We’re justifiably proud of our links golf here in Wales. Aberdovey is just one of the reasons why. Sandwiched between the shifting dunes of the Dyfi coast and Snowdonia National Park’s towering peaks, its layout is shaped as much by nature as its human designers, which include greats like Herbert Fowler and James Braid. A word of warning though: players seeking manicured greens and predictable conditions are destined to be disappointed. A game at the wild and windswept Aberdovey is an elemental experience, a combination of rugged terrain and mercurial weather throwing up fresh challenges with every round.
It takes something pretty special to stand out in a North Wales golf scene that boasts almost 50 great courses, but Open qualifying Conwy is definitely up to the challenge. A must-visit for any links lover, this is golf as it was always meant to be played – an elemental experience combining natural hazards with careful course design. It may appear quite flat at first glance, but the unpredictable winds blowing in off the Irish Sea mean you can’t take anything for granted. ‘Awesome’ is how European Ryder Cup legend Sam Torrance describes Conwy. We think you’ll agree.
Royal St David’s
With a reputation as the world’s toughest par-69, Royal St David’s is not for the faint-hearted. Set on land vacated by the sea only a few centuries ago, its towering dunes, undulating fairways and fast, true greens will challenge even the most able players. Featuring a dizzying selection of holes that vary in both length and direction, you’ll need every club in your bag to achieve a low score. You won’t be alone though. Harlech Castle, perched on a rocky outcrop at the course’s edge, is a constant companion.
Nefyn & District
For sheer wow factor, it’s hard to top Nefyn. The final eight holes of the Old Course are laid out on a narrow strip of land projecting into the Irish Sea. With sheer cliffs to each side and constantly shifting winds, a round here is often likened to playing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s a rugged and frequently breathtaking challenge, featuring drives across yawning chasms where a misplaced shot often means a lost ball.
Golf Monthly magazine describes Southerndown near Bridgend as ‘a timeless classic’. It is more of a heathland course than a links course but combined with spectacular coastal views this clifftop course provides a rich and varied golfing bag. Built around the natural contours of the land, its layout has remained largely unchanged since the 1920s. Why tamper with something that works so well? It’s a full-blooded links course that also squeezes elements of parkland and clifftop into its rich and varied golfing bag. Originally conceived as a 7,170-yard monster, it now stretches to a more manageable 6,428 yards. Size isn’t everything – Southerndown remains a grittily challenging test of windswept links golf.
It doesn’t take long to understand why Pennard is known as ‘the links in the sky’. Though its undulating hummocks, dunes and hillocks bear all the hallmarks of a classic coastal course, it is in fact perched 200 feet above sea level, offering stunning views of Gower’s Three Cliffs Bay. Pennard’s golf lives up to the setting, with gorse-lined, windswept fairways offering a constantly shifting challenge. The par-four 7th is a particular highlight, demanding a drive between the ruins of a 13th-century church and the remains of a 12th-century castle set high on the cliff.
If you’re looking for the true links experience, red in tooth and claw, Royal Porthcawl is a must play. The venue for the 2014 and 2017 Senior Open Championship, Royal Porthcawl is the epitome of a classic coastal links. In constant sight of the sea, its twists and turns require focused precision rather than outright power. With holes facing every point of the compass, players must constantly adjust their approach to account for the westerly wind whipping in from the Bristol Channel.
Founded in 1888, the seaside links of Tenby lays claim to being the oldest club in Wales. A few others may dispute this, but there’s no arguing with the quality of Tenby’s golf. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s how Golf Monthly magazine described the place: ‘Tenby is a classic, old-fashioned links where blind shots, awkward stances and cruel bounces will characterise any round. The course travels through, and sometimes over, the dunes from elevated tees to plateau greens, past hidden pot bunkers and treacherous rough. This is a course where traditional golfing skills are to the fore an all enthusiasts of links golf will relish the challenge.’