American golfers don't often get to play a course without many trees, and when we do we often call the course "linksy." Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, as true "links" land exists in only one place: right against a large body of water. Links land is a soft, fertile soil that literally "links" the inland sections to the body of water.
For treeless inland courses I prefer the term "early American." Many of today's parkland courses, characterized by chutes of trees leading from tee to green, began their lives as virtually treeless golf courses. Whether as a result of "Beautification Committees" or Mother Nature, treeless golf courses in 1930 became forested, heavily wooded courses by 2000. For example, Oakmont - home of this year's U.S. Open - was once treeless and has had to remove some 8,000 trees to get back to its original look.
A short drive west of Oakmont, one will find an "early American" course in a town called "Cranberry." Built on the top of a hill, Cranberry Highlands brings this style of architecture to a public, municipally owned course. I've had the chance to play Cranberry Highlands a few times, and I've come away with mixed feelings. Read on to see what I mean…
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