If you haven't had the opportunity to play links golf, you've really missed something. There is golf, and then there's golf on a true links course. Everything about playing on a true links course is, to me, and it seems Rickie Fowler, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus..., the essence of what golf is all about. You must be creative. Especially when the wind blows--and the wind blows just about all the time--you can chuck out the yardage book. There is no stock seven iron to be played from 150 yards. It could be a wedge, and it could be a three wood, depending on the wind.
Now this is not to say that great players haven't grown up playing parkland courses. Ben Hogan, who grew up playing hard, fast, and windy Texas courses, went to Carnoustie on his one Open trip and proved that he was the champion golfer of the year. Sam Snead did the same thing at St Andrews. Arnie started a new wave of American champions going over to the UK to test themselves on the classic links courses and prove that they were the best.
You can be a great golfer without ever setting foot on a links course. But playing golf on a links course will establish just how great you are. Great players love the challenge. They love the fact that the elements; the wind and the rain, dictate just how the course will play; sometimes almost easy; other times brutally hard. It isn't the greenskeeper who decides. There are no windmills and clown faces, forced carries and island greens. Just golf as it was meant to be played. You, your clubs, and your wits against the links, the wind, and the rain.
If you haven't played a links course, try to do so. The first shot you hit from that sandy turf should tell you that this is how the game was meant to be played. Yes, there are great courses all over the world. And, ultimately, any golf is better than no golf. But the true links courses are the ones that will put hair on your chest. They are the courses that force you to really play golf: to think, to be creative, to improvise.
If I have my way, my final rounds will be on links courses. And, I hope I will be walking.