Harlech Castle, built in the late 13th century was somewhere I used to visit regularly as a child before I even cared for the fact that there was a golf course sitting below it. Now that my addiction to golf travel has well and truly gotten hold of me, I had to go and play the course that lay under the watchful gaze of the castle so well connected with my early childhood.
Along with the castle views, Royal St David’s is also accompanied with more fantastic scenery, the hills of Snowdonia, together providing one of the most impressive backdrops in UK golf. The views aside, the club itself is relatively modest with the clubhouse now looking a little tired and in need of refurbishment. This becomes immaterial though as you step onto the course, the opening holes of which are played over a primarily flat piece of land that leaves the course open to the elements.
Overall, there are no tricks to Royal St David’s. Until the closing stretch, the holes are all laid out in front of you. This par 69 golf course is short on blind shots or general trickery but it offers the genuine links experience. Whilst the front 9 provides a solid test, it was the back 9 that I found more memorable. You make the turn at the far end of this out and back course at the par three 9th where a small area of woodland peers over the hill that sits at the back of the green, shades of Formby here.
Having scored pretty well on the front 9, I then turned into the wind at the 10th which is the kind of hole that greets you with a slap to the face to let you know what sort of examination is to come. This stroke index 1 hole has a well placed stream 60 yards in front of the green and if playing into the wind, will need three shots if you want to comfortably get to the green. This portion of the course gets tantalisingly close to the sand dunes and whilst the cute par three 11th is played between two small dunes, you never feel like you’re fully immersed amongst the dunes here, most of the course is played alongside them.
Of all the holes, the 15th is the one truly outstanding hole on the golf course. This is one of the few areas where the routing takes you into that duneland as the hole winds its way across bumpy links turf and the green is situated cleverly within a circle of dunes. I was also a big fan of the approach to the 17th with undulating ground across the fairway and a narrow gap through which to thread your ball between two bunkers.
Whilst the backdrop to the course is one of the best I’ve seen, the shine is taken off by the derelict block of flats and adjacent concrete building that are an eyesore for the last three holes, an unwelcome return to reality and a sign of the massive under investment in this relatively forgotten part of the UK.
I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Royal St David’s, especially the splendid back 9 and it’s deserving of its place in the GB & Ire Top 100, but for me, not one that warrants a place in the top half of that list. Having now played 6 of Wales’ top 20 ranked courses; Royal Porthcawl, Royal St David’s, P&K, Nefyn, Machynys and Borth, there’s no doubting that Wales has some very good golf courses, but I’ve failed to yet see anything top draw unlike the other countries that make up the British Isles. Maybe one day I’ll get to Pennard and that will be the one that truly delivers?
Date: August 09, 2017