From here it was back on to the A470 – Wales’ major north-south trunk road – for the drive north to Harlech and its celebrated Royal St David’s links. I’d almost forgotten what a scenic thrill this route provides in places, but if you’re looking to break the journey, turn off at Builth Wells and treat yourself to a round at Llandrindod Wells, a Harry Vardon course dating back to 1905.
Not long by modern standards, it plays over beautiful upland turf looking down over the spa town. Wind can be a factor, but with the card not quite stretching to 5,800 yards, it offers everything visiting golfers could possibly wish for – fun golf in a beautiful setting without every facet of their games being tested to the very limit.
On reaching Harlech, we headed first to the town’s imposing 13th century castle before a late afternoon tee-time on the famous links, over which the sturdy fortress peers masterfully. Castles have long held a fascination for me and on every family holiday, the moment my brother and I spotted one, we’d be pleading with dad to stop the car so we could explore.
Nowhere does castles better than Wales, of course, and a little bit of the young boy clearly remains in me, with my curiosity not satisfied until I’d visited every nook and cranny, and climbed every tower and staircase. Eventually I dragged myself away, staring back up at it in awe five minutes later from the 1st tee at Royal St David’s, having safely negotiated the railway line twixt car park and clubhouse.
There’s something of a steady build to the course, with the front nine playing further from the sea and over terrain that’s somewhere between links and heathland in feel. But from the 10th, its links side really kicks in with holes that first flank the ridge of dunes between course and sea, then play along wonderfully hummocky fairways, with the rollercoaster 15th the pick of the bunch. Standing behind the green looking back up this hole towards the peaks of Snowdonia with the mighty castle away to your right is one of Welsh golf’s most iconic views.
We finished in near-darkness, enjoying a quick chat and drink with the friendly members, before heading back over the railway and onto golfing pastures new, safe in the knowledge that a links of this quality elsewhere in the UK would cost considerably more than the £67 Royal St David’s is charging for a full day’s golf this summer.
A trip to Royal St David’s Golf Club, Mid Wales: