Welshpool is a scant 4 miles beyond Shropshire, set in the mountainous Welsh county of Powys. While attractive and admirably set on the River Severn, there is little else notable about Welshpool other than the golf course a few miles west of town. It is, however, interesting that the mighty (mighty for England and Wales anyway) River Severn flows through town. The source of the river is the highest peak in the Cambrian Mountains, Plynlimon. The river meanders 220 miles through the county seats of Shrewsbury, Worcester and Gloucester before widening into the Severn Estuary (at the M4 bridge) and eventually dumps into the Bristol Channel. Incidentally, should you find yourself in or near Gloucestershire during the equinox, be sure to make time to see the Severn Bore. It’s quite a sight to see people surfing up the river! But let us head back up river to Welshpool and the remarkable golf course.
After a few failed attempts on behalf of the club, the great James Braid was called in to design a new course on y Golfa (Welsh for hill) in 1929. Two visits and a reliance on Braid’s trusted right hand man, John Stutt, was enough to ensure a quality design. Stutt likened Welshpool to Gleneagles and he should know as he built the two original resort courses. At times Darwin used to stop off and play Welshpool when travelling by “slow and devious trains” to Aberdovey, the course “his soul loved the most”. There is no exaggeration in saying that Darwin was impressed that Braid could fashion such a course on the remarkable terrain.
If folks are looking for a plush club, with a fancy proshop, fine dining, superb practice facilities and a course whose yardage is meant to impress; stop reading now, Welshpool isn’t the place for you. The house is homey, the lockeroom basic, there is no proshop because there is no pro and the par 70 course doesn’t touch 6000 yards.
The starting point for the 1st in front of the house as Braid designed the course was re-instated in 2020. The tee is slightly awkward because of the walk from the house and being in play for the 18th tee shot. For that it is a decent uphill par 4. Left of the green.
Welshpool kicks off on the short 2nd. At roughly 150 yards this hole is a provacative dandy whose narrow green is unforgiving.
#s 3 & 4 are workmanlike holes, extracting far more pain than their respective 387 and 285 listed yards suggest. Both are steeply uphill and to targets which can be politely called severe. Below is a look at the two holes from 18 tee. 3 & 4 are centre frame, 6 is high right and the area of the 11th green is left.
3rd green. Welshpool has highly interesting greens compared to most hilltop courses I enjoy.
Seemingly wide open, the 260 yard 5th is reachable some days of the year, but into a northerly wind the water left is in play! There used to be a bunker on the right corner of the green which would be a useful feature to thwart flat bellies. The green is also a good defense.
We are now on the highest section of Welshpool with the type of panoramic views usually reserved for hikers. When looking east, toward Shropshire, we appear to be facing a tough par 3. But no, we are going to play over the edge of the 5th green, blindly downhill toward the unseen sea. The adjacent 7th to the left is OOB. Once walking to your drive down the fairway you will discover why. The 6th fairway is extremely tight with water on the right in the landing zone. Most would obviously play blindly down the 7th, thus risking a hard hat situation. As it is, the OOB serves to make the drive extremely narrow; one should definitely consider laying-up. Mind you, the green is not one which wants to be approached from distance!
There is a blind step up to the fairway which can be used to guide the approach to the green.
The 7th heads back up the hill, but it is the 8th which lifts the eyebrows. This confounding short hole is not unlike Prestwick's Sea Hedrig in that the green is angled in the wrong direction from the tee. Even from the short tee the angle leaves a brute of a shot. There is a little shelf just below the green which will hold some shots that come up short, perhaps this was an old bunker.
Behind the green with the tee left.
More to follow.