The delightful heathland course at Holyhead Golf Club is tucked away on Holy Island, in the very north west corner of Wales, and it came about thanks to the efforts Commander Holland, a marine superintendent with the London Midland and Scottish railway company. Back in 1912, the LMS railway transported mail and passengers to and from the nearby ferry terminal to Ireland and golf was deemed a welcome diversion for those staying at the Railway Hotel.
The original 9-hole course was extended to a 14-hole layout by none other than the great James Braid, opening for play on 22nd July 1912. Braid returned shortly after to add another four holes and the full 18-hole course debuted in August 1914.
Fairways are set out on a compact 104-acre site and some old-fashioned design traits still remain on today’s 6,000-yard course with fairways that cross-over at the 6th and 7th holes and short par fours at the 1st and 14th holes.
Holyhead is an honest test and many of its undulating fairways are bounded by bracken and broom – with a little heather and fern thrown in, on occasion, for good measure – and, as a mid-round bonus, some wonderful panoramic views from the elevated 10th tee.
The club’s excellent dormy house accommodation (seven twin-bedded rooms) and its very reasonable packages for visiting golfers make it well worth the time and trouble to visit for those who are prepared to look a little further afield for genuine golfing hidden gems like Holyhead.
I played Holyhead for the first time in early August and enjoyed the round. The course is an interesting mix of moorland and heathland but with surprisingly lush fairways. The greens were fast and true. There are big changes in elevation and quite a few blind shots. In my opinion the least interesting holes were 12, 15 and 16 which are relatively close together at the northern end of the course and all seemed quite similar. Holes I really liked were the 2, 3, 10, 11, 14 and 17. The 14th is a short par 4 up quite a steep slope with a very narrow landing area for an iron tee shot with your second shot played to a well-protected plateau green. Stroke index 15 it did not seem like, when I played it. Overall a very fun round of golf and I will definitely return. I have now played the top 8 ranked courses in North Wales and think Holyhead should be 4th .
On a 2 day trip to Anglesey we played Holyhead the day after Bull Bay. Not dissimilar in style but with narrower fairways bounded by ferns and much gorse, almost moorland in nature. Similar condition generally to Bull Bay except the greens were much better (albeit a bit on the slow side)and another bargain twilight fee at £20; the greenkeeper was playing in front of us and it sounds like he is new to the club and improving things. Approach to greens was much fairer than Bull Bay with more traditional bunkering rather than the excessive mounding. Similar pleasant location.
The first four holes head out from the clubhouse towards the sea and include an undulating par 5 and two par 3's; the par 3 second was notable for being on a plateau with right a no-go area. Holes 5 to 8 basically return you to the clubhouse, and I thought the 7th was an excellent par 4. From the 9th you head away from the clubhouse again and this is where it really gets going. Holes 9 to 12 include three differing par 5's, with the 10th a real cracking driving hole off the white tee. Infact there were a number of white tees on the back nine where you walked back 50 yards or so through bushes and gorse to be faced with tee shots requiring carry and accuracy. Hole 13 was for me the pick of the par 3's; 177 yards downhill with trouble long and trouble right. Then an uphill short par 4, two par 4's over 400 yards, and then the 17th which is totally different .. drive over the marker post walk blind over the hill and the green sits steeply downhill just below you. Then a tough par 4 to finish requiring a long and accurate drive. The layout just seemed to flow, rock and roll golf with no two holes the same, and it seemed that in no time we were on the 18th green.
Holyhead is a gem of a course, full of interesting holes. Of the eight courses we played in North Wales in July 2019 this is the one we enjoyed most along with Royal St David's. Infact I'd place Holyhead higher in the rankings than Bull Bay, The Montgomerie, Newport, Porthmadog, Borth, St.Pierre, Nefyn, P&K, Southerdown and maybe even Aberdovey .. maybe pushing top 10 in Wales although accessability is an obvious issue
Holyhead is a cracking little golf course located close to Trearddur Bay on Holy Island, Anglesey. Enjoying fantastic views towards the mountains of Snowdonia and situated only a mile from the port of Holyhead, gateway to Ireland, the course is a challenging heathland cum moorland hybrid with some interesting greens and unusual features.
It’s a gem of a track, designed by James Braid in 1912, that has bags of character and some really cool holes. Arguably the best stretch of holes is right at the start of the round where the opening quartet head in a linear direction away from the elevated clubhouse.
The rise to the first green, located in a hidden dell, certainly grabs your attention before you play the very impressive par-three second with its green perched on a high plateau with sharp drop-offs to contend with. The 479-yard third is a marvellous hole and although not quite of the same pedigree it has elements of the magnificent fourth at Tenby and the same numbered iconic hole at Rye as it plays along a hogs back. The fourth, another short hole, is also a true delight.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.