Aberdovey Golf Club Feature Review
Golfshake Ambassador Andrew Pickenan recently visited the spectacular Aberdovey Golf Club. Find out how he got on.
Aberdovey Golf Club, opened in 1892 and is a Par 71 - 6,535 yard links course. Aberdovery claims to be one of the oldest in Wales and as with most clubs of this era there has been an evolution of design that as included input from such visionary golf designers as H.S Colt, HW Fowler and the legendary James Braid.
It is on a site of special scientific interest, having recently been awarded national recognition for the ecological management of the course and its surroundings. The course is set within the Snowdonia National Park at the mouth of the Dovey estuary and is wedged between the Cambrian mountain range and the sea.
Getting to Aberdovey is a delightful experience as you have to drive through the Snowdonia National Park to get there which provides some spectacular views.
Aberdovey Golf Course
Aberdovey is laid out as a proper nine holes out, nine holes back links golf course on a narrow strip of land with the railway on one side, the sea on the other set in a figure of eight design. Despite being relatively flat don't be fooled. There are no weak holes on this course and the course is always in great condition, with excellent greens that are true and consistent in speed. It was one of the favourite golf courses of Bernard Darwin - the grandson of Charles Darwin, he was the golf correspondent for The Times - who wrote a series of articles and books about golf in this area.
Most of the bunkers on the course have a natural finish on top to increase their potential hazards - I remember seeing similar features on my visit to Walton Heath another one of Braids classics where heather was used on top of the bunkers in order to add additional potential penalties. It also adds to the overall natural look of the course.
This is a proper links course, with the railway on one side, the sea on the other and to get to the course you have to walk across the railway line to get to the clubhouse. There is also a bespoke railway station providing direct access to the course and clubhouse.
Darwin described Aberdovey thus: “The exhilarating start to the round sees you introduced at the earliest opportunity to the rustic joys of links golf; tight lies, rolling fairways, undulating approaches, dry-firm surfaces and fast greens are all here in abundance. Holes blend into the dynamic sand dune morphology, its plants and wildlife with elevated tees and greens offering not only spectacular views but the feeling of being in harmony with the environment.
“The rhythm of the course combines with the natural elements to test and tease the golfer in equal amounts. Appearances can, however, be deceptive; holes that tempt the golfer most are often those that are better played with a sense of restraint. Birdies and par come to those who play with the course, not against it.”
Unusually, each of the four par-threes face in different directions. You first encounter one of the three par-5s well into the round at the 7th whilst the returning holes enjoy a tempting prospect of two in three holes at the 13th and 15th. There are 9 par-4s that can play over 400 yards but the timely interventions of the short 8th and 16th can help with your score.
1st, 443 yards, par four
The drive should be aimed towards the right side of the pump house, to provide a better view of the green for your approach. The green is protected by humps, hollows and swales with a slope at the front towards the player. This is a tough opening hole that gives a good indication of what is to follow.
2nd, 167 yards, par three
A blind tee shot so just trust your swing as the green is in a basin that will gather a well struck ball. Anything short will make for a very difficult up and down.
3rd, 201 yards, par three
Watch out for players on the 15th hole on the right hand side. Hazards bisect the fairway and then run short of the green. Any overhit shot will finish out of bounds so club selection is important.
7th, 480 yards, par five
The ideal drive should be aimed down the left side of the fairway to make the second shot easier. The green is surrounded by bunkers. Make sure you avoid a series of bunkers located about 100 yards from the green. This hole features many subtle changes of elevation.
8th, 335 yards, par four
This is a cracking hole featuring a small green that is protected by bunkers and slopes from back to front. Take time to enjoy the fabulous views.
9th, 160 yards, par three
This hole runs parallel to the third and is almost exactly the same length so whatever club you played should be your first consideration here.
10th, 416 yards, par four
This is a hole that requires a lot of thought. There is a string of bunkers across the fairway from 220 yards to 270 yards off the tee. An accurate drive is vital.
15th, 504 yards, par five
Fire your tee shot to the left to avoid the water hazard but ensure you watch out for the out of bounds that runs the length of the hole to the left. Keep an eye out for anyone playing the nearby fifth hole.
16th, 289 yards, par four
This is a beautiful “risk or reward” hole with out of bounds running down the left. There are no bunkers but plenty of humps and hollows. The ideal way to play this hole is with a rescue club and a short iron to set up a birdie chance.
18th, 449 yards, par four
A great finishing hole, with out of bounds on the left and the railway line on the right, along with bunkers and a ditch. If you have any doubts about the wind direction, check out the flag outside the clubhouse, which will give you a good idea of both the strength and direction of the breeze.
Post Round Thoughts
This is a wonderful golf course in a fabulous setting being maintained to the highest ecological standards. It was a wonderful experience that will live long in the memory and I totally recommend it.
The clubhouse is welcoming, with excellent food and friendly staff. Many people who play here arrive by train, with the station located no more than 25 yards from the clubhouse. This evoked in me thoughts of a Victorian golfer travelling courses that have been located around the strips of railways lines designed for the tourist. For anyone looking for accommodation there is also the Dromy bungalow accommodation on the site.
Aberdovey is one of 10 courses in Wales that are marketing involvement through the James Braid Trail. This can be found via www.jamesbraidtrail.co.uk
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