a tough man to reach. As one of 14 interns currently in Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s six-month professional golf management internship program, Beaudoin’s days are busy.

Beaudoin, a junior in Ferris State University’s PGA Golf Management program, is receiving a crash course in all that goes into running the operations of a public golf resort. From learning the business of merchandising to tournament operations, instruction, and problem-solving.

But that’s not all that keeps Beaudoin’s calendar filled. On this day in late August, the 20-year-old from Lawton, Michigan, is anxious to get out and go play yet another round. By the time he rolls in his final putt this day it will mark a staggering 100th round at Bandon Dunes since beginning his internship in mid-May.

“At one point I played 77 rounds and I had only been here 76 days,” says Beaudoin, who has an easy-going charm. “I always wanted to play links golf, so it’s been fun out here.”

Despite his time on course, Beaudoin is all about the golf business. The PGM program, a PGA of America-accredited program at 19 universities across the country, is no charm school. It’s an intensive golf-specific program that educates the industry’s future head golf professionals, golf sales professionals, clothing designers, and more.

Beaudoin hopes to one day be a head golf pro at a public golf resort, so “I’d say I have a pretty good setup here,” he says with a laugh.

What got you started in the game?
I didn’t start playing until my freshman year of high school. I hadn’t done any kind of sports and heard that my high school had a golf team. So I wanted to try that. I got hooked, and by sophomore year I pretty much knew I wanted to be in golf (professionally). I heard about all the PGM programs, and I applied to a couple and ended up going to Ferris.

What compelled you to apply for an internship at Bandon Dunes?
I talked to two other Ferris guys, who are actually out here with me right now, and said to them ‘This place looks pretty frickin’ sweet.’ I had known about it for a couple of years by then, so we all applied, went through a few interviews, and got it.

What has working at a resort like Bandon Dunes taught you?
I really needed to get in the shop with this internship and learn more merchandising and retail. It’s been EXACTLY what I’ve been able to do. There have been a lot more responsibilities on this internship than some of the others. Bandon Dunes gives interns the opportunity to close down the shops at all of the courses here.… There is a lot of responsibility and a lot of stuff to learn in order to be able to close a shop down.

Working at Trails I was able to do a lot of kid's clinics with Scott Millhouser, something I had never done. There are also many things this resort does that I want to take back to the PGM program. For example, we keep track of pace of play for every group on every course, every day. That is something that could be useful for our PGM tournaments in order to keep things moving. No future pro wants to be known as a slow player.

100 rounds of golf in a little over three months is pretty incredible. Do you ever tire of playing? 100 rounds is quite a bit, but it's funny, it doesn't feel like it's been that much. I have yet to be burned out on golf. People say it might happen to me, but so far in my life, I have always been itching to get on the course.

What are your impressions of links golf, now that you are so familiar with it after never playing it before?
Links golf is a totally different ball game. I didn't think it would be so different coming out here. My favorite tournament to watch has always been The Open (Championship), but watching them on TV I would often see them hitting similar shots to what I'm used to in Michigan. When I got out here I played terribly the first month. I was not expecting links style to be so much more difficult.

Now that I'm used to it, though, it is so much fun. The wind and firm ground make it so there are many more shots you can pull off. I’m definitely a more well-rounded player because of these golf courses. My weakness coming out here was ball-striking. Being able to constantly practice off super tight lies has done wonders and helped me pass my PAT (the PGA Playing Ability Test, a requirement to become a PGA pro, which he recently passed).

What do you like best about working at Bandon Dunes?
Access to the courses is probably the biggest perk out here. But one of the things I enjoy the most is all the guests who come out here. It is all about the golf, and there are a lot of die-hard golf fans. It’s really fun to talk to them.

Do you have a best day?
One day, (Director of Communications) Michael Chupka had me playing with one of his media guys and I had been playing really, really poorly. I started with a three-putt bogey and I topped a 9-iron in the fairway, and I thought I was going to die in front of these guys. But I ended up shooting my best round at Pacific Dunes that day.

Do you have a favorite course?
Bandon Trails. Each hole looks like a signature hole to me. I've always been a fan of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and they certainly did a great job with Bandon Trails. In terms of views, though, it's tough to beat holes 10 through 13 at Pacific Dunes. That is an unreal stretch of holes.

You’re also a magician. How did you get started and does it help your golf game?
In third grade, I was out of school for nearly two months due to sickness and my birthday happened to be in that time frame. One of my uncles bought me a magic kit and I had nothing else to do but sit at home and practice card tricks. I got hooked pretty easily and haven't stopped since. I do somewhere between 15 to 30 shows a year when I'm back home. Magic for me is all about the reactions I get from the spectators. No matter what mood someone is in or what’s going on around them, good magic, for at least a brief moment, is able to wipe away a person’s thoughts. They are stunned at what they just saw.

Magic relates to golf in a few strange ways. The one that sticks out to me is how you have to practice. Both take an immense amount of practice to get good at, but you also have to practice in the right way.

Overall, what would you say about your experience at Bandon Dunes?
Overall my experience at Bandon so far has been a blast. I will be sad to leave this place come November. There are so many great people here that make Bandon Dunes a special place.

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