Kings Links by the Sea
Architect: Bob Ahoy
Date Played: August 2014
Peak Rate: $69
The term 'links golf' is often used too liberally in the golf world. Links refers to a style of golf where the course is usually located next to a large body of water (often the ocean) and is built on the sandy undulating terrain typical of coastal beach/dune areas. Think the great coastal Scottish or Irish courses, Bandon Dunes in Oregon and now Cabot Links in Nova Scotia. While it is possible to recreate the links experiences inland — though without sandy, well-draining soils and ever-present winds — it is hard to provide the firm, fast conditions for which links golf is known.
A short drive south of Vancouver lies a course working very hard to bring a true links golf experience to Vancouver. Located on the shores of Boundary Bay, in Delta, Kings Links by the Sea GC is a challenging, yet friendly layout suitable for all golfers yearning to watch the ball bounce and see it run along the short fescue grass fairways.
While it would be a stretch to call the land “links land” — its rather flattish land that wasn't suitable for agriculture — the owners and golf course superintendent Mike Kiener are working diligently to provide an authentic links experience. The course features numerous vistas towards the ocean, firm and at times very fast playing conditions and an abundance of strategic options. With the addition of authentic sod-wall bunkers, large open fairways and many undulating greens surrounds, Kings Links really does provide many characteristics true to the links golf experience.
Recently, the staff renovated the course’s fairway bunkers, adding shape and character to the holes. They also widened the fairway of the par-5 11th hole, bringing it closer to an out of bounds fence, and introduced a cluster of cross-bunkers. All of this is an effort to provide increased strategy, character and authenticity to the golfing experience. Kiener is a student of golf course architecture throughout the world, and passionately researches golf course design and maintenance strategies to better the Kings Links experience. He prides himself on the playability of the golf course and throughout the summer Kings Links is a wonderful shade of mottled greens and browns.
The fifth hole is a short dogleg left “cape” hole. You must choose to either carry a very large fairway bunker at the corner of the dogleg, or play safe to a generous fairway on the right. An errant tee shot pulled left will find a waste area of scrubby fescue and trees; one pushed long and right will scamper into a shallow hazard through the dogleg. Once in the fairway, your approach is to a generous green with humps, hollows and undulations. Your shot can be a simple wedge directly at the pin, or, depending on the wind, a full on suck-it-up-and-hit-a-golf-shot short- to mid-iron.
The 14th hole is a fun, reachable par 5 that usually plays downwind. The tee shot is slightly elevated with fairway bunkering to the right and a fescue area down the left. With a generous landing area, you are really tempted to hit it high and watch it fly. After a good tee shot, you are left with a long-iron or feathered wood to a green protected on both sides. To the right are long, narrowed traps featuring numerous tongues with rough eyebrows and fescue on the high side. To the left are two small sod-wall bunkers perfectly placed to snag a ball running a little far to the safe side. The green features a wicked ridge through its midsection and it is imperative your ball ends up on the correct portion. Many a birdie is to be found at the 14th but a loose second, or misplayed third can leave you scrambling for par in a hurry.
If I had to offer criticism towards the course, it would be the number of large ponds found throughout the property and to the genuine lack of topography between and on the holes. Links golf usually features numerous ridges and hillocks throughout the course and seldom will you find ponding. This said, the shot quality at Kings Links is high, strategic options are plenty and the course conditions and weather are true of very fine links golf.
If you like to see the ball bounce and enjoy the creativity of golf played along the ground, Kings Links is a must addition to your Lower Mainland golfing rotation.