A tournament at Tenby Golf Club, with 33 competitors and a subscription of 10s 6d was how golf kicked off in Wales in the 1880s. Fast forward almost 140 years and some things haven’t changed much. It still delivers the verdant greens, competitive golf and stunning natural scenery, only now you can follow in the footsteps of Open-winning superstars, Masters maestros and Ryder Cup legends among Roman remains, towering dunes, curvaceous valleys, unpredictable sea breezes and Ice Age relics.
Offering a classically rugged links golf experience, Aberdovey Golf Club (aberdoveygolf.co.uk, green fees from £99.50) provides great golf in a striking landscape. Three of the legendary architects of the early 20th century — Colt, Braid and Fowler — have all had a hand in shaping the Aberdovey that’s played today. However, Mother Nature is ultimately to be thanked for the dramatic, untamed elements that lend themselves to the rustic joys of fast greens, tight lies, rolling fairways and dry-firm surfaces that give this course a spectacular rhythm. Hazards are numerous, deceptive and sometimes hidden, while quirky features abound, including blind shots, blustery ever-changing winds and wooden railway sleepers. Each of four par-3s all face a different direction — and every club in the bag is needed to tackle each of its 71 thrilling adventures.
Nefyn Golf Club‘s 27-hole Championship layout (nefyn-golf-club.co.uk, green fees from £36) offers a trio of nine hole loops, each with their own distinctive characteristics and challenges. The ‘Front’ loop runs along the shoreline with small coves and bays that jut into the fairways, before turning inland to two testing par-4s and a par-3 played uphill to a narrow well-bunkered green. The ‘Old’ loop is the world-famous ‘Point’, nine holes on a narrow promontory with sea and sandy beaches bordering the fairways on either side. The ‘New’ loop takes in some excellent par-4s, including a dog-leg around a small inlet, a genuine par-5 with a gently sloping, uphill fairway before reaching the 9th tee and its mesmerising views.
Dominated by the regal presence of Harlech Castle, the Royal St David’s Golf Club (royalstdavids.co.uk, green fees from £36) was established in 1894 and is home to a host of national and international tournaments, including the Ladies European Tour and the European Seniors Tour. At par-69 and a challenging 6,629yds from the Championship Tees, the reconfiguration of the 17th hole a decade ago added an even greater challenge. Today it is notable for its succession of long testing par-4 holes and five par-3s, which vary in length and direction. Everyone who plays here raves about the five-hole loop through the dunes to the wicked 18th.
As venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup and home of the ISPS Handa Wales Open, a leading European Tour event, the Celtic Manor Resort (celtic-manor.com, green fees from £63) is synonymous with world-class golf. A trio of prestigious 18-hole courses — The Twenty Ten Course, the Roman Road and The Montgomerie — each boasts its own legacy. The Twenty Ten, built to stage the 2010 Ryder Cup, measures a robust 7,493yds, has a par of 71 and has water hazards on half of its holes. The par-70 Roman Road Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior, hosts the Celebrity Cup and owes its name to the old Via Julia Roman highway that ran through its fairways.
The Montgomerie Course, a dramatic par-69 challenge, designed by Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie, is famous for its deep and taxing pot bunkers. Spectacular views abound with dramatic tee shots over valleys and breathtaking downhill shots — with a spectacular 3rd hole featured in the book 1001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die.
Set in 650 acres of stunning South Wales countryside, in what was once part of the historical Hensol Castle Estate, The Vale Resort (valeresort.com, green fees from £30) isn’t just the home of great golf, it’s a favourite with anyone serious about sport. Legions of top-flight international sports teams base themselves here ahead of major tournaments, from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus or the British & Irish Lions — and, of course, the golfing elite. As the host of PGA and European golf championships, the Vale has two courses — the Lake Course, a perennial favourite, with water coming into play on 13 of the holes, and the Wales National Course, a European Tour championship course at 7,433yds from the championship tees.
Set on the Morfa Peninsula, the championship links course at the Conwy Golf Club (conwygolfclub.com, green fees from £25) can be enjoyed by beginners and A-list golfers alike. Designed as a 12-hole facility in 1875 by Jack Morris, the course was extended to 18 holes twenty years later but suffered damage during the Second World War when land was claimed for military use. The 1970s and 1980s saw upgrades by Frank Pennink, Brian Huggett and Neil Coles, which prepared it for a host of European Tour fixtures and, in 2020, the Curtis Cup.