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West end of Aberdovey on A493 adjacent to railway station.
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“If one dare write about Aberdovey at all,” wrote Patric Dickinson in his book, A Round of Golf Courses, “one must begin by letting Bernard Darwin through on the way to the first tee. For this links is ‘his’, and it is all and more than one would expect from a writer and golfer of such style; for it is both a ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ links.”
Aberdovey Golf Club is set enchantingly within the Snowdonia National Park at the mouth of the Dovey Estuary, and the links are wedged between the Cambrian Mountain range and the shore.
“I can just faintly remember the beginning of golf at Aberdovey in the early eighties,” wrote Darwin in his 1910-book The Golf Courses of the British Isles. “Already rival legends have clustered round that beginning, but the true legend says that the founder was Colonel Ruck, who, having played some golf at Formby, borrowed nine flower pots from a lady in the village and cut nine holes in the marsh to put them in.” A great deal has changed since then and the hands of many great architects have touched Aberdovey: Herbert Fowler, Harry Colt and James Braid. It is not surprising that it is such a revered links.
Despite its old age, Aberdovey is no shorty, measuring over 6,700 yards from the new "Darwin" back tees. It will test, and has tested, the very best golfers, playing host to a number of amateur championships over the years and it was here as a youngster, that Ian Woosnam developed his craft. It isn’t the hardest links course in the British Isles by any stretch of the imagination, but when the wind blows, it can throw the ball off line and into the punishing rough. Only the skilful will score well.
There is so much history at Aberdovey that you cannot help but fall in love with the place. Running alongside this classic out-and-back links is the railway line, reminding us of the days when the trains were full of travelling golfers. Darwin’s short story entitled “Aberdovey” tells an enchanting, romantic and amusing tale about his many pilgrimages to this Welsh links and how he used to love writing down the names of the stations as they passed by. Or as Patric Dickinson said: “A round at Aberdovey is always a brave and gay adventure, whatever the wind’s quarter.”
A very tough challenge, we played it on its word day (links day). Blowing a gale and being trapped in-between the dunes and mountains it creates a real challenge to judge wind direction, onto of that, poured down with rain the whole front 9. A true test to any golfer but worthy of its top 5 spot in Wales.
Aberdovey is a true links with 9 holes out and 9 holes back and strongly influenced by the wind. On the day we played, the wind was southerly averaging over 25mph, ‘mild’conditions according the bar manager. We found these conditions anything but mild, a flattering front nine was followed by a brutal test on the way back.
I loved the history of these revered links and the warm welcome received to what must be one of the remotest golf courses in the GB & Ireland Top 100. As with nearby Royal St David’s, you have to walk across a railway line after parking your car to get to the clubhouse. This railway runs alongside the course which sits between some huge sand dunes and the Irish Sea. The only disappointment is that the sea is only visible from the 12th green, so large are the dunes.
After a strong start, highlighted by the short 3rd with a blind shot over a massive dune into a great bowl of a green, and the uphill 4th with the most inviting drive of the round, the courses flattens out and with a following wind, good scoring is possible.
But after you turn for home, things were very different into what seemed at times like a gale. You had to aim left at the 10th over gorse and uneven ground, before turning right with your second shot to a distant green not obvious from the tee. You turn back with the wind at 11 with a dogleg right, and then comes the signature hole at 12, a par thee to a raised green but with no bunkers and a lovely view.
The next three holes are a long slog into the wind and include two par 5s, before we encountered the delightful 16th, a banana shaped 280 yard par 4 with OOB and the railway line down the left. Two strong par 4s provide a tough finish.
And so how good is Aberdovey? I can understand how it divides opinions, but, in my view, it is an incredible place to play golf. It is definitely one of the top golf courses in Wales, alongside the Royals at Porthcawl and St David’s and possibly Pennard, and well worth making the effort to go and play. I believe most golfers will be filled with awe at playing here, and wish to return.
This is a quality golf links situated in a beautiful part of Northern Wales. The village of Aberdyfi is a picturesque village at the head of the Dovey Estuary and only a couple of minutes away from the course.
Played in the Mizuno Golf Pairs event this week and did we get blessed with the weather. Glorious sunny afternoon and not too much breeze, meant a good score could be out on the links.
The course, like it’s neighbour Royal St Davids, is situated on links land between the Irish Sea and the mainland. Situated behind the towering bunkers, you don’t get a glimpse of the sea apart from on the 12th green. And that is a shame. Unlike Dunstanburgh Castle or Alnmouth Village that I played in the Summer, where the sea and sand is in regular view, This links doesn’t give you that opportunity.
But that doesn’t take away from the quality of course on offer. The opening 4 holes play directly behind the towering dunes and along with the sea view 12th, were my favourite sections of the course.
The fairways were generous, and 1st cut rough not penal, but if you strayed further into the rough then you were heavily penalised as the ball buried down into rough.
The 1st is a pleasant opener (suspect not with a stiff breeze against) but at 443 yards it’s still a test and only given a 10 SI. Then you get what I thought was a beautiful routed 2nd from an elevated tee in the dunes to a very narrow landing area before the fairway goes right then left in design, although your second shot should only be a short iron. The 3rd, the 1st of what are a set of quality par 3’s throughout the course is a blind tee shot, over a sand dune to a very receptive green which is in a bowl. Well worth wandering up and having a look at the green before hitting your tee shot.
The 4th teed off from a ‘pulpit’ see the course start to open up and after this the course plays out over the flat links land until you reach the 12th. The pick of the holes until then are the par 3’s - the 5th played away from the dunes and at 201 yards, laid out in front of you, quite a different challenge to the 3rd. The green has undulations in it and there are bunkers left and right. Wind is a real factor on this as where you tee off is sheltered - the 9th is a gem of a short hole at 160 yards to a raised green, protected by bunkers at the front, with run off areas towards the back, it certainly asks questions when the wind is blowing.
The 12th was my favourite hole, a 150 yard par 3 to a significantly raised green, effectively a blind shot as you cannot see the putting surface. Take an extra club and you will find a green that Is relatively flat, like so many at Aberdovey.. You get great views of the sea , the pretty houses that are on the hillsides overlooking the course and views of the course as you head back home.
This is followed by a strong long par 5 at 538 yards but you can open up as the fairway is quite wide.
The pick of the last few holes was the short 289 yard par 4, which hugs the railway line which is on the left hand side, giving you various options on how to play it. Landing around 220 yards on the upper part of the fairway leaves a short wedge into a flat green. Go too far left and you are down in the hollow and go further left than that you are on the railway lines! Go too far right and you could end up on the 3rd green!
And then you have 2 par 4’s measuring 430 yards and 449 yards respectively. The last is an excellent finishing hole bringing you back to the clubhouse.
The wind will make a real difference on the test of golf given the wide open nature of the majority of the course, but the quality par 3’s and some real gems of par 4’s thrown in make this, together with the beautiful village and scenery nearby, a course you should make the effort and come play.
Well worthy of a day out!
Slightly surprised by some of the fairly negative reviews for this course. Granted the back half of the front 9 does feature some fairly characterless holes however a very strong back 9 and excellent par 3’s throughout. The 2nd and 16th being two of the best holes on the course.
Decided to book a weekend in Aberdovey with some friends playing the 4BBB on the Saturday and Texas Scramble on the Sunday. Stopped in The Britannia Inn located on the sea front in the town which is littered with some delightful sea-facing restaurants & pubs. A fantastic town and well worth a visit. Unfortunately I feel the golf course is a little bit fortunate to be in the Top 100 as it really lacks the cutting edge you expect with a quality links golf course. Barring the Par 3 12th all the holes are quite bland and flat, there’s a real lack of use to some of the wonderful scenery around Aberdovey. The greens and course condition was also quite average in comparison to other Top 100s I visited and certainly sits bottom of the pile for me.
If you love the true links golf experience, Aberdovey is well worth the trip! I traveled from the U.S. to walked specifically to check out whether the Welsh looks courses completed to their Scottish counterparts. Without a doubt, Aberdovey holds up to the great Scottish courses I've played - Crail Balconies, St Andrews New, Kingsbarns, Gullane, etc.). Aberdovey is tough but fair, requiring solid iron play and a good imagination when the wind really blows. Having the train station right nextto the golf course is a convenient way to get to the course with the added bonus of being able to have a pint or three after the round because you don't have to drive a car! Look forward to playing Aberdovey on a future golf holiday that we are already planning!
Fond memories reinforced on my July visit to this wonderful charming links on the Wales coast. I had visited many years before, had a wonderful experience and was anxious to return. Very glad I did. Warm welcome! The member who'd been so gracious years before was there after our round. Great caddies! An original links golf experience, the kind of course one could play every day. Great price to value. Hope I last long enough to visit once again.
My second trip to Aberdovey in July 2019 after a gap of 6 years. Condition was generally good although the absence of eyebrow grass (since my previous visit) from most of the bunkers did detract from it's visual appeal. Overall the course is very flat and relatively featureless and second time round the course really did not grow on me. Par 3's seemed particularly unappealing, three of them being basically blind to the pin and the other the 5th is very odd in that you are playing at right angles across another fairway. A nice finishing stretch from 15 to 18. I tend to concur with the reviews of John H and James Ward and overall I think Aberdovey is very lucky to be ranked so highly in Wales and I for one would put behind Royal St David's, Pennard and maybe a few others
Great links layout, well worth a visit.
When the wind blows it blows !
Some tough holes
A dilemma: to go back to Aberdovey and try it again or to file it away in the drawer marked 'did I miss something?'
The ranking last year of the course (here on top100) not to mention the aerial photographs of the club website marked Aberdovey as a 'must play' along with Conwy and Royal St David's on a Welsh sojurn last summer. But I have to report that I was left with a sense of under-whelming sadness that the course didn't match the hype.
Don't get me wrong it's a good course but it's not a Top100 UK course. Firstly, as others have said it's disappointing that the dunes get in the way of the vista that is Cardigan Bay; RSD is similar in that respect but at Harlech there's more of an interesting routing and changes in elevation to enliven matters. Aberdovey started promisingly enough, however, with a tight opening hole and I have no grouse with the blind par 3 3rd hole. The 4th was a decent enough drive and short iron requiring a strategic approach off the tee but after that things went in to something of a hiatus. The par 3 5th seemed like an afterthought, squeezed in, whilst requiring a dash across the shared 15th fairway to avoid other players, was where things went askew. The stretch from there through to the 11th was bland and featureless and the re-built 12th hole, the signature par 3 was a disappointment of monumental proportions; a wedge to a raised green was the shot but the green was roped-off with trolleys disallowed within 50 yards of the putting surface. Both myself and partner found the green with our tee-shots but anyone missing with their tee-shot would have to encounter a guess, from the distance of the parked-up trolley, of how best to play one's second shot and that cannot be what top-class links golf is about. The 13th and 14th both required full-blooded long irons for second shots on holes that seemed almost carbon copies of each other as they ran in a southward line across similar terrain with no change in elevation towards the previously mentioned 15th.
And so my dilemma remains: did I miss something at Aberdovey, something that other reviewers captured and held close or are others rather too generous in their comments because of the Bernard Darwin connection? I'd rate it no more than a 4-ball on the scale and I rather think I'm being a tad generous, Darwin or no Darwin. I shot 72 on the day and my partner holed from 30 feet on the last to half the match and yet we were both left with a feeling of disappointment and emptiness about the course.