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.
Date: February 19, 2018