Geographically, Mid Wales covers the large central band from the Brecon Beacons up to the southern foothills of Snowdonia, and from Offa’s Dyke across to Cardigan Bay. The terrain is ruggedly beautiful in places, as is some of the golf if you venture off the beaten track. But before I did so, it was time for a spot of old-world charm and luxury in the delightful Peterstone Court Hotel just outside Brecon, where I spent a peaceful and comfortable night before reacquainting myself with another favourite Welsh course of mine, first visited 25 years ago.
Little did I know then that the beautiful parkland course at Cradoc was less than 20 years old; nor did I know just how grandly spectacular the Brecon Beacons were, having erroneously believed that North Wales had it all its own way when it came to rugged mountains. Indeed, Pen y Fan, the highest peak, only narrowly misses the magic 3,000 mark by 93ft, and I can vouch for its ruggedness having trekked to the very top several times, once in mid-winter when water droplets had frozen surreally horizontally from the pathside wire fences.
Anyway, I digress. The course at Cradoc was as I’d remembered it, save for 25 years of tree growth prompting an inevitable narrowing of certain fairways, especially on the sharp dogleg right 16th where trying to knock it over the corner is now fraught with danger, perhaps even folly. Before then, I had to doublecheck whether another hole – the shortish par-4 11th – was as fiendishly tricky as I’d remembered, forcing a choice between laying back and potentially blocking yourself out if you strayed too far right, or taking the hole on and relying on pinpoint accuracy to set up a short approach. On balance, I think it probably was, with my aggressive tee-shot drifting too far right into chip-out country. The club is exceptionally welcoming, so much so that in 2005 it was voted Welsh Golf Club of the Year.
Next I made a diversion down the A470 to the Brecon Mountain Railway, and a favourite spot of mine, the disused 455ft-long Pontsarn Viaduct, which once carried trains from Merthyr Tydfil to Brecon. It’s now part of the Taff Trail, a cycle path running all the way from Cardiff to Brecon, while the mountain railway operates narrow-gauge trains along a five-mile stretch past reservoirs and up towards the Beacons with picnic spots and lineside walks to enjoy. The railway wasn’t fully open for the season, but on looking suitably crestfallen I was granted every schoolboy’s wish – permission to clamber up into the cab of the biggest locomotive in the shed and do my best Casey Jones impression.
A trip to Cradoc Golf Club, Mid Wales