The Bull Bay golf course, like those at neighbouring Anglesey and Holyhead, was brought into play just before the First World War. And like the other two courses, Bull Bay Golf Club was designed by an esteemed architect, W. Herbert Fowler, the man responsible for laying out classic courses such as The Berkshire, Walton Heath and Saunton (East).
The course is the most northerly in Wales, lying near the small town of Amlwch, on the north coast of the Isle of Anglesey and it opened in 1913 with an exhibition match between two of the Great Triumverate, James Braid and J. H. Taylor.
Constructed on a cliff top site, the property was given to the club by Charles Henry Alexander Paget, 6th Marquess of Anglesey and he also built the original clubhouse. Sitting high above the Irish Sea, the Bull Bay course boasts fantastic views out over the headland.
A rather unique feature of the course is that on more than half the holes, the green is above the eye line as an approach is played, causing a certain amount of uncertainty. Many of the tee boxes are elevated above the fairway, inviting a full-blooded drive but caution should be exercised as wayward drives will be severely punished in the gorse that lines many of the fairways.Former Prime Minister David Lloyd George often played here during the formative years of Bull Bay and with its location and layout, it’s not difficult to understand why he regarded this place as one of his favourite Welsh golfing venues.
I was given a tip by a bartender when playing at Nefyn about Bull Bay. I had an extra day to spend and with a weather forecast promising ideal conditions I opted to include another round on my visit.
Architect Herbert Fowler designed a course with plenty of different shotmaking challenges. Many might think -- myself included at the outset -- that a course of just over 6,200 yards would not be really something special. My ignorance was quickly cast aside as each hole progressed. For a course with as par of 70 the rating of 72 should tell you how tenacious the course can be for those who don't pay proper heed.
There are a number of fine holes. The blind par-4 2nd is a gem -- a blind landing area featuring a fairway with a landing area that narrows considerably to a well-designed green. The downhill dog-leg left par-4 7th is both a visual treat and worthy test. However, the show stopper on the outward side is the marvelous short par-4 9th that plays 347 yards. The hole would certainly make my short list of top holes played in Wales. The fairway features two levels. When played into the prevailing wind the 347 yards can be a good bit longer. The daring play is to reach the upper left side and therefore have a simple pitch to the green. Those who bail to the right will have a much more demanding angle and greater distance to overcome. The green is the capper -- angled correctly and with enough subtle movements to confound even the surest of putters.
The first six holes on the inward side is a bit cramped but Fowler excelled in constantly altering the examination. The dog-leg left par-4 14th at 425 yards is one where the bold tee shot can attempt to cut the corner -- just be sure to judge the task correctly because the penalty for failure will be utterly swift.
At the uphill par-4 17th the 433 yards will play much longer when also encountering the prevailing breeze. It's a totally fair hole and calls upon two pure strikes of one's golf ball to reach a most challenging putting surface. Exiting with a four is certainly cause to celebrate.
The final hole plunges downhill all the way to the green with a view on a clear day that will etched in one's memory. I only wish a center-placed bunker would be added to the hole to keep the longest of hitters in check. The green sits in front of the clubhouse and like others at Bull Bay presents an array of slight movements that will prove vexing to all but the most aware golfers.
The backbone of Bull Bay is how often players will need to hit to elevated targets -- judging the wind velocities and the needed trajectories to succeed is a constant element one faces.
Bull Bay is not an easy layout to visit. But, for those on holiday it certainly pays dividends to make the excursion there. I'm glad I listened to a most knowledgeable bartender.
by M. James Ward
Bull Bay is not only the best golf course on the Isle of Anglesey but it can rightly claim to be one of Wales’ finest.
And if courses were ranked entirely on charm, fun, individuality and uniqueness it would undoubtedly be top of the pile. It’s a place where enjoying the game of golf and the shots you play can (and should) be had without paying too much attention to your scorecard.
There’s so much to say about a course like Bull Bay that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Ironically, perhaps the best place is at the very start of the round, to get this bit out of the way, because holes one, two and three are arguably the weakest on the course. Not that they are poor by any stretch of the imagination but after this opening trio it really is a thrill-a-minute, rollercoaster round of golf.
You play holes that climb and fall, sweep through valleys and soar onto plateaus; mostly between rocky outcrops and areas of gorse – it’s a truly spectacular setting for a memorable game of golf.
My favourite part of the course was the stretch from the ninth to the 14th. This is such a fun section of the property with lots of twists and turns in the terrain. The holes are routed over it brilliantly and it’s no surprise that one of my favourite architects, Herbert Fowler, is the man responsible for this ingenious design.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.