A Tour of Links Golf Courses in North Wales - part 1

04 February 2020
12 min. read
Markus Müller
This blog gives a review about a number of golf courses in north Wales. In June 2019, I (Markus) was one of five Germans that decided to follow the idea of a golf nut, Dirk, and spent nearly two weeks exploring the links courses on the Irish sea.
Looking out from the approach to Crib Goch from Pen Y Pas, over Llyn Llydaw (photo credits: Mike Peel)
Looking out from the approach to Crib Goch from Pen Y Pas, over Llyn Llydaw (photo credits: Mike Peel - Unsplash)
Wales, England’s nasty little brother is a little smaller than Scotland (1/4 of the size) and known for its rugged coastline. The country was once fully covered by an ice sheet and numerous glaciers. Today, with a 1200 km long coastline, the chances are very high to find yourself a links course. There are 200 golf courses in Wales and a lot of these are on the coast.

It’s hard to believe just how undervalued this unique region is. Particularly among (German) golfers and travel agencies around continental Europe. 
Area from Lleyn peninsula to river Conwy, including Anglesey Island

A Perfect Base for a Trip to North Wales

Wales is quite small and the roads very narrow. However, distances are a bit too far to drive if you want to see the whole country in less than two weeks. So we decided to focus on golf courses in north Wales. The decision on where to stay fell to the city of Caernarfon. It lies along the A487 road, on the eastern shore of the Menai Strait and opposite the Isle of Anglesey. Caernarfon is the unofficial capital of north Wales. The town dates back to a Roman fort from the 1st century AD, still explorable. The center of the town is dominated by one of Britain’s best-known historic fortresses – the mighty Caernarfon Castle. The city also offers a large variety of pubs and restaurants and is worth exploring on foot (even after a long day of golf).
The mighty Caernarfon Castle (photo credits, Herbert Ortner - Wikimedia)
There are several Airbnb’s in the area, as well as some lovely hotels. However, with a hobby cook in our group, we decided to share a house. 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a kitchen and dining room all for us, and just outside the town too.

Planning the Trip

Dirk, who once lived and worked at the borders of Wales, shared all of his knowledge and experiences. We were also very lucky to gain a lot of additional help from an English/German/Welsh speaking pro from the wonderful Caernarfon Golf Club; Aled Owen. 

We handed over our wish list to him in advance. In turn, we received feedback on the whole region, recommendations and finally a full tour program of which golf courses in North Wales to play and when. This also included an amazing discount in comparison to our German experiences. On this list, there were courses that we had no idea about before. I would be more than happy to share it with you.

By the way, Aled offered to share his knowledge to other golfers too:
Aled Owen (PGA Professional)
Royal Town of Caernarfon

Getting There and Getting to Play the Golf Courses in North Wales

From Frankfurt to Manchester it is only a 99 minute flight and you also gain some time due to the change of time zone. We landed around 10:30 am and rented a van at the airport. It takes less than two hours to get to Caernarfon while driving along the coast of north Wales.

Coming directly from Manchester, you will pass by Prestatyn Golf Club on your way to Caernarfon. However, we decided to take the scenic route along the Irish Sea the first day and start our links experience at Prestatyn on day two. We stopped in Bangor and took the chance to buy all of the necessary golf equipment (mostly balls) and food for the first day. With our pockets full of golf balls and our trunk full of food and beer. We soon arrived in Caernarfon to say hello to Aled.

Prestatyn Golf Club

Green at Prestatyn Golf Club (Photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
On our second day we went to Prestatyn Golf Club. Home of the Welsh Amateur Open in 2019, the 6246 yards, PAR 72 course, is a true links experience. Protected by the huge sand dunes all along the course, its design is easy and efficient. The first 3 holes are into the headwind with the next 5 holes with the tailwind. Then repeat!

Some crosswinds on the Par 3 and many, many natural bunkers. The greens are varying in size and very fast! The ninth hole is quite tricky though. It is surrounded by a watercourse and almost like an island green, however, it is safe to play your approach too long. Holes 10 through 14 are particularly high standard with the final eight being more rugged in nature. The quality of turf is much finer, like walking on a carpet. Fairways are narrow but undulating and a rail track runs the length of the course to give you a true links experience. The 16th green is a final challenge as it sits on top of a little hill plateau, protected by bunkers.

A Great Start

Black Boy Inn – Caernarfon (Photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
Prestatyn is the perfect beginning to a links experience. Unfortunately, the club houses at most Welsh golf courses have few opening hours during the week. They are mostly built in the mid-to-late 20th century and no architect ever will win a prize for the ugly brick walls. The showers and locker rooms are small and simple. We were happy to leave for a beer to one of Caernarfon’s great pubs after a day in wind and rain. I recommend the Black Boy Inn for dinner and the Harbour Table Table for breakfast.

Anglesey Golf Club

The ‘special moving obstacles’ at Anglesey Golf Club (Photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
On day 3 Anglesey Golf Club was, no doubt, the biggest surprise to all of us and a true hidden gem. We heard about this thanks to Aled, it wasn’t on our original wish list.

Another 80 minute drive took us onto the Island of Anglesey and into Rhosneigr. To my surprise, this unique course is not listed by the Links Association as a ‘True Links Course’. However, you will find all of the typical links challenges at Anglesey for very little money. Undulating fairways and small greens, view-blocking dunes and wind-deformed crippled fir. You’ll also get a hard/sandy soil with water-absorbing grass/moss mixture. This unique turf, gives you the ability to play after the heaviest rainfall. Blind shots, changing winds from the nearby Irish Sea and a few natural bunkers are evident. In addition, there are the “special moving obstacles” – the sheep! 

The course is not so demanding, but there are some special features. For example, the fairways  are constantly pointing in different directions and thus, exposed to different wind directions. Doglegs in combination with narrow fairways request very accurate play and the rough, whether long grass or crippled pine accumulations, does not allow for any free ball. A few blind shots will demand your self-confidence. The small greens are of medium speed, but undulating to make the short second putts more challenging. The place offers great potential but unfortunately the maintenance was only average. 

Just to test you a little more, the many (hidden) rabbit holes offer a danger to all golfers. 
Overall however, the course has a breathtaking natural beauty and it is a real pleasure to play there. There is a railway track running alongside the golf course and another special feature is the nearby runway of the Royal Air Force Station. We had a clear view of an A4 Skyhawk, S-Tucano and Eurocopter Jupiter taking off! The clubhouse is simple. There’s a small bar and – of course – very limited opening hours. The price of £15 is great. Absolutely worthwhile!

Royal St David’s Golf Club

Castle view at Royal St. David’s (Photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
On our fourth day in North Wales, it took us one hour via Porthmadog to get to Royal St David’s Golf Club at Harlech, just a stones throw below the castle. This course is less challenging, however, under certain circumstances the dunes channel the wind. We had to play in these strong winds as well as some heavy rain. very little bunkers protect the greens. The fairways are mostly wide and nearly no dogleg, while all are mostly flat and easy with not so much undulation (except 1 and 3). The first four holes are an easy warm up. Then the distances from tee box to fairway get longer, and you must hit the ball hard while doing your best to avoid a slice. No two fairways point in the same direction and your club selection is very important, especially if it’s a steady wind.

The ‘IN’ is a little harder to play than the ‘OUT’. Unfortunately the dunes mostly limit the view, and it is only at 16 that you’ll see the Irish Sea. The castle on the other side however, can be seen from all holes. Regrettably you won’t play through the dunes, but you do get a little closer towards the end of 15/16. The course is not so typical for a links as most of the fairways are only a little undulated and you can easily identify a good landing zone for your next stroke.
Overall, things could be done better. Missing indications, a lack of trash cans, tee boxes not well kept, no ball washing devices and in the driving range and training area; everything is too simple and not done with any passion. You pay for Miura clubs but it’s a Wilson staff you get. Even after a nice day it’s not really worth the money in my opinion. There are more exciting golf courses around the north of Wales.

Nefyn & District Golf Club

Great greens and views at Nefyn & District Golf Club (Photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
On day 5 we visited Nefyn & District Golf Club. Pictures of Nefyn were the ones that got me interested in Wales back in 2017. The experience did not disappoint! It is undoubtedly one of the finest golf courses that North Wales has to offer.

The area is as scenic, challenging and picturesque as it looks in the photos. A must play course! Nefyn old course (9 holes) – combined with the holes 1 – 9 of the new 18 hole course is an absolute joy for the eye and a feasible challenge for the mid-level player. There is a simple and narrow driving range just off the clubhouse with a ball machine, and some covered tees. In front of the putting green there is also a handy little pro-shop. Take your time to warm up though as it’s gonna be cold on the course!

All 27 holes are in an exposed position and the wind whistles over the course for 5 out of the 7 days. This can cut or extend your drive by 60% depending, but in any case it cools the player down after a shot just as quickly! Fairways 1 – 9 of the new course are mostly along the coastline to the south, then lead back in. In some cases they offer good vantage points. The wide fairways are quite forgiving if you happen to miscalculate the wind and the vast greens make it easier to play “Green in Regulation”. However with strong headwinds, holes 2, 3 and 4 get very long and the transverse running 4 requires a full swing long iron.

A Challenging Back Nine

The ‘IN’ track of the old course demands all of your skill! The 10th green sits high on the dunes and requires a blind shot to a minimum of 60 m. The routing then naturally follows the promontory, high on the cliff. Between the pots, you play dunes and punishing rough in severe winds, for several holes out to the ‘Lands End’ watchtower. The par 3, with the tee high on the tower, enriches the view and requires a good sense as it’s downhill and in the wind.

One of the nicest things about the golf course is the Ty Coch Inn, a beachside pub. After you’ve played the par 4, 15th, you can walk down to the beach and have a nice pint. You can then come up and play the last three holes.
View from hole 15 down to Ty Coch Inn (photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
After an exhausting par 5, (17th) you have to play the 18th uphill – under the watchful eyes of many pedestrians and clubhouse visitors (golfers only!). It requires a finish with pinpoint accuracy as a ball hit too long, can go into the window panes of the clubhouse.
The clubhouse offers a small menu, a nice bar with a terrace and a window front with great views of the 18th green. This is backed by the striking cliff guidance of the old course.

Nefyn District GC is not a links course, but offers many features of one and is a special experience. The place was – as always – well maintained and the long journey and the green fee of £ 60 is well worth it!

Porthmadog Golf Club

The ever undulating Porthmadog (Photo credits, member Markus4Mueller)
On day 6 we began by heading south again, about 30min down the A487 to the beautiful seaside village of Porthmadog. The home of the eponymous Porthmadog Golf Club.

This 18 hole PAR 71 Master Course is 5992 yards in length and is very special. The club offers both a parkland course and a true links course. And after some renovation work in 2018, it got even better than before. The ‘OUT’ is good for warming up and runs mostly through a parkland area, parallel to the beach. It is protected by the woods and many bushes with an Island green as it ́s highlight.

The ‘IN’ is an estuary at the northernmost point of Cardigan Bay which leads to a high, often superior dune! Tees 11-16 are good fun. They require strategy and a dose of luck to find the small landing zones. The greens are either exposed at the top of the dunes – in the wind, or tightly enclosed between the dunes and partially visible.

Finally, long fairways on 17 and 18 guide the golfer out of the dunes and concludes at the clubhouse. The positive changes in the past year have also made the first nine holes much more attractive. The island green on 6, as well as the elevated green area on 8 are particularly outstanding.
Porthmadog is one of the few golf courses in this area of North Wales to provide a driving range, a pitching area and multiple driving nets as well as sufficient putting greens in good condition. The clubhouse is very traditional, with a small menu and a good selection of drinks. Buggies and E-trolleys are also available. I would certainly like to play this well maintained yet very natural course again and again!

The concludes the first part of our 12 day trip to North Wales. Make sure to check out the second leg of this trip!
Related articles

Markus Müller

Markus Müller

I started my golf career late in life, aged 34. Whenever I'm on a business trip I always try to find some time to play a nearby course. My actual Handicap is three years old (👧) and shortens my training time a bit. But I still try to be on the driving range at least 3 times a week. While working in Scandinavia as well as South America I try to play (and review) golf courses unknown to most of us. I'm also the Leadingcourses Ambassador for 🇩🇪
Don’t miss out on our tee time deals, new articles and everything golf-related by joining our newsletter!
Ladies European TourIAGTOGeo FoundationBig Green Egg

Copyright © 2007-2022 — leadingcourses.com