Castles and coastline golf
Upstanding castles and outstanding coastline are the themes here, from the commanding heights of Harlech Castle, a World Heritage Site overlooking a world-class links course, to the shores of the Llŷn Peninsula, an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
Making the cut
Royal St David’s at Harlech is one of Wales – and the world’s – top links courses. The setting is something special too. ‘Playing there in the shadow of mighty, medieval Harlech Castle is a humbling experience,’ says American TV sports commentator Mark Rolfing. It’s the kind of course that inevitably attracts rave reviews, a true championship venue with ‘a distinct blend of challenge and romance’. If you like dunes you’ll love Harlech.
Next comes Porthmadog at the gateway to Llŷn. Now here’s something really different, a two-in-one course that offers nine holes of ruggedly pure links plus a further nine of rolling heathland. Build up your score on the first nine, for things get a bit tougher on the way back to the clubhouse. Legendary designers James Braid and Harry Vardon had a hand in shaping Porthmadog. Enough said.
First stop on Llŷn is the pretty, castle-crowned Victorian resort of Criccieth. The golf course is laid out on a hill above the castle and coastline, with spectacular views across to Snowdonia and Harlech (they’re reckoned to be ‘worth half the green fee’). It’s another Braid-influenced course, undulating in nature with generous fairways. Opera star and avid golfer Bryn Terfel is a big fan of its endearing nature (‘sheep and cows sometimes venture onto the greens, but the panoramic view … is simply wonderful’).
Abersoch, further along Llŷn’s south coast, was designed by Harry Vardon in 1907. It’s a mix of links and parkland, with testing holes where accuracy is key and more of those spectacular sea views. Playability is another feature. Don’t believe all that you read about Welsh weather: Abersoch is on the ‘Welsh Riviera’ in a microclimate that offers year-round golf.
We’ve kept the most daunting until last. It’s Nefyn & District of course, on Llŷn’s north coast. Golf at Nefyn, possibly Wales’s most photographed course, has been likened to ‘playing off the deck of an aircraft carrier.’ The final eight on this mighty – and mighty fearsome – links/clifftop course take you out to a narrow strip of land projecting into the sea, with cliffs on either side. Bring plenty of spare balls.
Need to know
Book accommodation somewhere in the middle of it all – at Criccieth or Porthmadog. Or stay in the best prison on the planet, Portmeirion, still remembered as the setting for the cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner.