Sometimes overlooked by golfers seeking trophy courses, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire are two beautiful Welsh counties which have some varied and hugely enjoyable golf to offer. Rob Smith finds out more...
A holiday hotspot in its own right, many are also lured to Tenby by the draw of playing the oldest course in Wales. Founded as a nine-holer in 1888, it was expanded by James Braid in 1907 and is a serious championship test that is a joy to play.
There is more diversity than at many links courses, and the first couple of holes ease you into the round before back-to-back crackers at 3 and 4. The first of these is Stroke Index 1 and is played to a scarily narrow green with run-offs on either side, while the 4th heads helter-skelter through the dunes to a sunken green in the most wonderfully natural setting. A handful of strong par 4s from the 7th take you to and from the far end of the course where there are lovely views back to the town, and they are followed by a wonderful sand-devoid short hole.
While the three holes on the inland side of the railway are of a slightly different character, for those of us who enjoy variety, they provide exactly that. Not many will disagree that this is the finest course in the area.
Stats: par 72, 6,528 yards
GF: £60/£70 per round/day all week
With easy access to all that the region has to offer, this extremely friendly members’ club dates back well over a century but boasts a modern, spacious clubhouse where visitors are more than welcome every day, subject to competitions. There are fine views to the north and the Preseli Mountains, and the greatest golfing test comes at the longer par 4s at 4, 12, 13 and 15. The 8th is a very photogenic short hole, and there is a real sting in the tail at 18, which is an uphill dogleg that plays considerably longer than its yardage. The club’s hospitable reputation is well justified.
Stats: par 70, 6,002 yards
GF: £25wd, £30we per round
Opening just over a decade ago, this large-scale Nicklaus Junior design is a fine and challenging test of golf which combines the features of traditional links golf with a modern twist and top-quality greens. The front nine runs through reclaimed marshland with water a regular and dominant defence, while the back nine is closer to the estuary where you change direction on every tee. The course is packed with strong holes and it demands and rewards good play. The clubhouse is well equipped and lively with a spa and fitness centre, and the brasserie has superb views of the course.
Stats: par 71, 6,416 yards
GF: £40/£60wd per round/day, £45/£67.50we
It would be easy to think that Milford Haven’s shipbuilding and industrial environment would not lend itself to golf, and it would therefore be easy to be completely wrong. The club has been in existence since 1913, and while the holes close to the clubhouse are fine, they only hint at the fun to come on the other side! The par 3s at 4 and 6 are short but very sweet, and as you come over the brow of the hill on the 7th, there is a wonderful panorama of the estuary, shipping and surrounding hills which stays with you for nine holes. A genuine surprise and well worth visiting.
Stats: par 70, 6,142 yards
GF: £25wd, £30we per round
The Atlantic Hotel
Offering panoramic views over Tenby’s beautiful, sandy South Beach and over to Caldey Island, this elegant clifftop hotel is a peaceful retreat just moments away from the town’s hustle and bustle. There are 42 rooms and a spa for the exclusive use of residents with steam room and pool, and downstairs is the recently refurbished and renamed Sea Salt restaurant which offers mouth-watering menus featuring locally caught seafood.
This lively, informal and very friendly pizza/pasta restaurant is noted for its own dough recipe and preparing everything from scratch using only the freshest ingredients. In the heart of this lively tourist town, local ingredients are a key feature and there are daily specials at prices that will not break the bank. If you have room, they also offer delicious, home-made ice cream and desserts.
The Jolly Sailor
There are some excellent pubs overlooking the many estuaries in the area, and this riverside inn is on a site that has been home to one for more than 150 years. With a large garden that runs down to the River Cleddau opposite Pembroke Dock, there are panoramic views of this busy stretch of water that is home to sailors, oarsmen and many types of birdlife. Real ale fans are well catered for and there is an extensive menu.
The region’s beautiful rolling hills and jagged coastline are also home to several other fine courses including the excellent links at Ashburnham which, like Tenby and Machynys, features in the Golf Monthly Next 100. The JH Taylor hilltop/parkland course at Carmarthen enjoys a very peaceful and unspoiled setting, and to the north of the area is the beautiful design at Cardigan which also has outstanding views across Cardigan Bay. For setting alone, it is hard to beat the scenic nine-holer at St Davids City in the far west. The area may be slightly more remote than some other better-known regions, but golfers will be more than rewarded by some tremendous courses and golf at remarkably reasonable rates.
Photography Rob Smith, © Crown Copyright (2016) Visit Wales