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