If TG was sending a friend on their very first golf trip, we would have two areas in mind: Angus in Scotland, and North Wales. They both boast important advantages over most other parts of Great Britain and Ireland due to being relatively undiscovered in golfing terms. As a result, green fees, food and accommodation are cheaper and three-hour rounds are the rule rather than the exception – factors which taken together we’d like to think would encourage our friend to go on further golf trips (because, rest assured, there are plenty of areas of GB&I that could turn a golf trip rookie off these for life owing to the sheer expense as well as slow rounds).
Another big advantage of North Wales is its accessibility, certainly for large numbers of English golfers. It is within a couple of hours for golfers living as far apart as Leeds and Birmingham and even those further away can easily fly into Manchester, whose airport is especially well placed to pick up the M56 and cross the border.
Most golfers will arrive in North Wales via the A55 and there is a wonderful first stop no more than a pitching wedge from this main road: Conwy. It is the ideal place to start a trip to Wales. This typically ‘honest links’ might start in a low-key fashion and finish with three holes which are less linksy in style, but in between it is consistently excellent. For lovers of proper championship links golf, it ticks all the boxes with all the delights of seaside golf in abundance. Laid out on ‘The Morfa’ (Welsh for foreland or beach) between the Carneddau Mountains, the estuary and Llandudno’s Great Orme, you will rarely receive a warmer welcome than that at Conwy.
Before leaving the area, you can play one or both of the Llandudno clubs and not be anything other than delighted you did so. Maesdu and North Wales are excellent courses in their own right, with the latter particularly highly rated. It is stretched out on the West Shore of Llandudno and this old-fashioned links really comes into its own from the 8th to the 11th. Heading westward and northward to Anglesey across the Menai Bridge brings us to three courses – Bull Bay, Holyhead and Anglesey – that you may well not have heard of. They can form a nice little trip in themselves and you’ll have change from £150 from their combined green fees... The first two were listed in Golf World’s Top 25 Wales Courses in 2013 and are perched on the island’s rugged coastline with exhilarating views of the mountains of Snowdonia and over the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and even the Lake District. Anglesey also offers similarly fine views and you will return over the Menai Bridge bewildered that you haven’t heard more about this trio before.
Back on the mainland, an hour’s drive south brings us to even more spectacular views at Nefyn & District. You may well be already aware of them, for Nefyn is understandably used in Visit Wales’ striking advert that you will have seen on television. If thrilling clifftop golf is your thing, start planning a trip to the Peninsula now. Laid out on slivers of clifftop, it boasts truly dramatic holes, as well as a few that will leave you utterly bemused!
Finally to two courses where variety is the name of the game. Pwllheli begins as a pleasant parkland – perfect for loosening your muscles after 36 holes the previous days (and possibly a few refreshments in the evening too). Then at the 8th it bursts into life with a superb linksy stretch which, when bathed in sunshine, simply makes you glad to be a golfer. The par-4 9th and short 10th are truly classy links holes, right up there with the best in British golf. A spot of lunch in the clubhouse and a chat with one of the friendly members will recharge the batteries ready for the next port of call, Porthmadog – just 15 minutes away. Again, it starts with inland golf – a mixture of heathland and parkland holes played to a backdrop of huge mountains. These are appetisers for the main course, which you tuck into when you cross the access road and enter an intoxicating mixture of dunes, wild grasses and gorse which give sensational definition to stunning holes such as the 11th and 12th.
It’s the kind of world-class but affordable golf we are confident our golf trip rookie will be left open-mouthed by.
A hole you would relish: Porthmadog, 10th, Par 4, 377 yards
We could have selected so many holes from the back nine at this splendid hybrid course but this swinging dog-leg is right out of the top drawer – and it also signifies the start of the links section.
5 reasons to visit Wales in 2014...
Quick look at the varied attractions.
1 The cost
The vast majority of clubs set green fees that will amaze you, so reasonably priced are they. Even the stellar venues are relatively cheap compared to their peers in England, Scotland and Ireland.
2 The lack of waiting around
A leisurely breakfast, two rounds, a long lunch and still finished in time for ‘early bird’ drinks. How is this possible? Because a round in Wales – where members play briskly and where you can find a less crowded time sheet – means three hours, not four and a half.
3 The variety of courses
Whether you’re a links connoisseur or a devotee of scenic parklands, every corner of Wales can sate your thirst.
4 The easy access
In the north, the M56 and A55 take you to the heart of the action as does the M4 in the south. Or you can fly into Manchester or Cardiff and hire a car if you are especially far afield. For Mid Wales, take the M54 off the M6. Easy!
5 The warm welcome
You won’t receive a warmer welcome anywhere in these islands – and that includes the legendary Irish ‘craic’.
For more information see the Visit Wales website.