|The Celtic Manor Resort and a round at the Montgomerie Course will give you a hot shower and a proper introduction to golf in Wales. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com )|
Wales is a tiny slice of the United Kingdom, about the size of Massachusetts, and after 2010, it will be the smallest country to ever host the Ryder Cup Matches.
So, visiting the best of the country's many golf courses, both north and south, is an easier task here than in England or Scotland.
Here is a sample, seven-day itinerary that will include the best golf, both on the links and amongst the heathlands, Wales has to offer, with some suggested accommodations to complete your tour.
If you're coming from North America, you'll arrive on a red-eye in Cardiff or London and drive just down the road to Newport and the Celtic Manor Resort (+44 (0)1633 413000). Its luxury accommodations keep getting better and better in preparation for the Ryder Cup Matches, and here you can enjoy a refreshing shower and a hearty meal. The practice facilities are also top notch and will get you ready for a week of links golf.
For golf today, you've got options. The Twenty Ten Course, which will stage the Ryder Cup Matches, is open for limited play, or you can pay less cash and play the resort's other two courses: the Roman Road Course and the new Montgomerie Course, which is a roller coaster ride of a parkland, none more steep than the downhill par-3 fifth, which offers a proper introduction to the Welsh countryside.
From Newport, drive to nearby Porthcawl, home to Wales' most prestigious links and the 1995 Walker Cup. Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (£95-120) offers the best of both worlds: championship links with punishing pot bunkers, mixed with coastal scenery from every green. The first three holes hug the beach on the left, while the 18th plays straight into blue ocean, culminating on a green right in front of the beach.
Accommodations: Spend another night at Celtic Manor or head west towards Saundersfoot to the St. Brides Hotel & Spa (+44 (0)1834 812304), perched above Carmarthen Bay. It has a stylish and comfortable spa, rooms with spacious balconies and an ideal patio bar overlooking the Carmarthen Bay.
Or if you want to check out vibrant, downtown Swansea, stay at the Morgan's Hotel (+44 (0)1792 484848), a beautiful boutique hotel in the middle of all the action.
Drive further west towards Swansea to the southwest links, anchored by an old world gem: Pennard Golf Club (£40-50). Dubbed "Links in the sky," Pennard sits on a rocky cliff about 200 feet over the sea. The golf course itself is rugged, where members like to say, "You need one foot longer than another to get around Pennard," thanks to its heavy bumps. There are some truly spectacular sights here, however, like an old castle ruin and panoramic clifftop vistas.
It's time to make the drive up to Wales' north coast. Aberdovey, a small, coastal holiday town, is a good in between point. Aberdovey Golf Club (£40-45) is a true links set along the shores and a favorite of the famed golf writer Bernard Darwin.
Accommodations: Here, you can stay at the club's dormy house right off the 18th hole for a convenient stay-and-play.
Playing 36?: Aberdovey is usually a "tweener" day in many itineraries, so a couple of hours driving should be anticipated either before or after a round here, though Borth & Ynyslas Golf Club, Wales' oldest club, is a 30-40 minute drive south.
Royal St. David's Golf Club (£33-38) in Harlech is Wales' other "Royal" course, playing beneath the 13th century Harlech Castle. It's a stern par 69, among Wales' most challenging links with a collection of long par 4s that will demand a long, accurate tee ball.
Playing 36?: Just across the estuary is Porthmadog Golf Club (£30-40), where the front nine is a pretty unremarkable parkland, though the back nine features some of Wales' finest links holes, none better than the coastal 12th, featuring a tee shot played over Samson's Bay.
Accommodations: Portmeirion Village near Portmadog (+44 (0)1766 770000) is a gem of a seaside resort village with various accommodations options. Local architect Clough Williams-Ellis began his dream project in 1926 and took nearly 50 years to complete this secluded fantasyland. It's hard to believe places like Portmeiron exist in the world until you've actually been there.
After a stern links test at Royal St. David's, it's time to treat your eyes at Nefyn & District Golf Club (£37-44). Its setting, with 10 holes towering above coastal cliffs, garners comparisons to Pebble Beach and Old Head (its lesser price tag is hardly comparable, though). Nefyn is more of a clifftop parkland than a links, and so long as the wind isn't vicious, you should be able to score well here. Just be sure your camera has plenty of battery power before teeing off.
Accommodations: You are still near Portmadog and Portmerion, and you'll likely want more than one night here. Stay put.
The Isle of Anglesey makes up Wales' northernmost point. It's also easily connected to Liverpool and Manchester via the A55, so it serves as a functional ending point, with little worries of getting lost making your way to the airport.
A fitting final course is Bull Bay Golf Club (£33-38), a scenic heathland course designed by Herbert Fowler in 1913 where the winds seldom have a day off. It's full of panoramic vistas, and the long, par-4 18th hole is a perfect finishing hole for your trip, with a straight, generous fairway heading straight downhill with the coastline as a backdrop.
Accommodations: If you have a final night before your flight, stay at the Tre-ysgowan Hall Country House Hotel & Spa (+44 (0)1248 750750). Here, you can enjoy top notch accommodations, as well as a full massage menu from the spa to replenish your tired muscles after a long week of golfing.
June 18, 2008
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.
Dublin is Ireland's largest and most tourist-friendly city, with marquee attractions from the Book of Kells to the Guinness brewery, But Ireland's best known golf courses are almost all on the west coast, in the northwest or in Northern Ireland. Because of this, many golfers on wish-list trips never set foot in the capital. That's a shame, because a trip to Dublin can combine the charms of all things urban and Irish with exceptional -- and inexpensive -- links and parkland golf.
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