Despite being the host country for Ryder Cup 2010, the ruggedly appealing links courses of Wales are still relatively unknown to the North American golf travelers. Perhaps that is because the Cup was contested on the parkland, American-looking Twenty Ten course at Celtic Manor or perhaps because Wales has not marketed its golf as effectively as Scotland, Ireland or even England. Whatever the reason, the Welsh golf clubs deserve better as they offer the links lover an experience well worth leaving home for. In a week, one can travel the coast line from north Wales to mid Wales and on to south Wales in a journey that looks like the letter “C”, play a different links course every day and never play a course that is anything like any course on the other side of the Atlantic. Most of the better Welsh golf courses are in the midst of stunning scenery and numerous historic vacation sites which makes Wales an excellent destination for those golfers who are vacationing with partners who play golf seldom or not at all.
The three most renowned courses in Wales, Royal Porthcawl in the south and Royal St. David’s and Aberdovey in mid Wales, are all rated in the top 100 courses outside the US.
Porthcawl, commonly rated amongst the top twenty golf courses in the British Isles and amongst the top 100 in the world, has hosted every major championship save the Open. Although every hole offers a view of the sea, the last four are the best known and so diabolically challenging as to rival the finish at Carnoustie. Nearby are the links of Pennard, Southerndown, Pyle & Kenfig and Tenby– all more than worthy of a play during one of your golf holidays in Wales. Pennard features the vistas of Cruden Bay, the roaming animals of Brora and skittering links bounces all its own. Tenby, the oldest club in Wales, besides being a good test, is home to the Divots Society that plays golf on Sunday mornings in the winter. A former Captain explained the name this way: “Well, a divot is basically a clot and all those who play in some of the weather we endure deserve the title.” The recent construction of two new major hotels has markedly enhanced the lodging choices in south Wales. Although Celtic Manor is better known and more luxurious, the Vale of Glenmorgan is more convenient to the better courses. And Wales has always offered a plethora of elegant country and manor house hotels for your golf vacation holiday.
Royal St. David’s, the links course that bears the name of Wales’ patron saint, ironically is in the shadow of Harlech, the towering castle (above) that England’s Edward I built to subdue the Welsh. Aberdovey is reported to have begun when the uncle of famed English golf writer Bernard Darwin purchased nine flower pots from the local iron monger (hardware store) then buried them in the linksland adjacent to the beaches where the family went on annual holiday. Like so many Welsh courses, it too is home to roaming farm animals. In north Wales, we are most fond of Conwy which served as an Open qualifying course for England’s nearby Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) and Nefyn & District the location of which is so spectacular as to rival Ireland’s Old Head.