|Wales is a lesser-known golf destination, but courses such as St. David's City Golf Club are well worth the price of a ticket. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)|
Considering a golf tour to the United Kingdom? Wales is a lesser-known destination compared to Scotland, England and Ireland but features plenty of its own historic links golf courses and will host the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to help get your trip planning started.
Wales makes up its own tiny slice of England's west coast in the United Kingdom. From London, it's about a two or three-hour drive across the Severn Bridge into the country.
Wales' capital city Cardiff has direct flights from many continental European cities and Toronto. There are no direct flights from the United States currently, though that should change before the Ryder Cup in 2010. From the U.S., your best option is to fly into London Heathrow, which is about an hour and a half drive to Wales. London Gatwick Airport is a little farther away, about two and a half hours. If you want to stay in the northern part of Wales, fly into Manchester.
Wales is about 8,000 square miles, about the same size as Massachusetts (Ireland and Scotland are both around 30,000 square miles). You can experience the whole country if you're up to it. From the north courses like Nefyn & District and Aberdovey to the south courses like Royal Porthcawl and Ashburnham, it's about a four-hour drive. Otherwise, you can stick to a particular region.
No need to bring the Welsh language guide here. Just about all Welsh speak English and fewer are retaining the traditional Welsh language, which can be very difficult to understand. All road signs in Wales, however, are bilingual.
Wales has only recently moved from its industrial economy, which has been dominated by the export of vast amounts of coal and steel to the service industry and tourism. This can be expected to change, as the announcement of the Ryder Cup in 2010 is transforming the country's image with tourism. It's even possible Wales could one day host an Open Championship.
Most golfers who head to Wales have been to the more popular destinations like Scotland and Ireland first. What they discover here is a less commercial atmosphere on golf courses that are wide open but just as old as most other courses in the British Isles. Most courses are also much less expensive to play than in Scotland and Ireland, with green fees about two-thirds the price. Tour operators say a four-day golf tour in southwest England costs about the same price as seven days in Wales.
The north and south regions are more highly regarded, if you include Royal St. Davids and Aberdovey in the northern section, though they are included in the midlands region sometimes as well. The mid region is very mountainous and rural. But there are a few courses worth visiting here, like parkland Cradoc Golf Club, or the country's oldest links, Borth & Ynyslas. Cardigan in the southern end is also a good solid-second.
Wales is part of the United Kingdom and uses the British Pound.
Golf tours are operated by tour operators who are more familiar with the given region. Simply put, they do the homework and planning for you. In Wales, there are fewer operators compared to other parts of the world, but they do exist. Golf tours are a good idea for those unfamiliar with the destination they are considering and would like a trip planned that is concise and will let them see the best courses and stay at the highest-rated hotels.
Generally speaking, a group of four or less can probably get around with its own car, but be sure to book one big enough to host four grown men (or women) and all your clubs and luggage. North Americans are usually shocked their first time overseas at how small cars are. Larger groups or those who may be weary of driving on the left side of the road should get a driver, which can run about £50 per person or around £300 per day per vehicle, including fuel and driver costs.
Yes, although the winter months can be hit-or-miss. It seldom snows along the British Isles' coastlines and links courses drain very well. It rains more, however, so be sure to bring plenty of rain gear and two pairs of golf shoes. It's probably a good idea to skip most parkland courses, because they have a more difficult time draining and are usually in bad shape.
See GolfEurope.com's recommended hotel guide. These hotels are not necessarily sponsors of GolfEurope.com, but have been visited by a member of GolfEurope.com's editorial staff and approved as worthy accommodations for traveling golfers.
Most do, but usually only a handful, not an entire fleet. So if you can, reserve one in advance. Some clubs, such as Royal Porthcawl, Pennard and the Celtic Manor Ryder Cup Course, don't have buggies. The latter is walking-only for now as it prepares for the 2010 event.
September 24, 2007
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.
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