Nefyn is dramatically located on the cliff tops at the foot of the Porthdinllaen headland, a tiny promontory that juts out from the Lleyn Peninsula into the Irish Sea. In terms of sheer topographical exhilaration, Nefyn is Wales’ equivalent of Ireland’s Old Head of Kinsale. This is literally golf on the edge of the world.
Nefyn and District Golf Club was founded in 1907, originally as a nine-hole course and in 1912, it was extended to 18 holes. One of the great triumvirate, J.H.Taylor, was commissioned in 1933 to add a further nine and to revise the existing course. F.W. Hawtree and his his partner A.H.F. Jiggens, known as “Jigg,” built three new holes in the 1980s.
Until recently, the layout at Nefyn was extremely unusual with 26 holes in play. The course comprised of 10 outward holes and two separate inward 8 holes, these two 18-hole courses were named the Old and the New. This rather strange configuration made life somewhat confusing for the first time visitor. However, Swan Golf Designs has rung the changes after a lengthy five-year advisory period whereby numerous improvements have been made, the most significant of which was the creation of new holes on the dramatic “Point”.
Today there are three distinct 9-hole loops at Nefyn, named Front (holes 1-9), Old (holes 10-18) and New (19-27). The Old course combines the Front and Old nines to create the club’s premier configuration. Most visitors will elect to play the Old course because it’s the Point’s spectacular cliff edge holes that are at times quirky but frequently jaw-dropping which simply have to experienced.
There are only a few seaside courses where you can see the sea from every hole, but you sure can at Nefyn. Not only is the sea in view, but also on a clear day, you can spot peaks of the Wicklow Mountains across the Irish Sea. The opening hole takes you away from the clubhouse to a series of cliff-top holes on the edge of the headland. There are blind drives, strategically placed bunkers, thick rough and, of course, the ever-present wind to contend with.
The Old course back nine plays along the Point peninsular, providing spectacular views across the cliffs and the bay. After the par four 15th, you’ll find a footpath down to the Ty Coch Inn, located on the beach at Porthdinllaen. A quick drink here on the pub’s famous wall, with the soothing sound of the sea and the glorious view across the bay to Mt. Snowdon, will set you up nicely for the closing three holes.
What surprised me in hindsight was how much I enjoyed the first 10 holes and what a fair test of golf they were. You really can open your shoulders, but position well or you can be severely punished! The course was in very good condition with excellent greens and fairways and deeper rough in places. You do feel exhilarated and uplifted by the views and peaceful surroundings. Housemartins regularly flew around our legs as we lined up our putts!
Now to the peninsular holes on the old course from hole 11 and yes there are some issues! The signposting is not very clear over this section and that creates a struggle for first timers. You also have to be patient with walkers, but please don’t let that spoil the fun of seven unique golf holes. Buying a day ticket allows you, as with many links courses, to know the best approach second time round.
Some thoughts on these closing holes: I think the 11th could do with a 20 yard wide swath cut up the centre of the hill. The 12th is a problem in that firstly you have to hit a very accurate blind drive of around 230 yards alongside the road and then a 140 yard diagonal shot across a walking path to the opposing green. Now there are other courses with roads and walkers, I mention St. Enodoc for one, but please do send up a forward spotter for safety’s sake!
The 13th is a magical and adrenaline pumping 400 yard hole over the yawning cliffs onto a remote green on a rocky outcrop. I came away in round two proud to carry a void of 250 yards leaving a 9 iron to the green and claiming a most satisfying par 4. The par 3 14th from up by the lighthouse is lots of fun and has fabulous views, but it is a challenge to hold the green and the 15th was tricky to reach in two into the wind. The 16th was an excellent 175 yard par 3 that needed a 3 wood over a large blow hole and the 17th tested one’s nerve and accuracy to gain a par 5. It is a shame that the 18th is a bit straightforward for a closing hole – can the committee do anything about that, perhaps adding a fairway bunker or two?
All the staff were friendly and we received a 10% discount for playing 3 local ‘Snowdonia Golf Coast’ courses. Over an enjoyable lunch it was great to see several juniors aged 6 upwards go out for a few holes under the watchful eye of lady members. In summary it is a privilege to play on such a naturally beautiful course. I think there were sea views from virtually every hole with many tees and greens only a few feet away from the cliffs and I, for one, can forgive any quirkiness on the back 8 for such an unforgettable experience! Fabulous holiday golf – don’t miss it! Jeff Robinson
I was quite enjoying my round at Nefyn until I reached the last eight holes on the Old course. The cliff top setting is just spectacular but, unlike Old Head, there’s not enough room to squeeze the remainder of a round onto the promontory and there’s members of the public to contend with when playing a number of the holes.
The 12th is the daftest (and most dangerous) hole I think I’ve ever played with blind shots potentially landing on walkers who stroll the path right through the middle of the fairway.
Admittedly, the next three holes are very good but I’m sorry, great views and a chance to nip down to the pub on the cove after playing the 15th doesn’t quite make up for the uber quirk that has gone before.
I’m glad I played Nefyn but I think some “proper” holes should be laid out here and protection for the public put in place to prevent the possible loss of life or limb – I’m amazed in these days of health and safety that the club can get away with the current situation.
Ah Nefyn, a course that will split opinion like no other. I played the Old course on a breezy June day, which I guess is quite normal on this remote finger of Wales. Having played Conwy and Harlech earlier in the trip, I left my putts perpetually short on Nefyn’s fluffy greens. On the whole, Nefyn’s greens were OK but they were far from fast and nowhere near the quality of the aforementioned courses in terms of design or condition. The reason for this, I think, is that this is not a links course and it’s easy to come here thinking the bump and run shot will work, but it won’t serve you well at Nefyn. If you’ve read this far, you’ll get a feeling that I don’t like the course. You are right, I don’t like it, but I absolutely adore the setting. Only Old Head can compete with Nefyn in terms of location and that is saying something. The difference between Old Head and Nefyn is that Old Head has more land and it plays more like a links. However, the 12th at Old Head is one of my favourite golf holes and I was amazed to find that Nefyn has a shorter but visually similar equivalent. Nefyn’s 13th is a great par four which was unfortunately preceded by a truly crazy 12th that needed only a windmill to properly finish it off. Thankfully the tee position on 12 was well forward but this is the most impossibly quirky hole I’ve ever played. Apart from 12 (which is certainly not dull), there are too many bland holes in my opinion, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 (exciting tee but a uninspiring hole) and then 18 – with the tee two yards away from the near derelict green keeper’s building – is perhaps the least inspiring closing hole I have ever played. Having said all of this, there are many good holes that I haven’t mentioned and the acid test is whether or not I’d recommend Nefyn? The short answer is yes; every golfer needs to experience Nefyn once. This is a course like no other. It offers so much promise but it doesn’t quite deliver. It could be so much better. No wonder the members play the New course in competitions.