Though numbering less than 1 per cent of the world's courses, true links such as Scotland's legendary Old Course and Northern Ireland's Royal County Down inevitably dominate rankings of the game's top layouts.
1. Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland.
Carved through the heart of the Auld Grey Toon (where the game was born more than 550 years ago), The Old Course, though not the prettiest or most difficult links, is a first glimpse of heaven for all true believers. standrews.org.uk
2. Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland.
Laid out in 1889 by Old Tom Morris, the fiercely challenging Royal County Down offers magnificent views of distant Newcastle and the roiling Irish Sea from fairways edged by vast swathes of gorse and heather. royalcountydown.org
3. Turnberry (Ailsa Course), Turnberry Resort, Scotland.
Set beside the craggy Firth of Clyde, the hairy sand dunes at this most gorgeous of British Open venues afford distracting views across to the Mull of Kintyre. turnberryresort.co.uk
4. Royal Birkdale, Southport, England.
An Open venue widely regarded as England's premier course, Royal Birkdale wends through majestic sand dunes along a golf-rich stretch of Sefton coastline that includes two additional Royal layouts - Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes. royalbirkdale.com
5. Royal Portrush (Dunluce Links), Northern Ireland.
Situated on the famously beautiful Giant's Causeway coastline, the fairways at Royal Portrush's Dunluce Links tumble down seaside cliffs, setting a stage for drama possibly unequalled in links golf. royalportrushgolfclub.com
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