While circumstances beyond its control have lead to historical changes to this North Wales championship links, Conwy's 6,901 yards have proved an awesome challenge in the winds of the Caernarvonshire coastline.
Golf began in this area in 1869, the original designer being Jack Morris, nephew of Old Tom Morris. Two World Wars had a profound effect on the Morfa Peninsula and the course was almost lost after the First World War. Stabilisation was only achieved against sand-blow by the planting of huge areas of marram grass on what are now the 7th, 8th and 9th.
By common assent, its chequered history does not detract from the quality of this challenging links, whose current layout is the result of mid-1970s front nine alterations by Frank Pennink, and early 1980s back nine alterations to five holes by Brian Huggett and Neil Coles to allow for the building of the A55 tunnel, aimed at easing traffic problems on the road between Chester and Anglesey..
Conwy Golf Club has played host to a number of major tournaments, including the Martini in 1970, when Peter Thomson and Doug Sewell tied on 268, a score attributable to the dry windless conditions which prevailed that week. The Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship was won at Conwy by Belle Robertson in 1983 and the Home Internationals were staged here in 1990.
Conwy is fairly flat but still has sufficient variety to avoid the charge of monotonous which has been laid at the door of lesser links. Its seaside character is apparent from the start, the second a par three nestling in the dunes, the 3rd curving along the shoreline, followed by holes running parallel to each other to the turn. Going out, there are four par fours measuring more than 400 yards, three of which are more than 450 yards long.
The 10th returns to the Clubhouse, one of three par fives in the next five holes, and the presence of the bay and the mountains and the Great Orme above Llandudno ensures the golfer can enjoy the surroundings whilst being tested to the full.
Douglas Adams prints of the rugged Welsh coastline adorn many clubhouse walls. That coastline is the classic links course of Conwy.
A few facts about Conwy Golf Club
Conwy won the Welsh Golf Club of the Year award for 2007.
Conwy staged the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open in June 2007. England’s Carl Mason captured his 15th European Seniors Tour title in four years.
Conwy was the first Welsh Golf Club to host Open Championship Local Final Qualifying ahead of the 2006 Open at Royal Liverpool. Only three qualifiers managed under par scores: Jon Bevan, Mikko Ilonen and Warren Bladon.
The 41st Curtis Cup will be hosted at Conwy Golf Club in June 2020.
I did not really know much about Conwy prior to my singular visit but I have to say I found the course an enjoyable experience. It helps that during my visit the temps were quite nice -- mid to high 60's -- with roughly a 2-3 club wind at times.
The opening hole is merely one to get your golf muscles stretched out. The 2nd has been downplayed by some but the angle of the green and the protection provided by the bunkers makes for a thinking man's hole. The hole becomes even more challenging when playing the hole downwind and having to stop it quickly to far back right hole location.
The 3rd is a fine short par-4 -- the key coming from an elevated putting surface that requires a pinpoint approach to have an opportunity for birdie.
When you leave the 3rd you face a run of demanding par-4's -- broken up by a lone par-3 at the 6th. The par-4's are quite varied and being able to shape a quality tee shot can help immensely. The 7th is a gem of a hole. Running parallel to the coastline there's a tendency to bailout right and those doing so will face a stressful approach. The green is artfully set within a bowl-like area and those able to drive up the left side of the fairway -- no small feat mind you -- will have a direct line into any pin placement.
The long par-4 8th plays back into the prevailing wind and a pesky lone fairway bunker on the right side can prove fatal for those entering it.
The long weakness at Conwy comes with the par-5 holes. Four come in a span of six holes between the 9th and 14th holes. Frankly, none is especially compelling architecturally and it would help the layout a good bit if more thought could be added to them.
Once you get past the pedestrian par-3 15th you encounter a series of holes presenting a totally different character from the rest of the course. The par-4 16th rests completely on the tee shot. The hole is aggressively defended by gorse -- on both sides -- but especially left. If one finds the left side it's likely going to mean an unplayable situation. At the 17th you head in the reverse direction and again you face a very challenging tee shot. Unlike the 16th which is played with the prevailing wind, the 17th goes back against it and if it's humanly possible an archer-like tee shot is a must to avoid some serious scorecard pain. The longer the tee shot the more accurate one must be. Simply put. Any golfer coming down the stretch at Conwy must handle these two holes.
The concluding hole is one that left me wanting more to end the day. With the prevailing wind helping it can be nothing more than fairway metal or iron to leave a short pitch. Strong players can take driver and get either just before or even beyond the cart path that runs perpendicular to the line of play. The ending hole features a benign green protected on both sides by bunkers.
Conwy is a rollercoaster course -- clear highlights at times balanced against a few formulaic holes. Nonetheless, Conway is a layout well worth exploring. Top ten in Wales? Certainly. With a few upgrades Conwy could rise even further. The forthcoming Curtis Cup Matches in '20 will open many eyes for those competing and attending.
by M. James Ward
What a great course. A very nice classic links course. No 3 in North Wales is exactly the right position. Front 9 is slightly more open and back 9 is an exam. Highly recommended.
Bar staff could be friendlier though pro shop was great.
It mixes challenge with charm to produce an exhilarating links golfing experience. It stands head and shoulders above anything else on this stretch of coastline and it is very easy to see why it’s such a popular repeat venue for many golfers.
Easily accessible from major North-West cities such as Manchester and Liverpool I suspect many inland golf club members will head here for high quality golf 12 months of the year.
At Conwy, officially founded in 1890 but with play dating back to 1869, you can expect all the thrills and spills associated with links golf including uneven stances and unpredictable bounces but here there is an undeniable fairness to it all. Everything is laid out in front of you, nothing is hidden; you get what you deserve. And that is probably why this respected links has hosted so many notable championships for professionals and elite amateurs. The course is as honest as the day is long.
There doesn’t come anything close to a poor hole at Conwy. Sure, there are holes that are relatively weaker than the others but the real strength of the course lies in its strength in depth, its consistency. Holes such as the sixth and 17th are a couple of holes that didn’t set my personal pulse racing but they are far from inferior.
Overall Conwy is quite a flat course, there are very few major changes in elevation, but there are enough undulations on the fairways and around the greens to maintain a high level of interest and keep you on your toes. Conwy doesn’t have the quirk-factor that some links enthusiast seek rather the joy of this course is its persistent and consistent challenge.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I am lucky enough to play Conwy quite frequently and after a "super Sunday" felt it was time to plug it to the masses !
Superb location, and a course that plays very differently when the wind shifts. Great views, very playable (apart from 16 & 17 which - unless you are dead straight - jump up to bite you especially when you are on a good card !) and enjoyable. Well worth a visit if you havent already played here. Too many good holes to pick out one and it depends on the wind direction as to which are best.
No way is this a six star course - five would be fair and my 1 handicap teenage daughter closed 3, 3, 3 over the final three holes so I'd disagree at their severity. The first and second were weak holes as was the short par 3 6th but I can see why it ranks highly in the area as a course. It's a bit cramped for space at times and when we played it in August 2017 the fairways were in poor conditioned; tined in places which I'm suspecting was due to very wet weather through the main season but as a track it comes alive after the 11th and the run for home was good, challenging and memorable. I agree with others who say the bar staff need to perk up a bit. Overall a decent track but it needs to improve the condition ahead of the Curtis Cup in 2020.
It's interesting to see the range of reviews for Conwy, most of which I think err too much in either direction. We played as a Society on a lovely sunny day and all enjoyed it, not just the links lovers. The turf was firm and free running, plenty of good holes and punitive bunkers (I had my only ever swish-swish red mist episode in one particularly well placed one - as Bernard Darwin's said of the pot bunkers at St Andrews; “just enough room for an angry man and his niblick”.) and some nice views. A friendly place to play golf, that as with much of Wales golf would be better known and more expensive elsewhere; recommended.