The first true golf course was St. Andrews in Scotland. The word links means sandy undulating ground near a shore, and St. Andrews in Scotland is built on such terrain, on the eastern shore of the North Sea. The course is elevated from sea level, and the sandy beach-like topography is a remnant of a former sea-level stand. The former dunes, inlet streams and animal burrows provide a rolling relief of obstacles and challenges to the course. The fact that the area was previously inundated by salt water makes large-scale vegetation (trees) less viable, but given time has allowed for a strong thick grass to grow, making a perfect surface for a small rolling ball.
Some of the earliest golf courses in the United States were built in the ‘links-land’ geography of Long Island, NY, Charleston, SC and other areas clearly influenced by the sea. It was only with time and as the game became more popular that other types of land, such as rolling hills, began to be developed into golf courses. The courses in Pinehurst, NC, such as the famous Pinehurst Number 2, have a distinct resemblance to the ‘links’ courses of golf’s early days. In fact, the geology of the Pinehurst area is termed ‘Sand Hills’ due to the sandy nature of the terrain. Although there is no sea near Pinehurst today, being over 100 miles from the ocean, it is an area which was covered by a shallow continental sea over 50 million years ago.