Part of the course at Abergavenny was first used for horse racing – Cheltenham’s National Hunt Chase was run here in 1872 – but the formation of the Monmouthshire Golf Club in 1892 put an end to equestrian activity three years later. Laid out on largely level land, the original 9-hole course flourished until, just before World War II, James Braid was engaged to replace it with a new 18-hole layout which opened in 1938.
Monmouthshire Golf Club was very proud to have the Welsh golfing legend Iestyn Tucker as its President. Iestyn’s amateur record was remarkable – Home Internationalist from 1949 to 1975, Welsh Match Play, Stroke Play and Seniors Champion. He held the course record at more than a dozen clubs in Wales but the golf club closest to his heart was, of course, his home club, where he racked up 50 years of membership in 2008.
The surrounding hills – Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Skirrid among them – provide a beautiful backdrop to a mature parkland course that has been greatly improved in recent years with the additional planting of trees and installation of an automatic irrigation system.
There are a couple of unusual features to the configuration of the holes – three of the four par fives are played back-to-back between the 6th and 8th (on the site of the old race track) and fairways cross at the 10th and 11th holes. It is generally agreed that the back nine is more demanding than the outward half, despite being more than 400 yards shorter. The signature hole is encountered at the last of the six par threes on the card, the 231-yard 16th, where the elevated tee shot over the corner of a pond is played to a green surrounded by trees.
The Monmouthshire (at Abergavenny) starts pleasantly enough with a short dog-leg par 4 followed by an uphill par 3 without margin left (ob) or right (a steep bank). A couple of good par 4's follow with plenty of obstacles and then the short par 3 fifth hole (probably my favourite hole on the course) which is only 131 yards downhill but is well protected with a ditch across the front, ob left, a large tree right and bunkers either side. So a good start but I felt that the first five holes were in reality the best stretch. The white tee on hole 6 was odd; there was a sharp dog-leg left after maybe 75 yards with tall trees left and trees lining right hand side of fairway, so I hit a 4 wood over the corner tree with a bit of draw which was perfect I thought to find the fairway.. wrongly as no idea where the ball ended up. Holes 6-8 were unusually consecutive par 5's all under 500 yards and all similar looking (apart from the white tee shot on 6). Whilst holes 3-9 were fairly flat, the back nine was more undulating and in theory more interesting, but it just didn't seem to flow which was maybe because of the par 3's at alternate holes from 10 to 16; the 11th (par 4, 399 yards, SI 3) was a good hole requiring an accurate drive, as was the short par 4 13th uphill into the corner and the good looking downhill par 3 at 14. Pleasant surroundings and in reasonable condition (September 2018) The Monmouthshire is average (certainly not poor) which is why I give it a 3 ball.