Is the Straits Course at Whistling Straits a hlinc or not?
"Hlinc" is an Anglo-Saxon word with sandy roots going back to the year 931, when it first appeared in print. It referred to the sandy dunes and ridged land between the sea and fertile ground farther inland.
These strips of land, or "links," as the word would evolve, were once covered by the sea, so they are dozens of feet deep with sand, making them all but useless for building or farming. Because such land usually couldn't be developed, much of it was available over the last couple hundred years to be crafted into some of the most stunning golf courses in the world.
The term "links" is often used liberally to describe a course's attributes, and is almost universally applied to any course near a large body of water. Pebble Beach and Liberty National come to mind. Both are stunningly beautiful, both hug their respective coastlines, both have attributes of traditional links golf such as challenges from sea-driven wind and weather, but neither is a links course.
Pete Dye's Straits Course at Whistling Straits, site of the 2015 PGA Championship, makes for an interesting debate. It has been described as a links replication. It sits hard on Lake Michigan with eight holes that hug the coastline, dramatic elevation changes, pot bunkers, rolling terrain and sand. Sand everywhere.
Whistling Straits' transformation into a golf complex
The evolution of the land is remarkable. In the 1950s the site was a U.S. Army anti-aircraft training facility named Camp Haven. Prior to that, it was as dead flat as the cornfields that surround the property now. Its transformation into a golf complex is nothing short of amazing, and it could be argued that the Straits Course is the most impressive golf engineering project the game has ever seen.
More than 7,000 truckloads of sand and at least 100,000 cubic yards of dirt were brought in to build the site, which rises like a mountain in the otherwise flat countryside. The sand that not only dominates the visual landscape (the course has at least 1,000 bunkers) -- but has been the object of praise and derision -- is native to the area and is intended to be shaped by the wind and natural elements.
The course also plays like a links course -- hard, fast, wind swept and along the ground, if necessary. This is a reflection of the heavy sand component and the course's drainage system, which is so complex that it is a subterranean masterpiece.
Traditionalists will argue that a true links course is shaped by everything other than the hands of man, while Whistling Straits is 100 percent manmade. However, in the building of the course, nearly every links fundamental has been re-created except for the evolution part caused by a receding sea, which only a few thousand millennia would allow.
Even the host's Web site (AmericanClubResort.com) is reluctant to dive too deeply into the fray, describing the course as "links-like."
So let the debate rage. Is the Straits Course at Whistling Straits a hlinc?