It's all in the bounce

On a warm, breezy afternoon in late spring, I wandered out to play a few casual holes at Tarandowah. On the second hole, after a decent drive, I was left with a little more than a pitch from inside 100 yards into the green. I took my sand wedge out and lofted the typical airborne approach to the green. The ball landed short, took a big hop, and rolled briskly past the flag, ending near the collar at the back of the putting surface.

Some golfers, accustomed to the soft conditions of most North American parkland courses, might have been aggravated. I just chuckled softly to myself. Sure waves don't splash against a nearby shore at Tarandowah – but everything else signified a links. Firm. Fast. Forcing imaginative shots. There's no hit and hold, especially if the fescue is brown and there's been little rain. You have to play smart, be creative.

To purists, links golf is by definition played on firm, sandy ground left as the sea receded. You'll find most links – but not all – in England, Ireland and the home of golf, Scotland.

But to others, links is a mindset, a version of the game that gives the player different options. You don't have to fly the ball to the hole. Heck, you can roll it from 100 yards, or chip a low runner with a 4-iron that skirts the bunkers and tucks near the flag.

That's what Martin Hawtree, the English designer for Tarandowah, nailed so well when crafting the course, and that's what keeps me coming back time and again.

Robert Thompson is an award-winning golf writer whose articles have been published in Golf Digest, Golf World, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. He's also played all of SCOREGolf's Top 100 courses in Canada.