Date: August 05, 2013
Author: Peter Gompertz

Book Review: True Links by George Peper and Malcolm Campbell

I first played golf while at College in Portsmouth, England, and a mere 3 weeks later I was posted to work in Scotland for 6 months where I took to the game like a fish to water. It was another 23 years before I set foot on a true links course when I joined Royal North Devon, Westward Ho! birthplace of 5 times Open Champion J H Taylor. Perhaps because I am a slow learner it was another 8 years before I had my road to Damascus moment which was actually on the 14th tee at Hillside on Englands Golf Coast , next door to Royal Birkdale. As I drove the ball up the fairway I let out such an audible grunt of recognition that my playing partner, Dick Donovan, assumed that I had hurt my back. From that day to this I have actively sought out the opportunity to play on links courses and now George Peper (former editor of Golf Magazine) and Malcolm Campbell (former editor of Golf Monthly) have joined forces to produce True Links an illustrated guide to the glories of the worlds 246 links courses ; a sort of bucket list for golfers like me who enjoy playing golf in force 8 gales. Actually it is much more than a bucket list. Starting with the Old Course at St Andrews, which they describe as the Crucible , our former editors put together a history of links golf, its creators and supporters, and they describe how the earliest courses were not designed they simply evolved, often over marginal land, close to the sea, with little agricultural use. In order to define what is, and what isn t, a links course we are treated to descriptions of inland golf courses, some of them heathland, which were laid out in the early 20th century to cater for the upsurge in interest by golfers who had to work for a living close to centres of population well away from the seaside. They are even prepared to take a shot at property developers who, having control of a large tract of land and the necessary planning permits, build a series of ugly houses around a golf course which they then refer to as links ; and they are not backward in opining that Augustas greens are shorn to within a millimetre of death during four rounds of The Masters leading to many golfers wanting to play on the colour of the grass rather than its traditional suitability. Yes, George and Malcolm are a little controversial but as they are claiming that less than 1% of the worlds over 30,000 golf courses are true links they have to marshal a strong array of reasons for why one course is a links and others are not. This they do with intelligence, insights and humour. From the Crucible they move, alphabetically, to a group of 25 courses they call the Icons , followed by 20 Exotics and 19 Moderns . Presumably the remaining 181 courses could be referred to as the Also Rans but they resist that. All 246 are however, listed by country at the back of the book together with their founding date and known designer/ re-designer, and website if they have one. Have I played them all? No, not yet, but I have played enough of them to understand the concept of links golf. No doubt where two, or more, golfers are gathered together in a golf clubhouse heated discussions will take place and probably remain unresolved until all golfers have at least tried to play a links course in what was referred to in 1881 at Westward Ho! as a gale of wind , by way of explaining a higher than usual winning score. True Links is a masterpiece of a book, wonderfully illustrated with photographs principally take by Iain Lowe, and with a Foreword by Tom Watson which starts with I love links golf but it wasn t love at first sight which is sort of where this piece started. It is 300 pages of sheer joy, and I commend it to you. (True Links retails for US$40 plus p&p. To obtain a copy please email June Gibbons on )