Nefyn and the Dragon’s Tail

Nefyn and District must rate as the most spectacular golf course in the whole of Wales. It is a simply magnificent course to play or even to just walk around. The views are stunning and it shares the claim of Royal Porthcawl that you there is a view of the sea from every tee.

As you stand on the thirteenth tee looking across the edge of the cliff with the sea roaring beneath you you must wonder if there is a more beautiful place to play golf in the world, or a more demanding tee shot.

Nefyn is a cliff top course overlooking the Irish Sea with the breathtaking backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia. On a good day there is a view of the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, a mere fifty seven miles away.

The course is nestled in the north west corner of Wales in the Llyn peninsula known as the Dragons Tail. This area of Wales is a 24 miles long finger of land with a culture all of its own. In a recent BBC wales documentary the area was described as “a place where battles which have been lost in other parts of Wales are still being fought, battles about language, culture and society.”

This unique area of Wales hosts two other superb golf courses, On the southern coast of the peninsula is Pwllheli Golf club. The course was designed by the legendary Tom Morris in 1900. A few years later James Braid, designer of a number of courses including Gleneagles and Carnoustie, had a hand in the redesign of the course. Further south along the course there is the acclaimed links course of Abersoch. This course was designed by Harry Vardon, multiple winner of the Open and phenomenal golf course designer. The club was officially founded on Boxing Day 1907 and opened in 1908.

On the northern coast of the peninsula is the wonderful course of Nefyn and District. The course is continually featured in the top half a dozen courses in Wales and amongst the very best of Britain.

The course it situated on the coast of Nefyn and the village of Porthdinllaen. Nefyn itself is a small town that has been dependant on fishing and ship building for much of its history. The coat of arms for the town features three herring. There has been a settlement here since at least 300 BC with the Iron Age fortified village of Gam Bouduan. This fort built on the hill overlooking the town has been discovered to have had 170 stone huts and ramparts. It also appears in the writings of Gerard of wales and became a free borough in 1355.

In contemporary times it is the place the place Welsh pop singer Duffy was raised.In 2008 she caused controversy by describing Nefyn as a place ”where pipe dreams are quashed in order to prevent you from being disappointed”.

The village of Porthdinllaen is a fishing village with an exotic history of fishing, shipbuilding and smuggling. There are tales of smuggling rum, tea and all manner of goods at Porthdinllaen and all along the Llyn peninsula. There was a customs house and storehouse built on the coast in the early 18th century in a bid to limit the controversial practice.  In the 1840s it was an incredibly popular harbour with over 900 ships entering the port each year. Later as the railway and industry outstripping ships and boats Porthdinllaen became a major port on the route from Dublin to London.

Today the village is in the care of the National Trust and a popular destination for tourists with its beach, cycle trails and coastline walks.

The golf club of Nefyn and District  itself  was founded in 1907 after a meeting at the Ty Coch pub on Porthdinllaen beach. The pub still exists and provides a useful resting place if you take a slight detour between the 13th green and the 14th tee. Or, if the golf isn’t going so well the perfect ending to your round.

In 1907 the course was laid out as a 9 hole course. It stayed that way for a number of years until it was developed in the1920s and 30s by two of the ‘Great triumvirate’ of golf of the day. The Triumvirate consisted of three golf legends with strong associations with the area. They consisted of Harry Vardon, JH Taylor and James Braid. The latter two were involved in the development of the course in 1933. They added a further nine holes and enhanced the first nine. The course was completed to the obvious satisfaction of both men and the members at the club. James Braid described the course as ‘‘situated on one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen.’

The course is unusual in that it is the only 26 hole golf course in the world, rather than the traditional 18. The opening 10 holes are played on all occasions. The course then breaks into 2 courses with separate 8 holes coming in. the ‘old’ final 8 holes wind their way along ‘The Point’. These are the holes played along the cliff edge and are a must for visitors. A former secretary of Nefyn Golf Club described conditions on a windy day to writer George Houghton in ‘Golf Addict Invades Wales’ as the ‘nearest thing to playing golf on the upper deck of an aircraft carrier’.

The ‘New’ course tends to be played by the members in their competitions.

The course in loved by many who have had the honour to play it. The reviews of the course are superlative and it has earned its honour as one of the top 100 courses in the U.K. The writer John Hopkins was brought up playing the course and for him it is the course he holds in greater affection than any other. In his review of the course in ‘Golf Wales’ he concludes that ‘Nefyn is a sporty, difficult on a windy day, and above all else, plain good fun…. It has remained the course I love above all others for the past 50 years.”

This article first appeared in Cambrian magazine March 2012


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