I have to say that I feel slightly fortunate to have stolen a march on many by discovering the joys of South Wales golf almost by chance some 25 years ago when my brother was considerate enough to relocate to the Valleys, thus paving the way for some extremely cost-effective golfing breaks. My pals and I took full, shameless advantage, taking in a whole raft of wonderful Valleys layouts that still hold very special memories for me.
One of my favourites was Morlais Castle, a rugged moorland layout just outside Merthyr Tydfil, which I first played when it was still a nine-holer back in the mid 1980s. I remember it well because I was the only one on the course on a Saturday afternoon, the reason for which became all too apparent in the bar afterwards. It was packed to the rafters with members glued to the Wales-England rugby match, bemused as to how anyone could possibly put golf above their national sport!
Okay, there was good reason for the deserted course that day, but my many trips to the region since have taught me that an uncrowded fairway or two is more or less par for the course in Wales. I’d not been back to the now 18-hole Morlais Castle for some years, so was delighted on my recent visit to discover that, other than a few tweaks and improvements, everything was just as I’d fondly remembered it. The magic spell of those magnificent views across to the Brecon Beacons, and the sheer tranquillity of the fairways, still take some beating.
We got that same liberating hilltop feel too at Mountain Ash, a short-but-beautiful heathland track on Cefnpennar Mountain whose final hole plunges back down dramatically, and Rhondda, perched high on the mountain plateaux above the valley, where each hole is named after one of the collieries once scattered liberally throughout these valleys. We also savoured the Rolls of Monmouth, a majestic parkland course east of Abergavenny, so-called not because of the rolling terrain, but for the stirring backdrop to the 18th hole – a splendid manor house that was home to the Rolls family of Rolls-Royce fame until 1987.
A trip to Morlais Castle Golf Club: