Green golf courses
As a hotbed of the Industrial Revolution, the South Wales Valleys were once dominated by the black of coal and the orange glow of furnaces. These days they’re all about a different colour – the hills and vales are green again, dotted with the lush green of golf courses. There’s a surprising choice here in a comparatively small space, so you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.
Making the cut
Stay at Bryn Meadows for this trip. Not only is it the perfect base to access the many great local courses, but it’s also a fantastic golf destination in its own right. The 6,021-yard, par-71 parkland course rewards precision over brute force. Watch out for the signature second hole, a 557-yard par-five with a tricky third shot over water.
Heritage spanning almost a thousand years plays a visible part at Morlais Castle near Merthyr Tydfil. The club is named after a fortress, now in ruin, built by a Norman lord in the 13th century. Industrial heritage makes an appearance along the first nine holes, which are laid out around a former quarry. The second section of the 6,550-yard course is played on rolling moorland with wonderful views towards the Brecon Beacons National Park. There’s some challenging golf too. The par-three seventh may look simple at first glance, but it’s a tough and unpredictable test when the wind gets up.
There’s more medieval heritage – this time on a massive scale – at Caerphilly. The mountainous 5,487-yard parkland course sits high on a hill overlooking the town’s 13th-century castle, one of the largest and best preserved in Europe. The 10th hole is particularly striking – and from here you can clearly see how the castle completely dominates the town centre.
Next it’s on to Aberdare, a mountain parkland course in the heart of the Cynon Valley. Founded in 1921, it’s where the great five-time Ryder Cup captain Dai Rees cut his golfing teeth. It’s still just as big a challenge as it was in Rees’s day, with mature oak trees lining the fairways and plenty of tricky holes. You can also expect a warm welcome in the famously friendly clubhouse.
Finally, drop into Rhondda Golf Club. It’s a rugged and mountainous experience, perched at a dizzy 1,000ft altitude above sea level. As you play you’ll look down on winding rows of toy town-like terraced cottages and enjoy hilltop views that, on a clear day, stretch as far as the Bristol Channel.
Need to know
If you’d like to find out more about the industrial heritage of the South Wales Valleys, visit Rhondda Heritage Park. It’s an immersive recreation of a working 1950s coalmine, where you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of life as a miner. Big Pit National Mining Museum at Blaenavon is another must-visit.