The golfing pedigree of North Wales has never been in doubt, yet somewhat strangely the area, and in fact Wales as whole, is often overlooked in favour of Scotland and Ireland by British golfers looking for a few days away. Why is frankly a mystery. Maybe it’s the thought of being harangued by mellifluous male-voice choirs, perhaps we baulk at the thought of having our faces drenched in phlegm by a helpful local keen to point the way to Llabjhvivyuv, or for those heading up from the south, could it be the thought of forking out an outrageous £4.60 to cross the Severn Bridge? Yet, for the majority of us, Wales is much easier to get to than its Celtic counterparts. But make the trip and believe us you?ll be rewarded. In fact, ask anyone who’s been to this corner of North Wales ? which runs from Harlech in the south round the Llyn Peninsula and up to Caernarfon in the north ? and we guarantee they?ll wax lyrical about the golf courses, stunning scenery, exceptional value for money and the warm welcome that?s on offer.
The “must play” course for anyone visiting the area is Royal St David?s Golf Club in the ancient town of Harlech. Yes, the very one on which the song “Men of Harlech” is based (choirs, again ? surely never more stirring than the rendition given by Michael Caine and the boys in Zulu though). No one really knows who was responsible for the original layout of the course but whoever it was had a remarkable canvass on which to work. The course sits on a slim strip of pure linksland (much of it’s an area of special scientific interest) bounded on one side by the Irish Sea and the dark, brooding Harlech Castle on the other.
Forty minutes drive from Harlech is Nefyn. The drive itself is pretty special with frequent glimpses of Snowdon and the Irish Sea on offer. But nothing can really prepare you for the vista as you get out of the car and below you stretches out the course and beyond that the Irish Sea. Spine-tingling anticipation at its best.
But, despite being right on the sea ? you can see it from every tee and it comes into play on nine holes ? Nefyn is not a links but rather a cliff-top course with lush fairways where the ball sits up begging to be hit and greens that will almost always hold a well-struck shot. The course has been altered a few times and there is now a choice of two finishes (both the Old and the New courses share the same first 10 holes but have different last eights). This helps to ease the pressure on the course, especially during the summer when walkers keen to take in the views and head down to the incredibly beautiful bay and pub (see Eat and Drink below) at Porth Dinllaen, slow the pace of play.
Playing the course it?s easy to see why it?s so well regarded. Not only are your senses assaulted at every turn but the quality and condition of the course manages to keep parity with the views. No mean feat when you consider that it?s possible to see all the way over to Wicklow Mountains in Ireland on a good day. A bad one means you?re limited to views of Anglesey (the place with the spittle inducing village name) and the Cambrian Mountains.
Because the Llyn Peninsula is so close to Liverpool and Manchester, the area is very popular with families from the North West and indeed, Abersoch, due south from Nefyn on the south coast of the peninsula is often referred to as “Wilmslow-on-Sea”. Great beaches, perfect sailing waters, beautiful scenery and a relatively mild year-round climate courtesy of the warming Gulf Stream keeps people coming back to Abersoch year after year. And, as if all that wasn?t enough, there?s also Abersoch Golf Club. The original 9-hole course (which now makes up the inward half) was laid out in the early 1900s and over time the course has been extended to a full 18 with five parkland holes offering a bit of variety to the natural linksland. All the holes are named in Welsh after local landmarks, fields or views and from the white tees the par 69 course extends over a challenging 5,671 yards.
Six miles to the east of Abersoch is Pwllheli, home to the oldest club on the peninsula. Founded in 1900 as a 9-hole course, it?s a game of two halves Brian. The original nine holes (which run alongside the dunes and sea) were designed by the legendary Tom Morris of Hoylake, and the course was then extended to 18 holes nine years later by the equally eminent James Braid. The then President of the Board of Trade and future Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, officially opened the new course on June 1 1909.
There really is something to suit all budgets in this area but the great thing is that no matter how upmarket you want to go you?ll get great VFM. Our advice is to splash out and stay at least one night at the magnificent Maes-y-Neuadd country house where truly excellent food and classy surroundings come as standard. Spend just one night here and you?ll realise why the place has won a whole slew of awards including Welsh Country House Hotel of the Year 2003, from the Good Hotel Guide.
For a cheaper but no less enjoyable alternative, we?d go for the Castle Cottage in Harlech, which sits right in the shadow of the castle. The place is best described as a restaurant with rooms and its mix of fresh local food served up in hearty portions, a bustling atmosphere and a location that allows golfers to roll out of bed and onto the course in five minutes makes it an excellent place to stay.
The good news for all those who enjoy a few pints and some top nosh is that Llyn Penisula is packed with superb places to eat drink and be merry. Food wise the two hotels mentioned above will keep even the most “foodie” golfer happy. In Porthmadog there?s the excellent Ship pub and the Station Inn and just north of the town is the Golden Fleece in Tremadog all serving a good pint and decent bar food. However, if we had to single out one pub for special mention it?d be the Ty Coch in the tiny beachside hamlet of Porth Dinllaen below Nefyn golf club. The setting is truly awesome. In fact, if there?s a boozer with a more idyllic location in the UK please tell us because we?d love to go!
Royal St David?s Golf Club
stats:18 holes, par 69, 6,571 yards
tel: 01766 780361
cost: £28 Mon-Fri, £33 Sat-Sun
Porthmadog Golf Club
Morfa Bychan, Porthmadog, Gwynedd
stats: 18 holes, par 71, 6,363 yards
tel: 01766 512037
cost: £25 Mon-Fri, £30 Sat-Sun
Clwb Golff Pwllheli
Golf Road, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, LL53 5PS
stats: 18 holes, par 69, 6,108 yards
tel: 01766 701644
cost: £25. Mon-Fri, £30 Sat-Sun
Abersoch Golf Club
Abersoch, Gwynedd, LL53 7NN
stats: 18 holes, par 69, 5,671 yards
tel: 01758 712622
cost: £23 Mon-Fri, £27.50 Sat-Sun
Nefyn & District Golf Club
Morfa Nefyn, Gwynedd LL53 6DA
stats: 18 holes, par 71, 6,548 yards
tel: 01758 720966
cost: £33 Mon-Fri, £38 Sat-Sun