This venerable old links course was created in 1894 by a Cheshire businessman named Tancred Cummins, assisted by an associate (and member of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club), Harold Hilton, who had been Open Champion two years earlier. Mr Cummins would go on to serve the North Wales club as captain and secretary for a total of 38 years, until 1933.
Another Royal Liverpool member – and 1890 Open Champion – John Ball, presented a putter to the club shortly after it was formed and this trophy is still competed for annually. The Hoylake connection doesn’t end there as the North Wales badge includes the words “far and sure”, taken from the Royal Liverpool Golf Club motto.
Situated just across the estuary from the wonderful Conwy golf course, North Wales is laid out on Llandudno’s lovely West Shore, offering an interesting variety of holes that run out along the rail line then back along the shore, with small and tricky greens throughout.
There is only one par five and three short holes on the inward half, so par for the back nine is only 34. Two of the par threes are played back-to-back at the 16th and 17th holes and Mr Cummins, the club founder, having originally purchased the land for the course from the Church Commissioners, presumably attempted to minimize any cryptic offence by naming them “O.L.” and “L.O” – Oh hell and hello!
I have to be honest and admit that North Wales left me a little cold. Given the seaside location of a course that hugs the coast as well as its strong reputation, I must admit that I’d been hoping for a little more than I got. The green fees here are cheap, so as regards to finding a course that fits within a more budget golfing experience, then North Wales presents quite a good option, but sadly I found the course land and design to be lacking.
After an ugly start where the first tee is located hard up against a tall protective fence, the 2nd hole provides more promise of some links golf that I had hoped to soon come. Unfortunately, the course then traverses a bland and flat field that most courses would probably use for their practice range. It was at this point where I stared towards the adjacent Maesdu Golf Club over the other side of the train tracks and wondered if I’d decided to play the wrong course.
The 6th and 7th start to push the direction of travel towards the coast but I still found the course very rudimentary. Circular greens and simple circular bunkers on either side of the green were a pattern throughout and left very little to be desired until things started to finally come to life on the 8th. This is a lovely little hole with two large humps and hollows along the fairway leading to a raised green, but this hole is sadly let down by some overgrown vegetation to what should be a lovely green site. The course then moves parallel to the coast, albeit the beach rarely comes into view. Again, this stretch of holes could be improved through some careful renovation although the 10th with its blind tee shot and cross bunkers in front of the green was more to my tastes and added some needed quirk and character.
The 13th is then a charming par three that plays into the dunes and provides a taste of what’s to come later in the round, whilst the 15th tee is an interesting hole with a tee sat amongst the clubhouse patio and a fun saddle green-complex. 16 and 17 are the highlights though and these crossover par threes offer the main reason to visit the course. 16 plays into a sunken hollow whilst 17 is a beautiful elevated green on top of a dune with fall-offs on each side and a nasty pot bunker set like a plug hole on front of the green.
All in all, there are probably a handful of holes worth the entry fee at North Wales and there is some definite potential in the course, but the infrequent highlights were let down too frequently by the poor design and simple maintenance whilst the land through the first half of the course is very un-links like. I’m also unsure what grasses they’re using for their greens, it’s certainly not fescue, and I hope they’d dressed them with fertiliser on the day that I visited as it had a bright sheen to them and felt like Astroturf to the touch. They rolled fairly well though.
All in all, I hope other visitors get more from their visit to North Wales than I did, but if I was going to suggest a day’s golf when visiting Llandudno, I’d probably recommend heading a few miles across the coast to play 36 at Conwy.
After turning directly into the car park off the main road, the experience only gets better. This is a class links course offering stunning sea and beach views and all at an excellent price. Yes there are some quirky holes but that is all part of the fun and it’s a course you will play better the 2nd time around for knowing. I agree with other reviewers that holes 3-5 are less spectacular as you head inland but the 6th is a hard test and the 7th and 8th really good fun as you play alongside the railway line. However the holes next to the sea are what make the course for me and the views speactacular. There are quite a few par 3’s towards the end and holes 16 and 17 do feel contrived as they cross over (so less of a fan of those) but the 18th is a great way to finish you round on a high.
The greens were in excellent condition (played last week in May) and the rough was penal - they had an AmAm on and any ball drifting off line was likely never to be found. So it was a tough day at the office but it didn’t detract from a very enjoyable round of golf.
Curiously unimpressive entrance, clubhouse and first hole but gets so much better after that.
Quirky pair of crossing par threes towards end of round.
Would always rank Conwy as the better course but this makes up a good trio with the other neighbour.
Founded in 1894 North Wales Golf Club, on the West Shore at Llandudno, is a course that is admired by many and provides some good old fashioned authentic links golf.
It also has excellent views over the Conwy estuary to Anglesey and the Snowdonia Mountain range.
The course stands proudly as one of the most popular and best value-for-money venues in Wales.
Not long by modern standards the par 71, 6,254-yard layout changes character a few times during the round and depending upon your personal tastes this will determine just how much you love it. But love it you will.
The first two holes give an immediate introduction to the challenge of links golf with the second hole being one of the best on the entire layout as it snakes through low lying dunes before you play to a well defended green with all the natural humps and bumps that you would expect to find on a course of this ilk.
The course ends in fine style too with a sweeping par four from an elevated tee to a falling fairway. This brings the end to a highly enjoyable golf course with bags of character.
North Wales may not be long by modern standards but you are asked to hit many different types of shots and in my opinion the final six holes are up there amongst the best, certainly the most fun, you will play in Wales.
The links purists may not care as much for the four or five holes from the third but in terms of making a score these are crucial to your round and good golf is certainly required. Interestingly on the scorecard there is both a 15-hole and 14-hole loop that members can play. The 15-hole course omits holes 3, 4 and 5 whilst the 14-hole layout misses out 15, 16, 17 and 18. I know which I would choose to play but in truth you will want to play all 18.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
North Wales is a very good links course. After the small disappointment of the opening hole which is very much squeezed into houses and a fence, the course opens out. The front nine are a little featureless but the par four along the railway is one of the best holes you will play, it would not look out of place at Hillside. The back 9 is great, with beach views and tall dunes. The blind shots though are a little disappointing, detracting from my score a little.
The 16th and 17th make a great arena if you have several groups on the course, but the 18th leaves you a little flat as is somewhat of a poor end.
This is some of the best value for money green fees anywhere in Britain though, so just book and go play.