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Sean_A

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ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 Winter Tour New
« on: March 30, 2008, 07:41:38 PM »


The lasting memory of a game at Harlech is the imposing castle standing guard atop the cliffs overhanging the links.  When built in the late 13th century during Edward Iís (yes, the one and same Hammer of the Scots) conquest and colonization of Wales, the castle stood much closer to the Irish Sea.  Not long after Harlech castle was completed Edward invested the title Prince of Wales for his son who would later become Edward II.  An important defensive castle for the next 450 years, Harlech was the last fortification to surrender to the parliamentary forces of Oliver Cromwell.  Harlech was merely one of five castles in Edwardís Ring of Stone. The other four are Flint, Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris.  Some regard the castles as the tale of a King using stone to impose his will over the Welsh and others see the castles as symbols of rebellion, proof in stone of the effort Edward exerted to control the Welsh.  Which version of the truth to believe I leave to the reader to decide.  However, there is no doubting the architectural significance or the impressive nature of these castles. 

Formed in 1894, Royal St Davidís gained royal patronage in 1908.  It would seem this Welsh outpost was staging its own rebellion against the crown when the club advertised for new members of Royal St Davidís in 1901!  Indeed, the club was so keen it persuaded the R&A and Royal Liverpool to send golfers to Harlech for an Autumn Open held in 1894 when the incomparable John Ball claimed first place with a score of 152.  Harlech is well known for hosting important events, mainly of the amateur variety.  Perhaps the most worthy winner of all was Harold Hilton.  He and John Ball were the bedrock of Hoylake and often competed in Harlech events which included the Town Bowl won by Hilton in 1901 & 1902.   Both golfers were supreme competitors who won the Amateur on multiple occasions and the Open at least once. It was Harold Hilton, however, who made the long journey to The Apawamis Club in Rye, NY.  Hilton beat a good field including F Herreshoff in the final on the 37th hole to win the 1911 US Amateur and claim the Havemeyer Cup.  In all, Hilton won four Amateurs, two Opens, one US Amateur and a slew of important club events, making him what I believe to be the most underrated male golfer in history.

Map by P Dickinson. Much like Aberdovey, the routing is squeezed in the middle to form a bow tie shape.


This must have been my fifth visit to Harlech over the last 25 years or so. After reading what many people on this site wrote I was beginning to doubt myself.  All is well with my memory! The course impressed me as much as on previous visits.  What I walked away with today was an immense appreciation for the bunkering.  Some of the variety has been lost with the new work, but this is balanced by better drainage and a more cohesive aesthetic. That said, I do hope the 17th is revisited. I am not convinced by the new configuration of bunkers.

Harlech Castle hovers behind the tee of an uneventful opening hole.  That said, there have been significant alterations to the course in the form of new bunkers (some with different locations) and more short grass area around the greens.  The first green is evidence of the new presentation. 


The second comes back toward the house in the oblique manner of a severe dogleg left around new bunkers.  I have a soft spot for unappealing land used to good effect.  Greens tucked into corners is one example of such as seen below.


The 3rd goes back out along the fence line and is quite a tight driving hole for this 450ish yard par 4 - one of many back breaking two shotters on this par 69 layout.  In days gone by, the green used to be around the corner to the right, near the old 4th tee.  It called for a daring second shot over OOB to reach this three-shot hole in two.  This is one of the relatively few routing changes from the course Finch-Hatton and the Secretary, Mr More, laid out in 1894!  P Dickinson sketch of the hole.


The terrain is no different than the first two holes.  In fact, the terrain is largely flat until the 11th and that is the likely reason why Harlech is a bit polarizing.  For those who know the course fairly well, great respect is afforded Royal St David's because the course doesn't suffer fools gladly.  It is interesting to compare the bunker styles.   


The green runs away from play. 


The 4th is the first of five par 3s and its a good one.  When G Campbell altered the 3rd shortly after WWII, he built a new 4th.  The green rests on a slight table and runs hard from left to right.  As is often the case on links, things seem fine until you get behind your ball and realize that getting close with a chip is near on impossible.  It looks gentle enough, but don't miss this tee shot left.




5 through 10 are all solid, makes sense golf covering the morfa scattered below the castle.  The 5th.


7 & 8 are reachable par 5s, but most likely only one can be reached on the same day because they run in opposite directions.  The kicker is these are the only three-shotters on the course so the golfer must take advantage.  The short 9th and very long, par four 10th run parallel to the beach.   #9


Thinking on it, the par 3s are quite a good set.  The 11th offers a bit of a respite as its quite short, but still plays tricky over a front bunker.


Navigation between the bunkering for the drive on #12 is required - no easy task in a harsh crosswind. 




Another tough two shotter, the 13th likely requires two woods to get near the green in two.  The approach is tricky with wind off the right, very harsh rough on this wing and a footpath ! 


Bunkers protect the right side of the green and the putting surface slopes from the right.  Previous bunkers.


New bunkers.




Even some of the par 3s take some hitting to reach.  In these conditions I hit driver on the 14th, an obscured shot over a rough laden flat area.  The area was recently cleared out making the carry far less harsh.  In the old days there was the famous Castle Bunker to be carried which I believe was housed in a large mound. 


The 15th is no easier...two woods were required.  The drive is a classic bite off as much as one dare type.  The approach is often blind down to a semi punch bowl.  If there is a signature hole at Harlech, #15 is it.






A look at the green from the 16th tee.


Harlech's purple patch continues as the the 16th offers the golfer the only glimpse of the sea, but some scrambling is required.  This is a wonderful driving hole with a humpback fairway and a double layer of cross bunkers. 


The 17th has been altered once again.  The shape remains the same, but the bunkering has been changed.  I still like the hole, but I am not convinced it is better than the previous version. Previously.


Now. I am not convinced by the little mound blocking the small pot bunker. 


Atop the mound. 


The course finishes with an undistinguished par 3 with a great view of the castle and house. 




Despite the lackluster 18th, Harlech remains a grand day out with much to offer the visiting golfer, including the All Wales 15th.  The links offers a stiff, but not an overbearing challenging even if much of the course is flat and over turf which often impersonates the links variety.  There can be few better experiences than playing Harlech and Aberdovey over a weekend with a stay in the dormy house. 2019

Ran's Review.
http://golfclubatlas.com/courses-by-country/wales/royal-st-davids-golf-club/

Happy Hockey
« Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 06:03:04 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Mark_F

Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2008, 10:30:07 PM »
Sean,

An interesting look around Harlech, and you pointed out a few things about the course I had missed, but I can't believe you prefer it to Porthcawl. 

Aside from the last few holes, the rest of Harlech is so flat and uninteresting I suggest spending any money for improving the course go to hiring Catherine Zeta Jones to loll around in the bunkers.

Then it might have a fighting chance.  Last time I was there it was 25 quid for a round. 50 is ridiculous - are the Welsh assembly getting their economic policies from Robert Mugabe?


Joe Hancock

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2008, 10:36:28 PM »
Sean,

Do you have any spare rooms? I'd likely only stay for 6 months or so..... ;D

Joe
" What the hell is the point of architecture and excellence in design if a "clever" set up trumps it all?" Peter Pallotta, June 21, 2016

"People aren't picking a side of the fairway off a tee because of a randomly internally contoured green ."  jeffwarne, February 24, 2017

Ken Moum

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2008, 11:05:19 PM »
Joe,

Maybe we can work out a timeshare. Six months for you and six for me and my wife.

Ken
Over time, the guy in the ideal position derives an advantage, and delivering him further  advantage is not worth making the rest of the players suffer at the expense of fun, variety, and ultimately cost -- Jeff Warne, 12-08-2010

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2008, 01:22:55 AM »
Thanks for sharing Sean, good to hear an appreciation of the course that balances the obvious charms of the finishing stretch with what comes prior.  With your respect for Princes and now Harlech I deduce that dunes as eye candy does not get an easier pass with you than solid links golf on flatter ground.   It will be interesting to follow peopleís comments on Birkdale this summer, because if you took away the dunes that flank the holes then I suspect this is the kind of course you really have.
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2008, 09:46:57 AM »
Sean,

An interesting look around Harlech, and you pointed out a few things about the course I had missed, but I can't believe you prefer it to Porthcawl. 

Aside from the last few holes, the rest of Harlech is so flat and uninteresting I suggest spending any money for improving the course go to hiring Catherine Zeta Jones to loll around in the bunkers.

Then it might have a fighting chance.  Last time I was there it was 25 quid for a round. 50 is ridiculous - are the Welsh assembly getting their economic policies from Robert Mugabe?



Mark

Many of the holes are flat, but I think there is plenty of interest mainly due to the outstanding bunkering and some cool greens.  Porthcawl is better course than Harlech. However, for my money, I am not sure which I prefer. Perhaps one day I will make it back to Porthcawl and get the opportunity to change my mind, but not at £95 for game. 

Tony

Princes generally has more movement than Harlech and it is a lovely course to be sure.  In many ways, Princes is the ideal golfing terrain that can accomodate golfers into old age. 

Joe & K(?)

As it so happens, we do have spare rooms.  My wife and I argue all the time about what to do with them.  I am guessing you can ascertain how things break down between husbands and wives.

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 19, 2019, 08:29:28 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Phil McDade

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2008, 11:21:32 AM »
Sean:

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I stood inside the castle some 25 years ago, looking down on the featureless terrain below, and my buddy said, "That's a golf course!" We didn't play, but I was struck by how feature-less it looked from the turrets high above. Your photo essay reveals how sometimes aerial views of courses fail to reveal any of the subtlety on the ground. Neat bunkering!


Mark Chaplin

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2008, 11:36:00 AM »
Sean,

You mention the drainage whilst I have no knowledge I expect RStD isn't the wealthiest club in Wales, it isn't easy to get to and there is a lack of easily accessible good courses in the area for golf trips. I enjoyed my round there although it's only really the back nine that excites.

Chappers
Cave Nil Vino

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2008, 12:30:43 PM »
Sean,

You mention the drainage whilst I have no knowledge I expect RStD isn't the wealthiest club in Wales, it isn't easy to get to and there is a lack of easily accessible good courses in the area for golf trips. I enjoyed my round there although it's only really the back nine that excites.

Chappers

Chappers

You are essentially right.  Harlech is a steady dose of solid golf with a few holes which reach the heights of greatness.  It is a bit isolated, but I did once take the train from the Harlech GC direct to the Aberdovey GC for a game.  These two courses represent some very good affordable weekend golf.  We paid £110 for this past weekend which included golf, b&b in Cricketh (a small town with a wonderful castle) & dinner.   

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 15, 2019, 01:50:29 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Joe Hancock

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2008, 01:08:10 PM »
Sean,

I was just showing these pics to my wife, especially the nice one with the castle in the background. I said "Honey look at this" and she said "Oh yea...clover." She is the sick wife of a golf course superintendent and this proves it!

I'm so proud of her...... ;D

Joe
" What the hell is the point of architecture and excellence in design if a "clever" set up trumps it all?" Peter Pallotta, June 21, 2016

"People aren't picking a side of the fairway off a tee because of a randomly internally contoured green ."  jeffwarne, February 24, 2017

Paul Stephenson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2008, 02:14:16 PM »
Nice pictures, and it looks like a very interesting course.

It's a shame some of the bunkers are flooded.  It looks like they did not stand up well to the "...winter torrents roaring."

Great.  Now I have Men of Harlech stuck in my head.

Tony_Muldoon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2008, 02:32:58 PM »
Sean:

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I stood inside the castle some 25 years ago, looking down on the featureless terrain below, and my buddy said, "That's a golf course!" We didn't play, but I was struck by how feature-less it looked from the turrets high above. Your photo essay reveals how sometimes aerial views of courses fail to reveal any of the subtlety on the ground. Neat bunkering!






« Last Edit: March 31, 2008, 02:35:33 PM by Tony_Muldoon »
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

Guy Nicholson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2008, 03:55:08 PM »
It's a shame some of the bunkers are flooded.  It looks like they did not stand up well to the "...winter torrents roaring."

Actually, what struck me is how dry the fairways look compared to the bunkers. It'll be July before things are that dry here in Ontario.

Paul Stephenson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2008, 09:50:27 PM »
Oh don't say that Guy.  I'm just excited that this rain seems to be finally melting the snow.  I'd forgotten that  I have a pool in my backyard.

Mark Hissey

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Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2008, 10:08:52 PM »
I spent a fair amount of time in the dunes on the coast there. They are absolutely spectacular and would provide the bones for a number of wonderful courses. They'll never be developed though.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: HARLECH - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2008, 05:21:40 AM »
It's a shame some of the bunkers are flooded.  It looks like they did not stand up well to the "...winter torrents roaring."

Actually, what struck me is how dry the fairways look compared to the bunkers. It'll be July before things are that dry here in Ontario.

Guy

Harlech has a very high water table.  In the big scheme of things it wasn't all that long ago that water lapped the base of the cliff on which the castle stands.  I think the club has been instrumental in maintaining grass on the dunes to prevent sand blow on the course.  Pedestrians are kept to very good and bright white sea shell paths.  As you can see, by the end of the round the bunkers were clearing.  I would think the depth of the bunkering is limited because of the water table. 

Just down the road at Aberdovey they are having a dickens of a time with erosion at the far end of the course.  They have lost bits of the course in recent years.  The 12th, a lovely par 3 is currently under threat, I don't think it will last much longer.  The back tee for #13 is gone and I think they lost a green too.  Given these obvious harsh weather conditions, Harlech doesn't do too badly.

Ciao
« Last Edit: March 10, 2019, 08:03:40 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Thomas Dai

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Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S - Oh Happy Days
« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2019, 03:13:48 PM »
Twelve months on from when a notable poster herein, myself and two others visited RStD and were significantly rained off I ventured to Harlech once again.
Although we only managed to play a few holes (and walk a few others) in very trying conditions last time I came away impressed, especially with the changes to the bunkering when compared to photos taken a few years ago (as seen in Ran's profile from a few years ago as Sean's original tour report above). This visit impressed me even more.
What a terrific course. In super condition too, and it'd been wet again recently (including during the early part of my visit).
You wouldn't normally associate a course with a men's par of 69 with challenge, but RStD, with it's numerous long par-4's and significant fairway bunkering, is most definitely one, as is reflected in it's UK SSS ratings of 72/73.
Here are a couple of photos from my visit. Unfortunately uploading hassles prevent me posting anymore at the moment.
From the rear of the much praised 15th hole -

Looking down on the course from above the famous castle, appropriate flags flying high.

I look forward to returning to RStD.
atb




Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 WINTER TOUR
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2019, 08:28:14 AM »
ATB

It seems all it does in Harlech is rain! 

I didn't think this trip would be the start of the Winter Tour, but the weather made it so.  I must say the course is greatly improved with the new bunkering and cut areas around greens.  I didn't see nary a puddle of standing water in sand.  See the updated photo tour.

Planned Winter Tour stops

Nefyn
Beaconsfield
Woodhall Spa
Seacroft

Happy Hockey
« Last Edit: October 15, 2019, 10:11:56 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S - 2019-20 WINTER TOUR
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2019, 09:39:01 AM »
Sean, RSD might be an acquired taste. I played it about ten years ago on an all Wales trip. I came away thinking it was difficult with a bunch of long par fours but felt it didn't live up to its billing. I felt the first bunch of holes lacked some definition. I think it might be the start that put me off. Once we got into the the round the course picked up. I did like both par fives and the par threes. I need to get back and give it another go.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2019, 09:40:55 AM by Tommy Williamsen »
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 WINTER TOUR
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2019, 12:08:29 PM »
If Iíd played RStD with itís former bunkering I reckon Iíd have come away disappointed. Following the bunkering etc improvements however, I came away feeling quite the opposite.
As to the rain, the British Ladies Seniors Amateur was held at RStD a week or so before my visit and it was held without apparently a drop of rain. Sods Law.
As an aside, during the past year the club have completely revamped the inside of the Clubhouse.
Harlech might be somewhat off the beaten track but when combined with Aberdovey in particular it would make a good place to visit pre or post the Welshpool-Kington Buda in 2020.
Atb


Later edit - a photo taken during the above mentioned visit.

« Last Edit: November 12, 2019, 11:00:26 AM by Thomas Dai »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 Winter Tour
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2019, 08:25:19 PM »
ATB

I reckon it is respect more than love I have for Harlech.  The course is lacking top quality holes to be considered great or of great interest.  However, Harlech is tough and it does have its moments.  I have seen the course enough times that I feel little need for a revisit which is just as well because the green fee has just about doubled in recent years. 

Happy Hockey
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 Winter Tour
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2019, 04:30:15 AM »
Whereas for me Harlech is (to echo B Darwin on Aberdovey) 'the course that my soul loves the best in all the world'.  :)By a mile. Anyway very glad that friends have had a good time there recently, as course manager Rhys Butler has done a terrific job in less than easy conditions. The really good Harlech news is the final demolition of the old St David's Hotel behind the 16th green, although the 1960s tower block of what was once part of Coleg Harlech remains.
Incidentally, as of 2020 there will be the opportunity for those living more than 200 miles from the links to join the RStD for £250 per annum, which is I think fab value, as the ordinary green fee continues to rise. Full disclosure that I am currently a Vice-Pres, and therefore inherently biased. But I still think that it is a wonderful and atmospheric place for a game of golf.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 Winter Tour
« Reply #22 on: November 10, 2019, 06:04:15 AM »
Richard

Are there more plans for the course?

Happy Hockey
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 Winter Tour
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2019, 09:57:58 AM »
Many thanks Sean.

There are always plans and schemes and ideas being mooted, and some important and beneficial tweaks (notably to the 10th fairway) have been made in recent years, along with some new back tees (an excellent one at the 16th, for example). The bunkering and hollows beside the 2nd and 11th greens have been removed/softened, and that probably needs further thought in due course as the new green sites bed in. Some members now think that what remains is too easy...the really big change of the past two decades was the diversion of the 17th fairway to accommodate an expanded practice ground, and whilst what currently exists is a strong and demanding hole, to me it doesn't have quite the impact of the old, straight fairway ending in a famous cross-bunker (which was a fabulous match-play hazard when strokes were involved).

In the end the rising water-table, the club's very limited finances, and the special scientific status of Morfa Harlech, will be the defining factors for any further amendments. It would be wonderful to think of going into the massive and ever-expanding dunescape that flanks the 13th and 16th fairways, in the latter case re-opening some long lost holes from the 1920s, but I don't think that this is going to happen. A CSS of 74, five over par, suggests that what currently exists isn't lacking in challenge...

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: ROYAL ST DAVID'S: 2019-20 Winter Tour
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2019, 12:11:10 PM »
Hi Richard,

As a matter of interest, why were the holes in the dunes next to the 16th abandoned in the 1920's?

Ally

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