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4 miles W of Llanelli
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Ashburnham is one of the finest and oldest golf courses in Wales, founded in 1894. It’s located close to the Burry Estuary and Worm’s Head with fine views over Carmarthen Bay. A number of important events have been hosted at Ashburnham, including the PGA Championship. Bernard Gallacher picked up his first pay cheque here, when he won the 1969 Schweppes PGA Championship. Sam Torrance and Dai Rees were also victorious at Ashburnham.
“I played my last PGA Championship as a tournament regular at Ashburnham in 1969, and the club also hosted the event in 1959 – really hosted it, for this was the last occasion a club had to put up all the prize money.” Wrote Peter Alliss in his book – The Good Golf Guide featuring the 200 Best Courses in the British Isles. “It cost them £2,000. Although the course was a good deal shorter in those days, only five players in the field managed to break 70. The late Dai Rees was one of them, and his 70 and 69 on the last day saw him home by six strokes for his first win in Wales.”
Ashburnham originally started out in life as a nine-hole course and was extended in 1902 to 18 holes. Today’s course, which measures 6,630 yards from the back tees, is the result of alterations by J.H.Taylor in 1914, Fred G. Hawtree in 1923 and then Ken Cotton (himself a member at Ashburnham). These three great architects have created a classic out-and-back links course, rolling gently through the dunes.
Unusually, Ashburnham begins with a downhill par three, where out-of-bounds lurk menacingly at the right of the green. In fact, the course is a nightmare for the right-handed slice, as there is invariably trouble beckoning to the right on many holes. The first two holes and the closing two holes are somewhat out of character with the rest, having an inland, almost park-like feel. But the holes in between are the real thing – undiluted and undulating linksland. By the time we reach the 3rd hole, we’re running parallel to the sea and often into the teeth of the prevailing wind. At the turn, we head back, wind assisted but a little further inland.
According to local Ashburnham folklore, an extraordinary tee shot was struck on the 18th. During the Home Internationals, an amateur event, England’s John Davis struck his drive from the 18th tee directly onto the clubhouse roof. The ball ricocheted off and landed to the left of the green, pin high! Admittedly, the wind was from behind, but the ball must have travelled at least 400 yards.
After a game at Ashburnham, make sure to have a drink in the welcoming clubhouse. The members are friendly and often willing to tell a yarn or two. Above all, ensure that you don’t miss playing this historic links, it’s an absolute delight and it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face, making you want to come back for more.
According to the club’s website, Harry Vardon declared Ashburnham as his favourite course in Wales. I’m not sure how 1950s Ashburnham compares to the present day version, or whether Mr. Vardon ever visited the likes of Royal Porthcawl, Pennard, Aberdovey or even Tenby, but I think it would be a stretch to say that Ashburnham should rank above the best of Wales’ top ranking courses.
That’s not to say that Ashburnham is without merit. Whilst the opening and closing few holes left me feeling a little flat, they play across meadow-like ground rather than what I would describe as bona fide links land, there is a smattering of very good golf out here at Ashburnham.
For me, the course wakes up at the 3rd as the sand dunes start to come into play. 3 is a short par four with a green that’s hidden from the tee due to it crossing a low lying dune ahead of a green protected by a revetted faced bunker that’s placed directly in front of the green. I really liked this hole, but I did find the bunker placement a little odd. 4, 5, 7 and 8 are all decent enough links holes but offer nothing too noteworthy, but this run is divided by the splendid long par three at the 6th that plays towards a dune that doubles as a shoulder to this elevated green whilst there is a heavy drop-off to the right.
9, 12 and 14 provided the other main highlights. The par four 9th with its run of bunkers hugging the left of the fairway on the inside of the dogleg, an intriguing short par four at 12 that plays through a valley between two dunes, and the excellent long 14th with an amphitheatre shaped green site that’s cut through a sunken duned fortress all make Ashburnham worth the visit.
The rest of the holes are solid without really ever wowing. I also didn’t find the turf to be optimal for links play, and it’s not a course that’s ever going to win you over with its beauty alone; the off-course views all are saved for the 16th tee.
Overall, Ashburnham is a pleasant walk and a quite fine links course. If you’re planning an itinerary that tours the best of South Wales, it would be a shame to bypass it in favour of one of Wales’ more sedate inland venues.
This is a great course and in my opinion one of the strongest links courses in Wales behind Royal Porthcawl it’s starts with a tricky par 3 that doesn’t ease you into the round! and gets better as the holes progress. It probably needs a breeze to make it challenging but it’s greens are always in great condition and it’s always great value. Finally a true members club that has always been very welcoming whenever I have visited.
Well worth a visit.
A course that has some great holes yet some not so good ones also.
Honestly if I turned up at the course I would think I was playing a poor course until I got the the 5th hole, the first is a bland par 3 and the second is a bland par 4 , this is a quirky par 4 with more character and the 4 a fairly bland par 4.
Once you hit the 5th the course comes into its own and until the 17th you will really enjoy it, it is a really good course with memorable and challenging holes. Unfortunately 17 and 18 share the same land as holes 1 and 2 and this for me makes the course only very good rather than outstanding.
Definitely worth a visit but be mindful that it takes a while for the course to get going and has a pretty poor finish in my opinion, holes 5 to 16 are very very good and worth the green fee, with a few of the holes in the middle being outstanding.
The south coast of Wales has a number of fine links courses, keep heading west and eventually you will get to Ashburnham. It is off the beaten track, and the surrounding area is a little down at heel. This translated into a warm welcome and cheaper green fees. In short, it’s a hidden gem. We played in mid-August and were treated to a warm summer day on the links.
Holes 1 and 18, and then 2 and 17, are played in adjacent fields in front of the clubhouse and are not links holes. However, 3-16 are played on a strip of land running parallel to the coast in a classic out and back links configuration. It’s these holes where the interest lies.
The 3rd is a short but strategic par 4, and pinches in at driving distance with pot bunkers and gorse set into mounds on either side of the fairway. On the tee you need to decide whether to lay up, thread your drive through the gap or blast it over the hazards Dechambeau style. The 6th is a tough par 3, playing 180 yards (off the whites) into the wind to an elevated green perched on a dune. Anything short or right falls away down into a collection area, and anything long or left is in heavy rough.
After playing away from the clubhouse for 8 holes on the inland side of the course, the 9th turns down wind and starts the run back home along the coast. Immediately we noticed the impact of being closer to the sea: the turf was more sandy and links-like, the dunes more prominent and in play.
There is a great run of holes from 12-14. The 12th is an excellent short par 4 played to a fairway which funnels in the further you hit it. The hole then dog-legs to the left and you have to play a semi-blind short iron approach to a small green raised up on a dune. 13 was my favourite of the par threes, only 140 yards but it turned back into the wind and required a carry from the elevated tee over a sea of long grass to a slippery green nestled in a bowl. 14 is probably the signature hole, after driving into an open fairway, the second shot is then blind over a dune ridge to a second fairway. The third shot again is blind, played through the dunes to another green nestled in a bowl.
The final hole to mention is 16: it’s a long climb up to the tee, but you are rewarded with a fantastic view over the course and the estuary out to sea. The hole is about 170 yards to a green way down below you, but the yardage is irrelevant, it’s all about judging the impact of the wind and the elevation.
The greens ran fast and true and had some interesting undulations that really made you think. Many of the holes have meadow grass fairways which makes them less links-like, but this wasn’t a negative. Overall, this course provides a great challenge and is well worth a visit.
Pleasant if unexciting. Same dry conditions as elsewhere in South Wales this summer. Probably better and more fun under normal conditions. Some good holes and some bland ones. A nice welcome.
Firstly, I enjoyed the course immensely. It is tough, with an excellent variety of holes both in terms of length and orientation. The greens are fast and pure. This is probably controversial, but the course is, in some ways, far from being a true links. I write this having read the many iterations of what determines a links golf course and while it does exhibit enough traits to be included in all the credible "links" lists, the following characteristics of Ashburnham cause it to err on the side of a "maritime heathland" - the existence of a substantial number of trees, large bushes etc, the prevelance of meadow grass, minimal views of the sea and not especially hard/fast running. As I say, it's a really good course, probably top 125.
A hugely enjoyable and very walkable golf course with excellent greens and so many memorable holes. A must play if in Wales.
Another great Welsh links well worth a visit. Great variety of holes and challenges.
A fun course that runs in a fairly classic out/back configuration. Played on low to mid dunes there are a few excellent holes on the inward nine. The par 5 that cuts sharply to the right (instead of going on to the 3rd green –wonder how many visitors playing at a quiet time has incorrectly played at this green?) is a great hole nestled in the largest dunes. The par 3s are all good and a terrific 18th as well, requiring a straight 200m tee shot then an awkward uphill shot to the green. Anything mishit could roll a long way back. This is the definition of 4 balls. A consistently good course with a handful of excellent holes. Warren from Aust.
The links at Ashburnham contains some wonderful golf holes on a sandy tract of land that has played host to many notable championships.
As recently as 2014 it was chosen as a qualifying venue for the Seniors Open Championship and I can imagine that when the wind howls across this narrow stretch of linksland it will provide a test to the very best.
There’s no denying this is a true links experience with the sixth, ninth, 12th, 14th and 18th being the real stars of the show in my opinion. This quintet of holes stand-out from the rest as being superior to the others on a course that borders on good-to-very good for the remainder. The reason is perhaps the more pronounced changes in elevation that these holes have in contrast to the rest, which are mostly played across flattish ground, save for a couple of dropping short holes.
The routing at Ashburnham is slightly unusual in that the opening two holes and the final three are played close to the clubhouse in a curious configuration. For me the real character of Ashburnham is displayed between the third and the 14th where you essentially play out and back on a thin strip of gently rippling terrain.
There’s very little to be critical of at Ashburnham. Many of the holes are structurally sound in the strategic sense and the greens were excellent. Midway through a very dry Spring they were firm, running true, fast and were already starting to get that lovely browny-glaze that good quality links greens are renowned for.
If I was forced to nit-pick it would be the bunkering. Not the positioning of them (that was very good) but they were quite tired looking in places and the style wasn’t particularly to my liking. A bunker renovation scheme would no doubt be costly but could transform this course from being very good to excellent.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
We played Ashburnham after Pennard in August and found it delightful, very playable and lots of fun. The greens were superb, and the course contains plenty of interest and variety. There are a couple of quirky holes. At 14 you cross to another fairway semi blind, and 18 a bit daft, but the overall experience is very positive and enjoyable. Very friendly and welcoming.
Responding to Ed’s “nit pick”, looks like the club has listened to you, I played the course for the first time in August 2020 and there has been some bunker renovation work, with revetted pot bunkers now the prevalent style, especially around the greens. This works well on a links.