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Royal St David's Feature Review

By: Andrew Picken | Fri 03 Jun 2016

Review by Golfshake Ambassador Andrew Pickenan

Royal St. David's describes itself as being "quite simply one of the finest traditional championship links courses in the world".  That is a bold statement. But having played it in beautiful May sunshine, with a slight zephyr of light breeze, I find it quite difficult to argue against.

Its setting can only be described as majestic. Harlech Castle overlooks the course from its strategic perch upon a mountain and the picturesque location is a jaw dropping. The general scenery in this part of Wales is breathtaking and the journey to the course was a real pleasure.

Royal St David's 15th Hole

The car park is away from the club and a railway line has to be negotiated to enter the hallowed turf. Keep an eye on your sat nav, however, as a road bridge was destroyed by storms recently. Many sat navs take visitors on a scenic detour despite the fact that the repaired bridge is now fully operational.

It will save at least 15 minutes journey time. However, the scenic route is still well worth following if you are not in a rush to savour the beauty of the area.

The club was founded in 1894, occupying the land between the domineering Harlech Castle and the sea, with the views of both and the Snowdon mountain providing a stunning vista for those fortunate enough to be playing golf. It is magnificent, and in my humble opinion  one of the finest natural locations for any course that I have played in the UK.

Former Open champion Bob Charles shares that opinion, with the legendary New Zealander being quoted as saying: "It is a great course, one of my favourites. I love links golf, and it doesn't get much purer than Royal St. David's."

Ryder Cup legend Bernard Gallacher is also a fan, having once stated: It is no exaggeration to say that (it) is one of the finest courses in the world."

Pace at this place is leisurely, friendly and comfortable. The club, despite its world rankings and prestige, is not at all stuffy and snobbish, and I found a warm welcome from all its staff with every facility and interaction a positive one.

Most of the course is deemed a site of special scientific interest with wild orchids on show throughout the rough. We played off the championship tees, giving us the full 6629 yard experience of a course that is a delight to play.

The par fours are long and testing, with well protected greens. There are some large greens giving staff access to some very creative pin positions. My favourite of them is the par-4 fifth, which is protected right and left by water hazards and a ribbon of bunkers, which provid even more protection. I was delighted to walk off this hole with a birdie, after playing a career three-wood followed by a wedge and a beautifully rolled putt.

Holes seven and eight provide a stern test in the form of two consecutive par fives at 516 and 518 yards respectively, before moving onto the best of the short holes, the 180-yard par 3 ninth, which is an absolute gem. I liked them all, beautifully presented and requiring a precise execution to have any kind of good result.

Not a hilly course, but the intelligent design and topography of the land ensure that interest is maintained throughout the round, with the last five holes looping through sand dunes, providing a superb test of golf to complete the day.

Luckily for me, my playing partners knew the course intimately and joked at the beginning of the round that most holes are played into the wind. Incredibly this did prove to be true, as the wind direction was affected by the incoming tides as we played during the day, and despite all the holes being designed at different angles, each of them at the time of playing were into the breeze.

On returning to the clubhouse for a well earned beer and sandwich, I felt that I had been privileged to play the course. Having played well, recording 36 points, and enjoying the company of my playing companions, I wandered back to my car and looked up at the castle. I am already planning a return trip to this absolute gem.

For more information visit the Golfshake course page or the clubs website via: www.royalstdavids.co.uk

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