Welshpool Golf Club was formed in 1929 but golf had been played in the area since 1894, when a 9-hole course was established in Deer Park. The club relocated in 1908 to the windy common at Red Bank, above the town of Welshpool, but financial problems saw it fold twenty years later.
When another area of the common became available – aptly entitled The Golfa – funds were raised to purchase the land and James Braid was engaged to lay out a new 18-hole course. Several months later, the first ball was played over the moorland site on New Year’s Day 1930.
The construction company of John R Stutt built the course and he compared Welshpool to Gleneagles, back in his native in Scotland. Golf writer Bernard Darwin was equally complimentary with his opinion of Welshpool, saying: “How incomplete has been my golfing education until I had seen it.”
The course is short by modern day standards, extending to just over 5,700 yards but if you like old-fashioned golf with pulpit greens, ditches, greenside swales, the occasional blind shot and gorse lining almost every fairway then Welshpool is just the place to play!
Rugged is the word I would use to describe Welshpool. The £12 twilight green fee is an absolute bargain, and the staff were very obliging. Unfortunately I didn't have time to play the whole course, but I would compare it to Church Stretton and Kington, but more rugged with tougher walking, more severe slopes, dodgier lies and a bigger chance of losing golf balls. Of the holes I played I thought some were not good golf holes (1, 3, 4) but equally some were good, including the par 5 2nd. The 5th, a dog-leg par 4 from a raised tee was an interesting hole, with judgement of the line for the tee shot into the wind particularly tricky. Quirky, natural and quiet and worth playing if in the area, especially if you like traditional courses (hopefully I can get back one day to play the whole course !)
The guy behind the bar who I handed my £12 twilight green-fee to simply laughed after he asked if I had played the course before and I replied, “No, Why?”.
I tend to get that quite often due to the nature of courses I visit and I therefore immediately knew I was going to have a fun round. And after the monstrosity of the first hole Welshpool is a cracking little hilltop golf course.
Less said about the blind, hogged-back, 360-yard opener the better. I’m still not sure if my perfectly struck drive, just to the right of the marker post with a hint of draw on a tail wind, was lost to the left, to the right or if it simply ran into the farmers field behind the hole that the fairway unfairly plummets towards from 100 yards out with little to stop it except sheep dung. Before you ask I did check in the hole and even if I’d made an albatross I’d still be cursing this rotten par four.
On a more positive note The Club moved to its present location on Golfa Hill in 1930 and was designed by the talented James Braid. Voted Club of the Year in 2012 by the Golf Union of Wales Bernard Darwin once wrote of it, “The fact is that it is almost as impossible to describe the course as to describe the view; it is so unexpected, so unlike anything else, perched on the roof of the world. It is a beautiful place and I realised how incomplete had been my golfing education until I had seen it”.
I’d already played Church Stretton and Kington earlier in the day and was expecting more of the same at Welshpool and it certainly didn’t disappoint in this regard.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.