North west links

Golf­ing broth­ers An­drew & Paul Mar­shall en­joy a golf trip on Wales' north-west coast.

Golf Vacations (Malaysia) - - Destination Focus - By An­drew Mar­shall

When it comes to play­ing golf by the sea, the ma­jor­ity golfers will think of Scot­land's Ayr­shire coast, Ire­land's west coast or per­haps Eng­land's Lan­cashire coast - but what fol­lows is a jour­ney to a lesser known re­gion, one that em­braces a clus­ter of chal­leng­ing sea­side cour­ses along the north­west coast of Wales be­tween Ne­fyn on the Llŷn Penin­sula and the thriv­ing lit­tle har­bour re­sort of Aber­dovey down the coast - 75 miles of top-notch golf with a uniquely Welsh sea­side flavour.

Ne­fyn & District

Dra­mat­i­cally po­si­tioned on cliff tops at the foot of the Porthdin­l­laen head­land that juts out from the Llŷn Penin­sula into the Ir­ish

Sea, Ne­fyn & District Golf Club is the Welsh equiv­a­lent of Ire­land's Old Head of Kin­sale, but much more af­ford­able to play.

This spec­tac­u­lar clifftop lay­out is a unique 27-hole course with sea views from ev­ery hole, con­sist­ing of the 18-hole, Par 71 Old Course and the 9-hole Par 71, New Course.

The run of holes on the Old Course from the 12th on­wards along the penin­sula, play­ing into a howl­ing wind with fair­ways and tees perched above se­cluded coves and tiny in­lets on one side, and a sandy beach on the other, will live long in the mem­ory re­gard­less of your score or the weather.

If you fancy a quick pint be­fore the fi­nal three holes, then take the foot­path af­ter the Par 4 15th that leads down to Porthdin­l­laen Beach to en­joy a pint at the Ty Coch Inn with mar­vel­lous views across the bay to Mount Snow­don.

Pwll­heli

Set on the south fac­ing coast­line of spec­tac­u­lar Cardi­gan Bay is Pwll­heli Golf Club si­t­u­ated on the out­skirts of the friendly sea­side town of the same name. This in­ter­est­ing golf course is a tale of two halves, blend­ing a col­lec­tion of park­land holes with links de­sign.

Stand­ing on the el­e­vated tee of the

Par 4 8th, it is pos­si­ble to time travel back to 1900 when Old Tom Mor­ris carved Pwll­heli's first nine holes out of the ex­posed links land border­ing Traeth Cru­gan beach. The lay­out was later ex­tended to a full 18-holes in 1909 by an­other fa­mous Scot of the time, five-time Open cham­pion James Braid.

Braid's tree-lined fair­ways are routed through ma­ture park­land, with the last of the in­land holes, a 440-yards Par 4

7th re­quir­ing two good hits to reach the putting sur­face.

An­other hole that typ­i­fies Pwll­heli's links sec­tion is the test­ing 197-yard Par 3 10th, with the beach to the left, and beyond the green well-pro­tected by deep-faced pot bunkers, is a white­washed cot­tage adding to the pic­turesque scene as you play. Golfers vis­it­ing Pwell­heli will not eas­ily for­get their ex­pe­ri­ence here.

Porth­madog

A 16-mile drive head­ing east along the coast takes you to Porth­madog Golf

Club de­signed by Braid in 1905. Like the afore­men­tioned, this is a hy­brid of park­land/heath­land front nine and a links in­ward half set on a head­land at Morfa By­char, three miles from the har­bour town of Porth­madog.

The golf course is some­thing of a split per­son­al­ity. Although the front nine is de­cent, it is af­ter the down­hill Par 3 9th and cross­ing the road to the Par 4 10th that the feel and land­scape to­tally changes into 9-holes of mem­o­rable links golf.

Be­fore hit­ting off from the el­e­vated tee of the Par 3 13th, do make sure to take a few mo­ments to soak in the stun­ning panorama of Sam­son's Bay on one side and the coast­line ex­tend­ing back to­wards Pwll­heli on the other – it is worth the green fee alone.

Stand­ing on the el­e­vated tee of the Par 4 8th, with the peb­bly shore­line to your left,

it is pos­si­ble to time travel back to 1900 when le­gendary Old Tom Mor­ris carved Pwll­heli's first nine holes out of the ex­posed links land border­ing Traeth Cru­gan beach. The lay­out was later ex­tended to a full 18-holes in 1909 by an­other fa­mous Scot of the time, five-time Open cham­pion

James Braid.

Royal St David’s

Si­t­u­ated around the other side of the Glaslyn Es­tu­ary from Porth­madog, on the out­skirts of Har­lech is Royal St. David's Golf Club es­tab­lished in 1894. “Small won­der if the vis­i­tor falls in love with Har­lech at first sight,” wrote Bernard Dar­win in The Golf Cour­ses of the Bri­tish Isles, “for no golf course in the world has a more splen­did back­ground than the old cas­tle, which stands at the top of a sheer precipice of rock look­ing down over the links.”

As you play, there are splen­did views of the brood­ing pres­ence of the 13th­cen­tury Har­lech Cas­tle and a back­drop of the Snow­don Moun­tains beyond. Royal

St. David's is known for its se­ries of long,

de­mand­ing Par 4 holes (seven are over 400 yards) and five short holes, which vary in length and direc­tion, and it is fair to say that your score has to be made on the out­ward nine as the course just gets stronger and tougher on the in­ward half.

No­table holes in­clude the gor­geous Par 3 11th played through a gap in the dunes to a blind green, and the stern sig­na­ture Par 4 15th where two pre­cise shots are called for to reach the green hid­den in a hol­low. Royal St David's rep­re­sents good value for money, es­pe­cially if you can book a day rate or a twi­light tee time af­ter 3pm.

Aber­dovey

A quirky way to reach the fi­nal course of our North Wales coastal quin­tet (es­pe­cially if you are us­ing Har­lech as your golf­ing base) is to catch the train from Har­lech sta­tion to Aber­dovey. The 75-minute jour­ney is not only very scenic, hug­ging the coast­line and stop­ping at quaint sea­side towns and vil­lages en-route, but once you ar­rive at Aber­dovey, it is lit­er­ally only a short chip away to the course on the other side of the train track.

Golf has been played on this nar­row strip of links land wedged be­tween beach and rail­way line since 1892, and three of the le­gendary ar­chi­tects of the early 20th­cen­tury - namely Harry Colt, James Braid and Her­bert Fowler - have all played a part in shap­ing this his­toric course.

There is no bet­ter way to fin­ish off a round at this old-fash­ioned out-and-back links es­pe­cially if the sun is shin­ing, than to en­joy a beer on the club­house bal­cony over­look­ing the 1st and 18th holes. Ad­ja­cent to the club­house is a dormy bun­ga­low ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­ity for golfers to stay on site.

Whether trav­el­ling solo, with a part­ner or the fam­ily, North Wales has plenty to keep ev­ery­one busy away from the golf. Ar­guably the num­ber one ac­tiv­ity in the area if you are mod­er­ately fit, is to walk to the sum­mit of Mount Snow­don, the high­est moun­tain in Wales stand­ing at 3,650 ft (1,085m) above sea level.

You can hike up one of six routes (rang­ing in dis­tance and dif­fi­culty) and come down an­other, or hike up and take the Snow­don Moun­tain Rail­way back down. An­other hik­ing op­tion is to walk sec­tions of the 870-mile Wales Coast Path (the world's first un­in­ter­rupted route along a na­tional coast) opened in 2012.

North Wales is also mak­ing a name for it­self in the world of ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties. On the flanks of Snow­do­nia Na­tional Park, Zip World's Ve­loc­ity at Pen­ryhn Slate Quarry in Bethesda, is the world's fastest zip line and the long­est in Europe with two 500 ft (152m) high cour­ses that en­able rid­ers to ex­ceed 100 mph (161 km/h), while Zip World's Ti­tan at Llech­wedd

Slate Cav­erns in Blae­nau Ffes­tin­iog of­fers Europe's first four-per­son line – per­fect for thrill seek­ing fam­i­lies.

A short drive east is Surf Snow­do­nia, a world-first man-made la­goon where am­a­teurs and pro­fes­sional surfers alike can surf a pow­er­ful 6.5ft (2m ) wave, un­der

the watch­ful eye of Welsh Na­tional Surf­ing Cham­pion, Jo Deni­son.

An­other ma­jor at­trac­tion in the re­gion is the nar­row gauge her­itage Ffes­tin­iog Moun­tain Rail­way (the old­est in­de­pen­dent rail­way com­pany in the world run by vol­un­teers) which is roughly 13 miles long and runs from Porth­madog to the slate mining town of Blae­nau Ffes­tin­iog, trav­el­ling through forested and moun­tain­ous scenery.

On the out­skirts of Porth­madog is Port­meirion, a tourist vil­lage built by Sir Clough Wil­liams-el­lis be­tween the mid 1920s and 1970s in the style of an Ital­ian vil­lage, and it is well worth ex­plor­ing the colour­ful maze of elab­o­rate vil­las, scat­tered domes and lush gar­dens. Over the years, it has served as the lo­ca­tion for nu­mer­ous films and tele­vi­sion shows, most no­tably the 1960s sur­real spy drama Pris­oner.

And fi­nally, Wales is blessed with cas­tles - there are over a 100 still stand­ing, ei­ther as ru­ins or re­stored build­ings – and the spec­tac­u­larly sited 13th-cen­tury Har­lech Cas­tle is a mustvisit in the north-west re­gion.

Af­ter ex­plor­ing this World Her­itage site, al­low some time to build your own cas­tle with the kids on Har­lech Beach si­t­u­ated beyond the dunes at Royal St. David's Golf Club and re­turn with Welsh dreams that prom­ises to tit­il­late and beckon un­til your next visit.

Whether trav­el­ling solo, with a part­ner or the fam­ily,

North Wales has plenty to keep ev­ery­one busy away from the golf. Ar­guably the num­ber one ac­tiv­ity in the area if you are mod­er­ately fit, IS TO WALK TO THE SUM­MIT OF MOUNT SNOW­DON, THE HIGH­EST MOUN­TAIN

in Wales stand­ing at 3,650 ft (1,085m) above sea level.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: 15th hole with Har­lech cas­tle; While play­ing Ne­fyn & District, en­joy a pint at the Ty Coch Inn on Porthdin­l­laen Beach with mar­vel­lous views across the bay to Mount Snow­don; Scenic wa­ter­fall on the train trip near Ffes­tin­iog; Walk­ers on the sum­mit of Mount Snow­don; Ffes­tin­iog rail­way.

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