Royal St David's - North Wales - Wales

Royal St David's Golf Club,
Harlech,
Gwynedd,
LL46 2UB,
Wales


  • +44 (0) 1766 780361

  • Golf Club Website

  • A496 on the lower Harlech road

  • Current handicap required – book in advance

  • Trefor Davies

  • Harold Finch-Hatton, William Henry More

  • Gareth Lewis


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The glorious setting for the Royal St David’s links at Harlech is nothing short of beautiful and romantic. The forbidding medieval Harlech castle and towering sand dunes guard the course. Behind the dunes, to the northwest, is the sweeping bay of Tremadog and to the north are views across to Snowdon and the lesser peaks of Snowdonia. “Small wonder if the visitor falls in love with Harlech at first sight,” wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of the British Isles, “for no golf course in the world has a more splendid background than the old castle, which stands at the top of a sheer precipice of rock looking down over the links.” 

Did you know that Royal St David’s came out top in an analysis of your favourite Welsh courses? Click here for more.
According to folklore, Harold Finch-Hatton reputedly identified the links upon his return from Australia, originally using the area for boomerang practice. Finch-Hatton teamed up with William Henry More and in 1894 St David’s was born.  It seemed poignant that Wales should have a golf club called St David’s, after all, Scotland has St Andrew’s and England has St George’s.  Edward VII granted the club royal patronage in 1908. 

Locals regard Royal St David’s as the world’s toughest par 69. Who would argue with them? The course measures 6,500 yards from the back tees.  It’s not your usual out-and-back links – the holes zigzag in all directions, subjecting each shot to the vagaries of the prevailing westerly wind. 

The opening dozen holes are fully exposed to the elements. They play back and forth across fairly flat and at times, open ground.  When the 13th hole is reached, the landscape changes dramatically and at last we enter rippling undulating dune land.  The bunker free par four 15th requires a long carry across dunes from an elevated tee to a narrow fairway, Mount Snowdon is in the distance. A decent drive leaves a partially blind approach shot to a raised green nestling between sand dunes.  You might catch a quick glimpse of the Irish Sea from the 16th tee before turning back inland towards the clubhouse. Unusually, Royal St David’s closes out with a fairly ordinary, but tough 200-yard par three with the green directly in front of the clubhouse. 

Royal St David’s has hosted many major amateur championships over the years. There are a number of famous names on the roll of honour, including Cecil Leitch. In 1926, she beat Mrs Garon 8&7 to win the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship. More recently, in 1994, Sweden’s Freddie Jacobson won the British Youths Open Amateur Championship here at Harlech. 

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Reviews for Royal St David's

Av. Reviewers Score:

Royal St. David’s is regarded as one of the best links courses in Wales and has a reputation for being a fearsome test of golf.

The numbers certainly back that claim up. The par of 69 from the championship blue markers has an SSS of 73 and the maximum yardage of 6,629 includes a number of brutish par fours; seven of them over the 430 yard mark!

On my most recent visit here the fairways were beautifully browned off and the run on the ball ensured that the course didn’t play as long as the scorecard suggests. And with just a gentle breeze blowing over the links it was a joy to play. It should also be noted that the condition of the course was absolutely first class. Fresh on the back of hosting the Welsh Open Strokeplay Championship the subtle greens putted absolutely superbly having a lovely pace where the ball just keeps rolling out that extra couple of feet which you’re not quite expecting.

As host to many notable championships over its 120-plus year history it’s a course that top players will love because for the most part it is one of those links that provides just about as fair a test of golf as a seaside layout can.

For the most part the front nine is played over flattish land with expansive greens merging beautifully, almost seamlessly, from the fairways. The naturally rippling fairway of the opening hole offers much promise but we must wait until we are well into the back-nine before we see any real movement in the land.

Indeed a gigantic line of towering sand dunes flanks the course and we play directly towards it, most agonisingly as we come up the long seventh, but then away from it a few times during the round. We long to get into the best of the terrain but we must wait until late in the round and then it is only a fleeting visit.

There is a wide variety of bunker styles at Harlech and I just hope The Club are currently in a process of updating them and making them more uniform. It doesn't quite feel right as it is. There are some wonderful blow-out fairway bunkers on the course, that define many of the holes, and some brilliantly menacing deep pits around the greens but you also have some very shallow and tame, almost parkland in nature, traps dotted around too; mainly around the greens. I’d love to see these converted into some of the deeper pits that are often in close proximity.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

May 19, 2017


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Played RSD in April 2017. Great setting beneath Harlech castle, shame about the derelict buildings which also overlook the course, particularly the 1960s tower block. Not much the golf club can do about that though. The green fee is exceptional value at £38 and easy to book online. The course is as described in earlier reviews, average first 12 holes then a good finish. That said the opening 12 are still challenging links holes and not as bad as suggested in some reviews. I wouldn't go out of my way to visit again but a course that's well worth playing for any serious golfers who are in the area and a good double with Aberdovey further down the coast.

April 25, 2017


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When golf is discussed in the United Kingdom the top tier courses located in Wales usually get far too little attention. I've been to the country on two different occasions and I have had the opportunity to play just about all of the key candidates generally praised for their qualities.

My time at Royal St. David's had me scratching my head in bewilderment. The course is blessed with some incredible scenery -- Harlech Castle located on high ground provides views from just about any hole on the course. You also have in the distance the outline of the Snowdonia Mountain Range. Nearby just west of the course is the beginnings of the Irish Sea. Add all of the off-course elements and it's quite impressive.

The issue I see for Royal St. David's is a layout that's blessed with one quality nine -- the inward half. The outward nine is simply functional golf -- nothing bad per se but nothing of stirring qualities either.

As a par-69 course Royal St. David's has back-to-back par-5 holes on the front side with no less than five (5) par-3 holes for the entire layout.

After playing the front side I was wondering when the course might hit its stride. That momentum starts at the long par-4 10th. When you finish the fine par-3 11th you cross over a road that separates the course and begin the final stretch of holes to its conclusion.

The key difference?

The terrain for the final few holes does draw one's attention. Holes #12 and #13 are solid par-4 holes. The long par-3 14th is exceptional -- played into the prevailing wind it can mean anywhere from 2-3 clubs more to cover its distance. I was saddened to learn that the original blind shot to the target was eliminated some years ago. It's a first rate hole and anyone who can claim to have hit the green in the regulation stroke has done well.

The par-4 15th that follows is truly one of the finest holes in all of Wales and likely can be included on the short list of top tier holes throughout the UK.

The hard part comes when standing on the tee at this bunkerless 439-yard brute and getting a clear idea on your target line. The fairway is aligned on an angle so working one's ball off the tee on a left-to-right basis is preferred. The fairway actually is wider when shorter off the tee -- the deeper you go the more stringent the hole becomes. I can't stress enough how exacting the requirements are here from the tee -- failure to pay heed can easily mean a quick reload. The green is separated from the first part of the fairway and is beautifully positioned and contoured.

The 16th is a fine short par-4 which starts from an elevated tee -- the sea immediately behind you and is well defended in the drive zone. The long 17th at 431 yards is also a fine hole. The tee shot must escape a trio of bunkers that protect fiercely the right side and out-of-bounds on that same side must also be avoided. The fairway is especially rolling so balls can kick to either side. A true adventure.

The concluding 201-yard par-3 18th hole is one that commands one's attention but I found it sufficient but not particularly memorable. I've played an assortment of other courses ending with a par-3 such as Garden City, the Geronimo Course at Desert Mountain and the Cascades Course at The Homestead -- and the one at RSD's is behind each of the aforementioned. I have read where some claim the par-69 here is the toughest for its type. I would urge those taking that view to head to Wannamoisett across the pond in Rhode Island.

As I said at the outset -- Royal St. David's has plenty of elements -- off course and on -- that certainly will carry the day for many who play there. For those who are design connoisseurs the totality of what could have been present is the key element that left me wanting more and likely others will feel similarly. It's too bad the land used for the final five (5) holes could not have been more in the mix. All in all, a worthy course to play and one where spending some time in Harlech will clearly complete the visit in fine fashion.

by M. James Ward

April 21, 2017


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Very few links courses can boast that all of their holes are in dunes or unmistakable links like. Invariably, there are some holes that route inwards where the topography is flatter and more heath like. RSD is in this cohort but the inland holes are very strong holes especially 3,5 and 12. The finish is sublime and the setting haunting (in a good way). Just a top golfing experience.

April 03, 2017


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Played RSD at the end of September and was fairly disappointed. Had played Aberdovey the day before, which was excellent, and I think that given its ranking my expectations were high but it did not do a great deal for me. I am not sure what classifies as a links course but apart from holes 14 through to 16 which are played through the dunes the rest of the course is situated on flat fairly featureless land. Sure there are great views of the sand dunes, but none of the sea. Although there are also great views of Harlech Castle and Snowdonia it is what is on the golf course that counts. The first 13 holes are basically on a flat field. Although August and September had generally been very dry in much of England and Wales many of the fairways had large amounts of standing water and 70% of the bunkers were full to the brim with water. One local said that there had been a lot of rain particularly in the Harlech area, but Aberdovey 30 miles away had no standing water at all. There are 3 proper links holes 14-16 but I hardly think that this qualifies it as a links course. Greens were good and true but quite slow. At par 69 it is a very tough course but with so few par 5's and so many long par 4's it felt a bit of a slog bashing a driver off the tee on almost every par 4. It is a good course but no more, in fact if I had to play at a course every week I would rather play at Conwy. Top 100 in UK, no way.

September 29, 2016


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Response
Hugh
September 30, 2016

I played RSD in July and I agree there they have issues with the bunkers, but standing water on the fairways is a real surprise. I also prefer Aberdovey but I’m surprised that the only other review you’ve posted is for St Annes Old Links and you gave that course a 6-ball rating. SOL has no dunes, is even flatter, more featureless and also has no sea views. I cannot believe that anyone could rate SOL ahead of Harlech (even with its current bunker issues). Two very odd reviews and two rather wacky ratings IMO.

John Russell
October 06, 2016

Hello Hugh, I feel like you are stalking me! A lthough I have played many links courses in Ayreshire, the Lancashire golf coast, Ireland and Kent I rarely feel the need to comment because I generally agree with most reviews. In the case of St Annes I felt as I stated that it offered good value for money, hence the rating. In the case of St David's I felt that given the way I found it that it did not offer good vfm. Interestingly the night after we played it there was more rain resulting in course closure at St Davids the following day, which is unusual for a so called links course. On the day that it was closed at St David's we played Aberdovey which was fully open, some water on about 4 fairways, none on the greens and none in the bunkers. After torrential rain that night we played Porthmadog. Admittedly there was standing water on some of the greens but the course was quite playable. There does seem to be a problem specific to St Davids regarding drainage.

Niall
April 21, 2017

I too was disappointed with RSD and feel it's overrated. I'm sure this site doesn't factor vfm into the equation when ranking courses otherwise the rankings would be daft - all the current Open courses and all of London's top heathland courses would be missing from the list.

Royal St David is pure links golf at high quality. Prior to playing stroll up the hill and tour Harlech Castle and get the low down on the land RSD sits on. Play the course. Eat dinner at the clubhouse as they do a grand job and the walk away from the club with the lite Castle is quite special. They say par 69 but candidly there are a couple 4’s that should be 5’s. A very strong course which we were fortunate to play on a Member Match day. It was in great shape. It presents pretty much what you expect. Great views of the castle all day. Strong golf holes from start to finish. The 3’s are quite difficult. One playing 216 into the prevailing wind. It is not often you’ll play a course off standard tees and play off SSS at 4 shots over par. RSD is a must play. Exceptionally welcoming club also.
October 09, 2015


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I'm a keen golfer and have played most of the top courses in Scotland (88 out of the top 100) as well Birkdale/Lytham/Hoylake and various others at home and abroad. Royal St David's compares favourably to them all and I can honestly say hand on heart I have never played on better greens in February than I did last week - massive compliments to their green keeper. You always fear that some clubs may be a bit stuffy or snooty before you play them (for some reason even more so at a 'Royal' course) but this was certainly not the case at Royal St David's. From the very warm welcome of Head Pro Gareth Lewis (chatting away when I arrived early and even gave me a free strokesaver), to the friendly club steward and then chatting to the lady members (who'd been out playing) over lunch in the clubhouse including Ann Lewis (2013 British Ladies Senior Champion) - everyone was very friendly, which only added to the enjoyment I had from my 36 holes of golf. If only that birdie putt hadn't horseshoed out at the 18th for a level par 69 it really would have been the perfect day! Great course, great club, play it!
February 28, 2015


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I first played at Royal St David’s seven or eight years ago in torrential rain and so was taken aback by the stunning scenery, which was obscured previously, when I returned in early August. The sea may not be readily visible but Harlech Castle and the mountains of Snowdonia are a decent substitute. This is a challenging course which requires all the clubs in your bag - seven of the eleven par 4s are comfortably over 400 yards. The condition of the course was very good although like the previous reviewer I found the greens a little slow. With the exception of the 18th there are no really weak holes and sorry Jim I disagree with you about the 14th. In my opinion Royal St Davids fully merits its 2nd place in Wales and I look forward to coming back in the future. DS
August 20, 2014


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Played in the open week at Rotal St David's. The welcome was excellant and the course in good condition, albeit the greens a touch on the slow side. Although the weather was wet on one day it was easy to appreciate this is a serious golf course with a tough back nine and a par of only 69. Reminded me very much of Saunton (my home course) located behind the dunes with the sea out of sight. Really enjoyed the front nine with the castle towering over you and the mountains in front of you as you play 5 and 6 (my personal favourite holes). Then the really tough back nine (which we played mainly into the wind) with dunes more in evidence on 14-16. Biggest drawback is on the last few holes where the 'eyesore' buildings as per the last review (although not the golf clubs fault) do detract from the course. Would rank a bit behind Porthcawl (for a championship course) due to lack of change in elevation/variety and also Pennard (personally still my favourite Welsh course). Thoroughly recommended. DB
July 08, 2013


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Having now played Aberdovey, Royal Porthcawl, Royal St Davids, Pennard, Ashburnham and Celtic Manor 2010 I think I am reasonably well placed to review top Welsh courses.Royal St David's Golf Course - Photo by reviewer I would rate this third best after Royal Porthcawl and Aberdovey. Played the course in late May 2013 and a warm, sunny, breezy day. I have to say that it didn't wow me as much as Aberdovey did. Good condition and fun holes on the front 9 but it was a pity you don't start getting into the sand dunes until early on in the back 9. The bunkers are a little underwhelming and not what I would call classic links bunkers as the bunker lips were rarely raised up (which gives links holes real definition). Have to say that the 15th is a magnificent par 4 however, while the 220 yard par 3 14th was also an excellent hole. Some real eyesores (ex police headquarters & burned down hotel) spoil the view of the huge hill that flanks the course. A solid track, but I guess I was just expecting a bit more. 7/10.
June 07, 2013


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