One of many positive things the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor did was push Wales to the forefront of golfer’s minds, and remind the world of just how many superb courses can be found in the principality.
A number of them are links and in our view the best of all is Royal St David’s, a classic coastline challenge with the added bonus of superb views out to sea and of Harlech Castle, which overlooks the course and can be seen from many of its holes – a suitably impressive backdrop.
From the visitor tees it is not overlong but the par of 69 is testing and you cannot relax until you have negotiated the last five holes, which are a match of any in the world.
Also look out for the five par threes, which range in length from 152 – 221 yards and, because they face in different directions, all offer their own unique challenge.
Many great things have occurred almost by accident and so it was with Royal St. David's Golf Club. One day in the early 1890's, while overlooking the magnificently wild dunes between Harlech Castle and the sea, William Henry More spotted a man doing something peculiar. The man, who introduced himself as Harold Finch-Hatton, had recently returned from Australia, complete with boomerang. Upon seeing Finch-Hatton doing the same thing just a few days later, More called out: "capital place for a golf links-let's lay one out". And from this began Royal St. David's, a club destined to be rated as one of the finest links in Britain.
Quite apart from the absolute quality of the holes and the severity of the links test, the views of Snowdon Mountains, the imposing structure of Harlech Castle and the views across Tremadog Bay, make Royal St. David's a spectacular place to enjoy a round of golf. Much of the course is a site of special scientific interest, while the profusion and variety of wild orchids in the rough in early summer, are a beauty to behold, even if your performance falls short of expectations.
Measuring over 6,500 yards from the championship tees, it is said that Royal St. David's is the hardest par-69 in the world. Its standard scratch (course rating) of 73 would in fact be a better indicator. Noted for its succession of long par fours and five superb short holes; particular features of the course include the large, invariably excellent putting surfaces, wind, punishing rough, gorse and well-positioned fairway bunkering. The perception that Royal St. David's is flat is correct until the 220-yard par three, 14th, penetrates the dunes for the first time. From here, the finish is supreme, each hole winding its wicked way through a sea of dunes.
Of the outward journey, the 468-yard par four, 3rd hole, with out-of-bounds plaguing the entire right hand side, is the best. Other than that, accuracy, more than length, is the required skill. The second-nine however, are a different story with five of the six par-fours measuring over 425 yards. The 15th hole at Royal St. David's is a real gem and requires a precise drive over substantial rough to an elusive fairway. From here, you are faced with a blind second to a green surrounded by dunes. The 17th provides a stiff challenge with an array of bunkers lurking short of the green, while the 18th offers a fitting climax, with the impressive Harlech Castle directly behind the green.
Bernard Gallacher 2001 (Ryder Cup Captain)
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