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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.”
For me Aberdovey was the highlight of a recent golfing trip to north Wales that included Royal St David’s and Nefyn. There’s something magical about Aberdovey, from the drive to the little seaside town on the road from Machynlleth, to the walk across the old Cambrian railway line to the clubhouse. I must admit that the sign on the gate over the rail crossing struck fear in my heart but it served its purpose… I dutifully closed the gate!
I’ve been meaning to make the pilgrimage to Aberdovey for many years to see for myself whether Bernard Darwin’s affections were simply romantic or founded on real substance. Well I can say, in a similar vein to Rye, there is still a little bit of Darwin’s soul here and Aberdovey is the real golfing deal.
Aberdovey is understated in every way but the quality and challenge hits you hard in the face from the opening tee shot. The back (black) tees are called “Darwin Yards” and the course measures some 200 yards longer from these tiger tees. I watched numerous people tee off on the 1st from the clubhouse balcony and nobody got anywhere near the green in two on this monster 400+ yard hole, which was playing into a two club wind on the day I played here. The second hole is one of those joyful short par fours requiring a much more subtle approach than the one I adopted. The elevated 2nd tee in the dunes got my adrenalin going and I duly pulled my drive into dunes down the left and then carded a triple with a second ball. Then you come to the infamous, bunkerless, blind par three, the “Cader” hole. In my opinion this is the best blind par three I’ve ever played and pushes the Dell at Lahinch into second place. Don’t come up short on the Cader otherwise you’ll have a blind chip too.
Things get a little easier when you reach the pulpit tee on the 4th but par is never easy at Aberdovey. The home holes, from the excellent risk-and-reward short par four 16th, to par fours at 17 and 18 (both measure more than 400 yards) are supremely testing. I was expecting Aberdovey to be a gentle test of links golf on an old-fashioned course. What I found was a thoughtful, entertaining and challenging course that simply does everything rather well. Finally, I must mention the par three 12th which is one of the best short par threes I’ve ever encountered on a links… it gives the Postage Stamp a run for its money.
I’m sure Darwin would have been chuffed to bits had he seen the new clubhouse, which is a fitting recent addition. I really enjoyed the trip and recommend the golf, the value and the welcome. I will venture back to the Principality of Wales but I’ll probably spend a little longer at Aberdovey than anywhere else… I’d like to get to know this course a lot better.
What an enchanting place to site a golf course! From the moment you cross the rail line to the clubhouse, you feel you are in a special place to play golf. I’m surprised no previous reviewer has mentioned the relatively tough start here amongst the sand hills on the opening three holes before the round unwinds in a figure of eight over flatter terrain, apart from the short par three 12th hole, where the green nestles on top of the dunes.
Aberdovey offers more than holiday golf as it measures over 6,100 yards from the gents regular tees so expect to have to work a little to play to your handicap.
I loved the way some of the holes, like the par fives at 7 and 13, incorporated sets of fairway cross bunkers to protect par. The famed short par four 16th is another great hole, following the left curve of the railway track from raised tee to elevated green and it’s a real nerve jangler to encounter so near to the end of a round.
he architectural stamps of Messrs Colt, Braid and Fowler are to be found on this delightful links and I for one am glad I played my first game in the Principality on a course fashioned in part by these three golfing greats.
I was told by a fellow golfing friend to try out Aberdovey, we had a 3 day trip to Royal St David's, Nefyn and Porthmadog organised. After reading several raving reviews I made the trip 4 days to include Aberdovey and boy was I glad I did. Although arriving in dreadful conditions, driving rain and 45mph winds, we were sat in the delightful new lottery funded club house having lunch just itching to get out there. Getting the all clear to tee off earlier than arranged the club pro wished us luck and hoped we survived the conditions. Although we had the elements to contend with it didn’t dampen our enjoyment, condition of the course was amazing, greens very true, and even the massive sea gulls are friendly and helpful (Picking a stray ball up and dropping at my feet, Pro V 1x as well, even has good taste!). All I can say is Aberdovey is firmly on the itinerary for next year, I just can’t wait to play this course in better weather conditions. Thanks for the experience Aberdovey, see you next year. The only surprise regarding this course is it only being voted 5th best in Wales??