After our morning frost delay, we knew that our 1:20pm time at Royal Links was in jeopardy! We called over to Royal Links and they said it wasn’t going to be a problem to move our tee time back. Well, that turned out to be quite the understatement!
Royal Links is on the outskirts of town and apparently not in a great area. On the way to the course our car got a couple stares from the locals, so that was nice. I guess that is one of the things about playing so many courses, unknowingly I end up in some bad spots of town on occasion! At Royal Links, you actually buzz yourself into the parking lot. Weird!
We parked the car and walked into the impressive clubhouse, which is actually a castle! I didn’t get a close up picture of the clubhouse as I was in a hurry to tee off, but if you look through my pictures you’ll catch a couple glimpses of it, but I wish I would have stopped to take a picture. Oh well. Inside the clubhouse, you’ll find all sorts of memorabilia referencing Open Championships over the year. I’m not sure if some of that stuff is original or not, but if you like the history of the game you might want to poke around inside for a bit prior to the round.
I didn’t read much about Royal Links prior to my round but knew that it was a tribute course to links style courses overseas, say in Ireland and Scotland. What I found out after my round is that more specifically, Royal Links was modeled after golf holes from famous Open Championship rotation courses! Everything started to fall into place in my mind as I was looking at the course’s website at dinner. I wondered what one of the statues was in front of the clubhouse, come to find out it was a replica of the Claret Jug! Hey, sometimes I’m a little slow! Also after my round, I also found out that Perry Dye designed the course. And, I think I finally found a Dye course I enjoyed playing!
We ended up teeing off a bit before 2pm and played in 3 hours, seeing only two other groups. It was nice to take our time as a twosome yet still play so quickly! We paid $78 for a twilight round, which is a green fee that I can stomach on vacation. But, there’s no way I’d pay $130 to $180 to play here, which is what I’ve seen the course asking. Sadly, that is Vegas golf for you!
As mentioned, the theme at Royal Links are famous Open Championship holes. There are markers on each tee telling you what hole you are about to play and on the scorecard it gives the course and the hole number of the corresponding hole overseas. I’ve never been to Europe and while I’ve watched plenty of TV coverage from Open Championships over the years, many links style holes just blend together in my mind! I only recognized two replica holes at Royal Links, which were the 8th and 10th holes.
The 8th hole here is a replica of the “Postage Stamp”, which is the 8th hole at Royal Troon. The 10th hole here is a replica of the 17th hole at St. Andrews, famously know as the “Road Hole”. I’m not sure how closely each hole at Royal Links is modeled after its parent hole to be honest. The yardage for the Postage Stamp plays up to 153 yards at Royal Links while it is shorter at Royal Troon. And, the Road Hole maxes out at 466 yards instead of 495 yards. I’m sure this might drive some people crazy, but it didn’t bother me! I got the idea of where I was supposed to be golfing when playing those holes! The 8th is complete with a small green surrounded by bunkers and the 10th has the famous rock wall and scoreboard that you are supposed to drive over. Then, you might have to deal with the Road Hole bunker or the same rock wall behind the green!
Part of the fun watching the TV coverage of the Open Championship is seeing the pros try to navigate the deep bunkers. And to me, deep bunkers and mounding are the defining features when it comes to the playability at Royal Links. For reference we played the gold tees which are 72.0/132/6602. The bunkers here at Royal Links are deep, steep faced and can be hidden in true links fashion! Plus, golf balls tend to feed into them like you see on TV. They are a true hazard and parts of the course that you’ll want to stay away from! On the front nine I managed to stay out of the sand. However, I wasn’t so lucky on the back nine!
For the fun of it I threw a ball into the Road Hole bunker and managed to blast it out. I then drove it into fairway bunkers on the 13th and 16th holes. On the 13th I somehow played a 40 yard blast over a steep lip and it ran onto the green, talk about lucky! On the 16th I ended up just having to go sideways to get it out. Then I hit it into a greenside bunker on the 17th and it took a wide open face and a huge swing to get it over the lip.
Overall, the conditions at Royal Links were very good! The starter told us the course was firm and fast, but I’m not sure I completely agree with that assessment. Off the tee, absolutely! I had some drives bound and managed to hit some long ones, at least by my standards. However, around the greens the dormant bermuda snagged many of the approaches. I found that going high with the approaches and chips was the best play. The greens were short and quick, but had the tiniest bunches of dirt or fertilizer on them. So, they looked a little funny but it didn’t affect the rolls. The fairways were dormant, but looked fine as they had been painted.
After playing Royal Links, I loved the design and think it is worth checking for the right price! I’ve played a couple other replica courses over the years and always think they are neat. The bunkers here really stand out, no doubt! But, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Royal Links would be so much better in a different part of the country, say the Oregon Coast or Nebraska Sandhills. The setting here is uninspiring to say the least, as telephone wires run through the course and right next to it is a water treatment facility. Finally, playing a links course with bermuda grass just didn’t do it for me.
#1 (339 yard par 4):
#2 (365 yard par 4):
#3 (146 yard par 3):
#4 (572 yard par 5):
#5 (303 yard par 4):
#6 (404 yard par 4):
#7 (460 yard par 4):
#8 (137 yard par 3):
#9 (504 yard par 5):
#10 (422 yard par 4):
#11 (292 yard par 4):
#12 (453 yard par 4):
#13 (335 yard par 4):
#14 (178 yard par 3):
#15 (554 yard par 5):
#16 (438 yard par 4):
#17 (205 yard par 3):
#18 (495 yard par 5):