The Undiscovered Corner of North Wales

By: Golf Shake | Tue 14 May 2013 | Comments

Finding a delightful golf course that is off the beaten track and little known to the masses is one of the great pleasures of being a golfer. When this rare event occurs it is difficult to keep it to yourself, so instead of protecting the unspoilt fairways of the oasis you have just found, you find yourself telling all of your golfing friends about it.

On a recent trip to Anglesey I was fortunate to have three such instances in three days at the magnificent layouts of Bull Bay, Holyhead and Bangor St. Deiniol. Often overlooked in favour of their better known linksland neighbours, these three heathland classics will have you raving to your friends about the merits of a golf tour around this undiscovered corner of North Wales.

Bangor St. Deiniol Golf Club

Possibly the least known of all is Bangor St. Deiniol, an ancient hill-top layout that could hold its own against any as the most scenic course in the UK. With magnificent vistas to the Snowdonia mountains, down the coast and over the Menai Straits to Anglesey itself, the scenery needn’t be a distraction here, just a wonderful addition to what is a unique and natural layout.

The cat has been let out of the bag lately as the club has been one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Welsh ‘James Braid Trail’, a collection of the masterful golf course designer’s ten courses that are spread across the north of the country. A trademark of his design is his ability to incorporate the natural features of the landscape and topography to generate interesting and individual characteristics throughout the course.

Bangor St. Deiniol is a perfect example of this with rocks and burrows that have blended into the fairways over the 107 years of its history. The holes at the furthest extremity of the course are stunning with gorse lined fairways and bumps and rolls that make course management a pre-requisite. The 14th is like no hole you will play anywhere else: a 528 yard par 5 with two blind shots before you get sight of the green then a daunting approach over a ravine to a raised green makes this one of the toughest holes in North Wales.

Bangor St. Deiniol. Green fees from £10.

Holyhead Golf Club

As you cross the Menai Straits on Telford’s famous suspension bridge the heathland theme remains the same but the offering becomes even more sumptuous.  Another member of the James Braid Trail, Holyhead Golf Club is a wonderfully understated layout which offers similarities to Bangor with threatening gorse and craggy rocks defining the course but with more of a coastal feel. Set in the shadow of Holyhead Mountain, it boasts some magnificent views out to sea on the early holes and more unusual characteristics. The sheer rock face running down the side of the 7th fairway is not the sort of feature you find on modern golf courses in the UK. With free draining soil all of these courses provide excellent value year round golf and due to the minimal footfall you are more than likely to find them in immaculate condition. You could be forgiven for thinking you are playing one of the slightly more expensive offerings on the Scottish coast when you come to the 13th and 14th here. A downhill par 3 and short par 4 are as delightful as they come with heavy gorse keeping you isolated from the other holes and clever use of the terrain that appears to have been made for golf.

Holyhead Golf Club. Green fees from £10.

Bull Bay Golf Club

Celebrating its centenary this year, the last course of this delightful selection is the most northerly course in Wales and is an absolute belter. Probably the best known of the three, Bull Bay Golf Club was designed by Herbert Fowler (Walton Heath, Beau Desert, Saunton) and has played host to a number of high profile golfers and competitions. Another heathland layout, the smooth, sweeping fairways are decorated by rocks and colourful gorse that gives the course its character. The most exposed to the elements of all three, there are sweeping views out to sea and across to the Isle of Man on a clear day, but this course isn’t just about location - there is a lot to think about as you plot your way round. Certainly a course that favours the big hitters, the fairways are inviting and relatively open, but the approach shots are tricky with a number of elevated greens which make distance control challenging for the uninitiated. Memorable holes are plentiful as the course dips and turns from elevated tees to hidden gullies and all play differently as the strength and direction of the wind changes with the elevations. The most unique of them is the par 4 9th, a short dog leg that requires good positioning from the tee to allow yourself a line to the green. The approach crosses a deep valley that runs against the grain of the hole and needs a high flight to stop it on a narrow green. It is typical of this superb selection of courses, not challenging in length but devilishly clever in design to make the golfer think their way though it with creativity and a deft touch.

Bull Bay Golf Club. Green fees from £10.

The beauty of golf in North Wales and particularly this hidden selection around Anglesey is the feeling of remoteness. Rarely do you get a feeling that you have a course to yourself so often, but even if you don’t the welcome is very friendly and it can be a help to get a point in the right direction. Millionaires’ golf, great value green fees, and high quality courses that are all-out fun.

How these courses are still so little known to many is a mystery, but it is a secret you’ll be glad you know.


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