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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.”
Awesome return visit to Aberdovey on an autumnal weekend morning. Course was in great condition, the welcome in the pro shop and clubhouse was first class.
Its clear to see why Darwin fell in love with this place, a good stern test of links golf, with a variety of shots required throughout the round. We were lucky this time with only a relatively mind breeze present that reduced the protection of the course somewhat, but still needed to hit consistent shot after shot.
Good value winter golf, and although quite a way off the beaten track, definitely worth a visit.
I lover Aberdovey, for me it sits in the tier just below the Open rota, and is unquestionably better to play than several of these.
It is a superb layout, and very difficult to fault as a golfing test. Its tough when the wind gets up, but that applies to all links golf, but, having played Aberdovey in still conditions, it still stands up as a great test of golf, with holes that don't require the wind to make them challenging.
Its a must play in my opinion, especially if you combine it with RSD, which is also superb, but the two both have very different characters, making them a lovely combination.
Aberdovey is the archetypal links course. Not unlike nearby Royal St. David’s, you must cross a live railway line to get to the course that’s sandwiched between the sea and the railway. And whilst it’s a shame that views of the sea are effectively non-existent despite it being located adjacent to the beach, the high dune that flanks the coastal side of the course and dominates the scenery makes up for this minor quibble. Over on the opposite side of the railway is a large hillside with farmland and beautiful holiday cottages, so you really feel enclosed by the most captivating of natural surroundings. The other aspect that makes Aberdovey stand out as the archetypal, traditional links is that it’s routed in the classic out and back formation. Albeit the routing is in a figure of eight shape with the opening holes of the front nine and holes 12-14 on the back nine being the ones that pass closest to the dunes.
A caravan park sits next to the 1st tee, and my immediate thought was how lovely a place it would be to come on holiday. Isolated, next to a beach, beautiful scenery, and an excellent golf course all on your doorstep. It’s no wonder Bernard Darwin enjoyed his time here so much. Those holiday dreams are quickly over once your round starts though since Aberdovey opens up with a 443-yard par four that demanded two stout shots directly into the teeth of the wind on the day that I played it.
The opening three holes are packed into the dunes, with the 2nd being a short and lumpy par four before a funky and blind par-three into a bowl-shaped green then grabs your attention at the 3rd. Three holes into Aberdovey, and you’ve already sampled some of the best variety that links golf has to offer. 4 and 5 are in a similar vein, but the middle of the course from the 6th to the 11th are then laid out over much flatter land situated away from the dunes. The interest through this stretch is kept alive though, with the clever combination of revetted and naturalised bunkers that are topped with thick seaside grasses. The use of railway sleepers across the site, more-so as a decoration than a hazard, also magnify Aberdovey’s appeal.
If you’ve been battered by playing into the wind on the outward holes, you turn around at the end of the site on the 12th tee and then it’s all in one direction on the return, so it’s an opportunity to recover your score.
The golfing media seem to regard the 12th to be Aberdovey’s signature hole and it’s the only hole that plays to an elevated position. A recently constructed green is perched on the top of the dune after the previous green had been washed away in a storm, but they’ve done an excellent job with the rebuild. This is also the only position across the course where you’ll catch the full panoramic of the sea.
The 16th onwards then drifts away from the dunes and follows the curve of the railway. The 16th hole itself, whilst only a short par four, wraps its way around the railway track in a manner that tempts you to pause for the train to pass and then go all-guns-blazing for the green. The smarter advice however is to lay back and place one down the undulating fairway to leave a wedge into the long and narrow green.
The last two holes provide an honest finish and close out a round of golf across one of the most natural and authentic links properties that you’re likely to visit. Like some of the UK’s finest courses, Aberdovey takes some effort to get to, but it’s worth those extra miles.
Looked forward to playing a top 100 in UK ranked course. A long drive to get to the club through glorious Welsh countryside. Perfect weather and Pro Shop staff were welcoming and helpful.
The course was not what I expected. I imagined it had more undulations and views of the sea. The first four holes are excellent. The blind par 3 third is a classic. Putting surfaces were superb and quick. The stretch from the 5th round to the 12th are decent holes but lack any sort of definition or aesthetic appeal. Challenging but characterless. The signature par 3 is very average. The course toughens up and has a strong finish and was in excellent condition but it is nowhere near as good as courses with much lower rankings. Play if you are in the area but way overrated.
Really enjoyed playing around here. Greens were top notch. The par 3s were superb. Quite a flat course in general which makes picking your line on some shots challenging for the first round. We were perhaps fortunate that the wind was low for us. Factor in some time for a drink on the balcony after your round, overlooking people coming in to the giant 18th green. Staff really friendly.
The doyen of Golf writers, Bernard Darwin waxed lyrical about the charms of Aberdovey, and brought it to the attention of golfers around the world. It was his 'little slice of heaven'.
While there have been many changes over the years, the course as it is set up today can be attributed to Harry Colt's work in 1913. Over the years cosmetic work has been done by H.W. Fowler, James Braid and others, but the appearance of the course has not changed significantly.
However it has been lengthened to cope with the modern technology contantly emerging. It does not play short even today.
The course starts strongly with a long par 4 which played even longer into the prevailing breeze. It takes two strong hits to get anywhere near the green, but when you get there you will appreciate it. It is a natural links green surrounded by small dunes in an almost punchbowl effect.
Hole 2 ups the ante. It is a short par 4 with the tee on the back of the primal dune. The fairway tightens up closer to the green with serious links movement- dunes, swales, dips- all leading to another almost punchbowl green protected by 4 pot bunkers front right. This the sort of golf hole I would travel to play!
Hole 3 is a 167 yard par 3 with a basin green. The tee shot must carry long rough and a ridge of dunes that run across in front of the green, and surround the green. I could not even see a flag, and there are no pointers. It is quirky, but a true links style hole.
At this stage the course had me excited to see what was around the next corner!
Hole 4 was a long par 4 into the breeze reminscent of the first hole. The main aim was to avoid the 4 fairway bunkers and 3 greenside bunkers. Easier said than done!
Aberdovey is set up as nine holes out, nine holes in- and the first 4 holes run away from the clubhouse on the beach side of the course. However the par 3 fifth hole brings a change, running across the course away from the beach.. It is a lovely hole to boot.
Holes 6, 7 & 8 then continue away from the clubhouse on the train track side of the course. The land is flatter now with less interaction with dunesland. Rather than being set into the dunes as they are on early holes, the bunkers here are below the playing surface, but visible because each of them has both high lips, and whiskers of marram grass as well. It looks good. Apparently in early years this was the tradition at Aberdovey, and it continues with current management.
Hole 6 is a long par 4 and hole 7 is a par 5, and both battle against the wind. Despite the clever bunkering the land does not have as much interest as the early holes. Hole 8 is a short dogleg par in the same terrain, but is a hole that gives options, and I thought it a good hole. The par 3 ninth hole heads across the course in the opposite direction of hole five- toward the beach, and requires a precise mid iron to carry the 3 pot bunkers on the front of the green. It is a good hole, and one I would like to play over...
Holes 10 & 11 are set in similar terrain to 6 & 7, and are both long par 4's- one in either direction. They are not memorable, but solid.
The par 3 twelfth hole is the signature hole at Aberdovey with the green sitting right on the beachfront dune. It is not an easy shot in the wind, but it is a good test, and picture postcard stuff.
The road home starts to build here, and holes 13 & 14 run homeward behind the main dune. Nice holes without that special ingredient, but nice all the same...
Fifteen moves back alongside the train tracks with out of bounds very much in play down the left side of what is a very long, strong par 4 with a compelling green structure- 3 pot bunkers down the left side, one on the right and a long, long green. It looks great and the long narrow 16th tee running alongside looks for all the world to me like a station platform!
Hole 16 is a driveable short par 4 with the green, and last 80 metres of the hole set in some heaving dunes. It is a brilliant hole.
The last 2 holes are long par 4's with water play on the left hand side, and a clutch of bunkers set to catch the errant shot. And the closing hole has one of the biggest greens I have ever seen.
Aberdovey is a mix of quirky 'real links' holes set in the dunes, and some quality golf holes in flatter marshland. It is an easy walk, and a very pleasant place to play golf. After 5 holes I was ready to apply for my Welsh passport, but reality set in...now I plan to visit again soon. The start and finish of the course are outstanding and the middle holes good quality without the same character.
In any conditions you will need to play well to post a score, with those long par 4's putting your long game under scrutiny.
Aberdovey is a regular host of amateur championships, and has hosted the Welsh Senior Open. I now understand what Bernard Darwin was taking about!! It is a beautiful setting and a wonderful course which has enough moments of brilliance to bring you back time and again..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
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.