Streamsong aims for a December 2012 opening.
Laurence Lambrecht/Streamsong

“For a while there, the trend was to build golf courses for nongolf reasons,” says Josh Lesnik, president of KemperSports, the golf management company that runs operations at Bandon Dunes. “You were trying to sell houses, and the golf course was almost an afterthought. Now, the idea is to find a great site for a course, and if you build it, they will come.”

While economics are a major factor — in a sluggish housing market, subdivision golf is a harder sell — other forces also contribute to this trend. In an age of increased environmental awareness, links-style layouts are ever more appealing. Since they follow the land’s natural contours, less earth-moving goes into their construction, and because their aesthetic allows for browned-out grasses, they require less water to maintain.

There’s also this fundamental fact: The style of golf they call for is a lot of fun. Where so many modern layouts have been built for bombers — hit it straight and far, find it, then hit it straight and far again — links courses emphasize imagination, asking players to pull off a variety of shots, from low-running hooks to high-arcing fades. Attacking them requires more brains than brawn.

Throw in the fact that they’re designed for easy walking, and today’s throwback layouts are all the more appealing — a return to the game as it was meant to be.

“When it comes down to it, what really draws me and a lot of other people to golf is the exercise,” says Ben Cowan-Dewar, one of the developers behind Cabot Links, which opens this summer in Nova Scotia. “Out there in the fresh air, with the opportunity to hit a lot of different shots, it’s just a more enjoyable and interesting way to play.”