Ashburnham is one of the finest and oldest golf courses in Wales, founded in 1894. It’s located close to the Burry Estuary and Worm’s Head with fine views over Carmarthen Bay. A number of important events have been hosted at Ashburnham, including the PGA Championship. Bernard Gallacher picked up his first pay cheque here, when he won the 1969 Schweppes PGA Championship. Sam Torrance and Dai Rees were also victorious at Ashburnham.
“I played my last PGA Championship as a tournament regular at Ashburnham in 1969, and the club also hosted the event in 1959 – really hosted it, for this was the last occasion a club had to put up all the prize money.” Wrote Peter Alliss in his book – The Good Golf Guide featuring the 200 Best Courses in the British Isles. “It cost them £2,000. Although the course was a good deal shorter in those days, only five players in the field managed to break 70. The late Dai Rees was one of them, and his 70 and 69 on the last day saw him home by six strokes for his first win in Wales.”
Ashburnham originally started out in life as a nine-hole course and was extended in 1902 to 18 holes. Today’s course, which measures 6,630 yards from the back tees, is the result of alterations by J.H.Taylor in 1914, Fred Hawtree in 1923 and then Ken Cotton (himself a member at Ashburnham). These three great architects have created a classic out-and-back links course, rolling gently through the dunes.
Unusually, Ashburnham begins with a downhill par three, where out-of-bounds lurk menacingly at the right of the green. In fact, the course is a nightmare for the right-handed slice, as there is invariably trouble beckoning to the right on many holes. The first two holes and the closing two holes are somewhat out of character with the rest, having an inland, almost park-like feel. But the holes in between are the real thing – undiluted and undulating linksland. By the time we reach the 3rd hole, we’re running parallel to the sea and often into the teeth of the prevailing wind. At the turn, we head back, wind assisted but a little further inland.
According to local Ashburnham folklore, an extraordinary tee shot was struck on the 18th. During the Home Internationals, an amateur event, England’s John Davis struck his drive from the 18th tee directly onto the clubhouse roof. The ball ricocheted off and landed to the left of the green, pin high! Admittedly, the wind was from behind, but the ball must have travelled at least 400 yards.
After a game at Ashburnham, make sure to have a drink in the welcoming clubhouse. The members are friendly and often willing to tell a yarn or two. Above all, ensure that you don’t miss playing this historic links, it’s an absolute delight and it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face, making you want to come back for more.
The links at Ashburnham contains some wonderful golf holes on a sandy tract of land that has played host to many notable championships.
As recently as 2014 it was chosen as a qualifying venue for the Seniors Open Championship and I can imagine that when the wind howls across this narrow stretch of linksland it will provide a test to the very best.
There’s no denying this is a true links experience with the sixth, ninth, 12th, 14th and 18th being the real stars of the show in my opinion. This quintet of holes stand-out from the rest as being superior to the others on a course that borders on good-to-very good for the remainder. The reason is perhaps the more pronounced changes in elevation that these holes have in contrast to the rest, which are mostly played across flattish ground, save for a couple of dropping short holes.
The routing at Ashburnham is slightly unusual in that the opening two holes and the final three are played close to the clubhouse in a curious configuration. For me the real character of Ashburnham is displayed between the third and the 14th where you essentially play out and back on a thin strip of gently rippling terrain.
There’s very little to be critical of at Ashburnham. Many of the holes are structurally sound in the strategic sense and the greens were excellent. Midway through a very dry Spring they were firm, running true, fast and were already starting to get that lovely browny-glaze that good quality links greens are renowned for.
If I was forced to nit-pick it would be the bunkering. Not the positioning of them (that was very good) but they were quite tired looking in places and the style wasn’t particularly to my liking. A bunker renovation scheme would no doubt be costly but could transform this course from being very good to excellent.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
We played Ashburnham as part of a trip to South Wales on which Royal Porthcawl and Pennard were the highlights. We stayed and played at the club which as usual was a nice experience and good value with excellent food. The course was very enjoyable, with some solid links holes and an excellent match play finish. The 18th was definitely a highlight, very difficult elevation change, and gets you back to the bar. Well worth a game.