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Cardigan Golf Club's par-3 16th hole highlights a strong finish on Wales' southwest coast.
Cardigan Golf Club's par-3 16th hole highlights a strong finish on Wales' southwest coast. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

Clifftop views, strong finish highlight Cardigan Golf Club in southwest Wales

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor

The course at Cardigan Golf Club in southwest Wales keeps getting better as it goes along, with great views, quick greens and tourist-free seclusion.

CARDIGANSHIRE, Wales -- There are some links in Wales where the history of the club is a big attraction. Tenby Golf Club claims itself as the oldest accredited club in the country. Other golf courses in the south of Wales, like Ashburnham and Royal Porthcawl, have been regular stops for some of the British Isles' top championships and have seen the greatest names in the game grace their links.

Then there are other clubs that, when stripped down to the course itself, are simply a joy to play. Cardigan Golf Club on Wales' southwest coast is one such course. You may not hear infamous legends of the great ones playing here, or see many plaques or famous faces in black-and-white photographs, but when you leave Cardigan, it may be your most enjoyable round during your Wales golf trip. And it's certainly one of the best bargains in the British Isles, too.

That isn't to say Cardigan is a newbie, either. The golf club was originally established in 1895, though it moved about a mile up the road to its present location in the 1920s.

A bit like Pennard to the south, it plays high above the sea but still has a firm, dunesland topography. There's plenty of gorse, and fairways are seldom flat, often tumbling gently uphill or downhill towards the hole. That means the views from the top of this peninsula are gorgeous and expansive, looking high over the town and sea.

Unlike some other old-school links that play through low-lying dunesland and can offer up a few blind shots and very narrow landing zones (like southwestern neighbor Tenby in a lot of spots), you can really let it rip at Cardigan, even on some holes where you're not necessarily where it leads. There are several that play straight uphill, where you can't see where the fairway is, but you can usually feel it out pretty easily.

The best thing about Cardigan is that the course just gets better and better as it goes along, starting at the par-5 13th, which plays uphill from the tee, then back down towards the green, which has great vantage points of the surrounding sea.

The 452-yard 14th is Cardigan's finest par 4, playing downhill; though it is very tight with a fence serving as out-of-bounds to the right and heavy gorse to the left. The second shot is a delicate approach into a small, rectangular green with a swale to the right side.

The par-3 16th is another downhill hole that has some of the best views of the course, overlooking the bay in the distance. It's a tricky, 180-200-yard shot to a narrow, two-tiered green with trouble all over it.

The 18th is an epic, uphill par 5 with a fairway that could serve as freestyle Olympic moguls if the winter games ever came to town. But if your drive hits the downslope of one of these, you'll get a massive kick towards the hole (in our threesome, none of us incredibly long hitters, we all hit drives well over 300 yards, even uphill), which gives you a real shot at a birdie or even an eagle on the green that sits right in front of the clubhouse.

Cardigan Golf Club: The verdict

Though not as polished as some other championship links in Wales, Cardigan is an undeniably exciting round of golf, with a championship yardage of just under 6,700 yards. This isn't a course that's riddled with tourists either, so you'll get an authentic Welsh golf club experience.

Don't expect world-class conditions, but the greens are in good shape, and it's hard to believe the course ever gets too soggy given how firm it played when we paid a visit. Players who like a fast ground game are going to have a blast.

Cardigan is one of the northernmost courses in the south region of Wales and can be included in any mid-Wales tours quite easily - as well as south and southwest tours. Green fees are £25-35, making it a real steal.

Southwest Wales: Where to stay

The contemporary St. Brides Spa Hotel sits on a cliff overlooking the town of Saundersfoot and Carmarthen Bay in southwest Wales. From this vantage point, the hotel features 35 guest rooms with balconies offering beautiful views, along with the restaurant and bar on the main floor. The restaurant's Executive Chef Toby Goodwin creates contemporary cuisine using local produce wherever possible. The on-site Marine Spa overlooking the bay is a big draw as well, featuring a thermal suite, vitality pool and a full menu of revitalizing treatments. This is a stylish, modern hotel that, along with comfortable, open rooms, features its very own art gallery.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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