Like all great links courses, Aberdovey leaves you with a sense that, above all, it was created by nature, not man.
However, when the roll call of those men who have been involved with its layout over the years include Harry Colt, James Braid and Herbert Fowler, then even nature’s best can be improved.
A judicious selection of elevated tees means that the obstacles you need to overcome en route from tee to green are generally clear to see but be warned, Aberdovey also has a few hidden hazards waiting to catch the unwary.
So natural does Aberdovey feel, so in harmony is it with the undulating terrain over which it is laid out that it is nigh impossible to imagine the land being put to more appropriate use.
None of the par threes faces the same direction, many of the par fours are over 400 yards and to play well here you will need every club in the bag. Oh, and you need to putt well over true, hard, fast greens.
Aberdovey is without doubt a living testament to the unique characteristics of links golf. Playing golf here is much more than just a social and sporting activity. It can be considered a journey where you can lose yourself in the beauty of the game nurtured within the beauty of the landscape. Even if you are playing poorly - you will still be uplifted and energised by the golf experience.
Three of the legendary architects of the early 20thC; Colt, Braid & Fowler have all had a hand in shaping Aberdovey as it stands today. However, it is the untamed elements of the natural rolling links that has had the greatest role in creating the course.
The exhilarating start to the round sees you introduced at the earliest opportunity to the rustic joys of links golf; tight lies, rolling fairways, undulating approaches, dry-firm surfaces and fast greens are all here in abundance. Holes blend into the dynamic sand dune morphology, its plants and wildlife with elevated tees and greens offering not only spectacular views but the feeling of being in harmony with the environment.
The rhythm of the course combines with the natural elements to test and tease the golfer in equal amounts. Appearances can, however, be deceptive; holes that tempt the golfer most are often those that are better played with a sense of restraint. Birdies and par come to those who play with the course, not against it.
The course strategy asks for a variety of shots and infinite creativity. The hazards are numerous, deceptive and sometimes hidden. Like any great links course what you see is often not what you get, but it's never penal. No-matter their skill, each golfer will find their own 'line of charm' for the course. As with the great Scottish links, quirky features abound throughout the course e.g blind-shots, wooden railway sleepers, the railway itself that skirts the inland portion of the course.
The coastal setting with its ever changing tides and winds ensures that conditions alter on a frequent basis. Club selection is therefore all the more important. You will need every club in the bag - and probably more than one way to play them. Each of four par-3s all face a different direction. You first encounter one of the three par-5s well into the round at the 7th whilst the returning holes enjoy a tempting prospect of two in three holes at the 13th and 15th. There are 9 par-4s that can play over 400 yards but the timely interventions of the short 8th and 16th can set one's score. But it's best not to think of Aberdovey as one big challenge but 71 different adventures which you will undoubtedly want to take again.
The course is flat, so provides for easy walking. Over the years many national championships have been held here and we are the home of the Welsh Seniors' Championship and also the British Golf Collectors' Championship where period dress and equipment is mandated. At 6,486 yards off the white tees, the course is not long by the standard of many newer courses. However, the real defences lie in the wind which is often a gentle zephyr but can be a stiff blow. For example, if playing 36 holes, the 193 yard par 3 5th hole could require a full hit with a driver in the morning and an 8 iron in the afternoon. Whatever the wind, it cannot spoil your enjoyment of the wonderful setting where the hills, with their colours shaded by bracken, gorse or heather reach down to the very edges of the course and the buzzards, kites and seabirds wheel on the thermals. It was Bernard Darwin, the first literary giant of the game who returned here regularly, who wrote "Aberdovey is the course that my soul loves best of all the courses in the world"; one can understand why. In common with many old established courses steps have been taken to lengthen the course with new back tees for 7 holes adding some 129 yards. . With a course par of 71 for men and par 74 for Ladies, Aberdovey can offer handicap golfers of all standards a challenging but fair test.
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