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Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« on: May 28, 2023, 09:16:05 AM »
The usual happy band of tourists from the Gog Magog GC chose Gwynedd, North Wales for their May Tour this year, and were blessed with amazing weather throughout - bright, sunny, and (sometimes) very breezy. Perfect conditions for seaside golf, with evidence of spring growth everywhere.


There can't be a better place in the world to begin a golf tour after a five hour drive than Aberdovey on a lovely May afternoon. 6100 yards from the yellow tees, but with enough charm and beguiling challenge for the most demanding visitor. Lovely running conditions with fabulous, subtle greens and (on this occasion) with the much shorter front nine played into a decent 2-club wind. There has been a lot of coverage of Aberdovey on GCA before, notably


https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,43564.msg1705839.html#msg1705839


so I won't add to that now, other than to observe (again) that this part of what used to be Merionethshire is conspicuously more affluent than the parts further north, with a lot of Brummie money coming down from the English midlands, some of which feeds into Bernard Darwin's favourite golf place in the world.


We then drove to our base for the week, the Royal Sportsman Hotel in Porthmadog, which I can thoroughly recommend as a golfer's base for a party too big for the Harlech or Aberdovey dormy houses. The next day was, sadly, the one disappointment of the trip, as Abersoch GC showed itself (as had been rumoured) a classic instance of a lovely old seaside nine spoilt by the addition about forty years ago of nine more holes, five of which were in essence flags in a sloping field only reached after a significant walk from the 13th green..


Abersoch is one of the swankiest resorts in North Wales, easily reached from Manchester, but the golf club is small with a tiny green staff, and has had real problems with leatherjackets, with a few fairways really bare and patchy. In addition SSSI restrictions mean that the rough can only be cut very sporadically. In a strong 3-club wind this made some of the carries from the tee pretty terrifying, and a very long way from the old sense of 'holiday golf'. Around the clubhouse four fairways have been squeezed into tumbling ground suitable for two at most, and so our collective sense overall was that this was a course that (as currently presented) doesn't really work. A great shame, as there are a handful of lovely, challenging holes by the sea and some fabulous views.


From Abersoch we progressed to Harlech, to which I shall return, but skipping forward our final day was at Porthmadog, another seaside course that has happily been Arbled for GCA


https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,33936.msg681108.html#msg681108


Sean's comments remain absolutely valid, and Porthmadog is likewise suffering from general issues of conditioning. The club has spent quite a bit of money on a very comfortable and busy clubhouse (clearly a main local social centre) but does perhaps need now to invest in its course: again a very small green staff is trying hard to keep things going as well as they can, but even in late-May preferred lies were essential, perhaps especially on the seaward side.


The view from the 13th back tee at PGC has to been one of the greatest in British golf, and it is a real shame that the preceding 12th can no longer be played as its design intends, with a full drive over the bay. That tee looked to have been given up. It's important to both Aberdovey and Harlech and Welsh golf in general that  (in terms of tour itineraries) the other courses in this part of Gwynedd are fun and interesting and playable, within reason, and hiring green (and catering) staff is clearly a big problem for all the clubs in this area, with visible implications.

But back to Harlech, to conclude. Obviously I am massively biassed, as current Pres of RStD, but my friends did think that (after some ups and downs in recent years) this historic, atmospheric old links was in fabulous condition, with the new irrigation system installed in 2022 already having a big impact. It also remains a proper test of a good golfer, even though the water-induced removal of some greenside bunkers from 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 11 has meant that it is arguably a shot easier overall than it used to be - something the club is going to address over the next few years. Twenty years ago I would have said that RStD easily matched Porthcawl for difficulty, but probably not now. That said, RStD does remain a great test of Bobby Jones' two fundamental skills - the ability to drive, and the ability to putt. Anyway, it was a properly memorable day for all, with a (very) proper lunch, and by general consensus the highlight of the tour.

So in successive days we played 18 holes at Aberdovey, 30 at Abersoch and 36 both at Harlech and Porthmadog, for much of the time with Ran's friends from Golf Magazine the Dutton brothers in hot pursuit: I had the great pleasure of showing Mike and Jeff around Harlech after the Gogs party had departed, and they would also recommend to GCA readers a game at Pwllheli (between Abersoch and Porthmadog), which we had sadly missed.

Overall a cracking trip, with still some of the best value green fees in the UK and very friendly and welcoming staff and members everywhere. Any GCA ers planning a trip to the area, do please get in touch.

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023 (part two)
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2023, 09:20:45 AM »
the other courses in this part of Gwynedd are fun and interesting and playable, within reason, and hiring green (and catering) staff is clearly a big problem for all the clubs in this area, with visible implications.
 
 But back to Harlech, to conclude. Obviously I am massively biassed, as current Pres of RStD, but my friends did think that (after some ups and downs in recent years) this historic, atmospheric old links was in fabulous condition, with the new irrigation system installed in 2022 already having a big impact. It also remains a proper test of a good golfer, even though the water-induced removal of some greenside bunkers from 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 11 has meant that it is arguably a shot easier overall than it used to be - something the club is going to address over the next few years. Twenty years ago I would have said that RStD easily matched Porthcawl for difficulty, but probably not now. That said, RStD does remain a great test of Bobby Jones' two fundamental skills - the ability to drive, and the ability to putt. Anyway, it was a properly memorable day for all, with a (very) proper lunch, and by general consensus the highlight of the tour.
 
 So in successive days we played 18 holes at Aberdovey, 30 at Abersoch and 36 both at Harlech and Porthmadog, for much of the time with Ran's friends from Golf Magazine the Dutton brothers in hot pursuit: I had the great pleasure of showing Mike and Jeff around Harlech after the Gogs party had departed, and they would also recommend to GCA readers a game at Pwllheli (between Abersoch and Porthmadog), which we had sadly missed.
 
 Overall a cracking trip, with still some of the best value green fees in the UK and very friendly and welcoming staff and members everywhere. Any GCA ers planning a trip to the area, do please get in touch.

Tommy Williamsen

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2023, 01:20:49 PM »
I love golf in Wales. I have made two solo trips there and one with GCAs own Mark Rowlinson. I like RStD very much, and the town is terrific. There is one undiscovered Welsh gem: Bull Bay. This Fowler beauty is one of the most fun and architecturally outrageous courses I have ever played.
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

"Deep within your soul-space is a magnificent cathedral where you are sweet beyond telling." Rumi

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2023, 03:15:53 AM »
Richard

Do Abersoch or Porthmadog offer 9 hole rates?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2023, 07:55:58 AM »
Not generally, I think, but you could always ask. Both club professionals are vv helpful. At Abersoch you would probably want to play the first ten holes, but not in a strong wind! At Porthmadog the back nine is obviously the half to go for, but after the current dry spell the seaward holes could be almost white by now: PGC has three green staff in total, none of whom are specifically greenkeeper-trained, so conditioning is always going to be a bit of an issue, even with the Welsh Inter-Club Champs scheduled for the course later in the season.
Even with its new irrigation system Harlech had gone from green (a fortnight ago) to brown yesterday, and Aberdovey was already pretty brown when we visited. Borth and Ynyslas will be like a runway by now!

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2023, 08:34:40 AM »
Not generally, I think, but you could always ask. Both club professionals are vv helpful. At Abersoch you would probably want to play the first ten holes, but not in a strong wind! At Porthmadog the back nine is obviously the half to go for, but after the current dry spell the seaward holes could be almost white by now: PGC has three green staff in total, none of whom are specifically greenkeeper-trained, so conditioning is always going to be a bit of an issue, even with the Welsh Inter-Club Champs scheduled for the course later in the season.
Even with its new irrigation system Harlech had gone from green (a fortnight ago) to brown yesterday, and Aberdovey was already pretty brown when we visited. Borth and Ynyslas will be like a runway by now!
Runway golf, parched and beige and bouncy. Yippee! Sounds perfect.
Recall playing Aberdovey years ago in the Welsh Seniors. Played with a guy who used an aged hickory shafted blade putter for just every shot inside 40 yards. Genius with it he was too.
A favourite piece on the subject - https://www.golfcoursearchitecture.net/content/brown-is-just-fine
Atb

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2023, 02:40:26 AM »
Not generally, I think, but you could always ask. Both club professionals are vv helpful. At Abersoch you would probably want to play the first ten holes, but not in a strong wind! At Porthmadog the back nine is obviously the half to go for, but after the current dry spell the seaward holes could be almost white by now: PGC has three green staff in total, none of whom are specifically greenkeeper-trained, so conditioning is always going to be a bit of an issue, even with the Welsh Inter-Club Champs scheduled for the course later in the season.
Even with its new irrigation system Harlech had gone from green (a fortnight ago) to brown yesterday, and Aberdovey was already pretty brown when we visited. Borth and Ynyslas will be like a runway by now!

Thanks. Hopefully the weather holds. I am heading to Wales in a few weeks to play S'down, Tenby, St David's City and Cardigan. I haven't seen Tenby or S'down in an age. I always thought of S'down as top 3 Wales and was severely disappointed with Tenby my last time there. I generally do not like the changes. It used to be a charming holiday course, but let's see if time has tempered my views. It will help if the conditions are better!

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2023, 01:10:09 PM »
I look forward to your Southerndown report. A favourite course of mine. Spies tell me that quite a bit of gorse has been removed.
I did a wee GCA photo-tour of St David's City several years ago but it seems to have disappeared from herein.
atb

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A Sunny Spring on Cardigan Bay, May 2023
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2023, 05:21:37 AM »
Southerndown is unique, I think, and was always one of Frank Pennink's faves. Seems to have been slightly forgotten in recent years with 'the rise of Pennard' but personally I would go to S rather than P, seven times out of ten. I know that's not the GCA view... Southerndown also the club where my Gogs friends discovered they were selling bottles of Cloudy Bay at (by then) less than cost, which made for an unusually opulent Monday lunchtime! Tenby is (along with Prestatyn) my significant Welsh seaside gap, and I'll be very interested to see how Sean finds it now.
So glad to see the general enthusiasm for golf in the principality on this site. At the top end Porthcawl will (possibly uniquely) host Final Open Qualifying and then the Senior Open within the same month - the former was moved at short notice from Burnham and Berrow because of concerns about conditioning. And the Women's Open comes to RPGC in 2025, for which it would seem almost perfectly suited.

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