Rhys ap Tewdwr, born 1065, was a descendant of Capell ap Rhodri, King of Seisyllwg, son of Rhodri the Great. He lived a short but eventful life. He seized the throne of Deheubarth in 1078. It was not an easy time however as he had continual political unrest – alliances and battles with Caradog ap Gruffudd ap Rhydderch and Gruffydd ap Cynan . In 1088 he was forced into exile in Ireland but returned for more coalition and chaos with fellow Welsh princes and eventually the Normans.
Rhys was slain in the Battle of Brecon by Bernard de Neufmarche in April 1093. One can only imagine the fear, noise and bloodshed of the battle over 800 years ago. The site of the encounter was the village now called Battle, a few miles from Brecon and a mile from the golf course of Cradoc.
Walking around the tranquil, beautiful course it is impossible to image that 800 years before there would once have been armies, mayhem and destruction. The Battle of Brecon was an important event in Welsh history and for many at the time seemed to indicate the end of the reign of Welsh princes and the capitulation of Wales to their of Norman conquerors.
Rhigyfarch al Sulien, a monk who later wrote a life of St David, wrote a long poem, ‘Lament’ at Llanbadarn Fawr. The opening few lines captures the fear of the time;
“Alas! that the present time led us into this state of things,
where a cruel power threatens to drive away by its authority
those who are duly reading this poem.
Why have the blind fates not let us die?”
This dire pessimism, however, was not warranted and by the turn of the century most of the territories belonging to the Normans had been reclaimed by a resurgence from the Welsh.
The stark contrast between this period and a round of golf at a parkland course such a Cradoc could not be greater even though the land is the same. The course at Cradoc is so quiet, so tranquil. The tree-lined fairways let you believe you are the only players on the course for a good deal of time as it winds along the valley floor and up and across the hills.
It is a remarkable golf course in a remarkable setting. It was designed and build in 1967with the drive and commitment of local members especially John Morrell and Les Watkins.
The Scottish course architect CK Cotton has been responsible for designing and remodelling a number of amazing courses, amongst them Royal Lytham and St. Annes, Pennard near Swansea, St Pierre in Chepstow as well as many in his native land. The courses all share similar characteristics ; they all use the land effectively. At Cradoc he used the changes in elevation to form spectacular views and some challenging holes. There are stunning views across the valley from many of the holes.
Another feature of Cotton is the par 3s. These short holes on each course are all unique and each has a different challenge.
Cradoc is a nicely balanced course with 2 par 3s on the front nine and 2 on the back. The first short hole you encounter, the 3rd , is only 125 yards. There is however a pond in front of the green waiting for you. The hole is played from an elevated tee and looks spectacular, and dangerous. The 7th hole looks deceptively straightforward with its large green. However it can be difficult to 2 putt if you’re on the wrong level. The 12th hole down the hill is a par 3 with bunkers to the left and right and a steep drop over the back. The final short hole, the 17th is the longest. You need a straight long iron to ensure your round stays on track. If you can survive the par3s the chances are you are playing well and will be having a decent round. They test your skill and iron play and if the wind blows can be a really challenge.
The journey around the course takes you from the undulating. tree-lined, opening holes to the middle mountain section and then back again on to the valley floor. Along your path you will encounter different views of the of the Brecon Beacons National Park, a variety of views of Pen- y-fan the largest peak in South Wales, and some surprises; the fourth green is set in front of the mansion that once belonged to the owners here at Penoyre Park; a number of the holes are laid out as dog legs where you have to decide if you want to risk cutting the corner or playing safe.
The course is immaculately kept and incredibly peaceful. The greens are green, fast and true. This is only half the charm of the day though. The organisation and running of the club are as immaculate as the layout and maintenance of the course. There are superb practice facilities – large driving range, warm up nets and good sized practice putting green. The pro shop is well stocked and the clubhouse has amazing views of the 1st tee and fairway and the 18th green set against the backdrop of the mountains.
The atmosphere of the club is welcoming, caring and professional and little wonder it was Welsh Golf Club of the year in 2005.
The past decade or so have been difficult for golf clubs across Wales and beyond. The recession bites hard on recreational activities in these times. Fortunately the manager of the club, Richard Southcott has been proactive and instrumental in developing a creative programme for a number of years to help generate interest in golf in the area. The Heart of Wales consortium comprises the golf clubs Cradoc, Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells. The idea is to encourage golfers to visit this area and play all three unspoiled, quality golf courses at a reduced rate. It seemed to have worked well and has generated a lot of interest in the area.
The serenity of the course is reflected in the relative serenity of the area, even in the traditional market town of Brecon. The town is situated at the confluence of the rivers Usk and Honddu in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National park. With a population of just under 8,000 Brecon is the focal point of the area. It has established itself as a place for tourism, arts and culture in recent years. Visitors enjoy the activities in the area as well as the peace and quiet.
The cathedral in Brecon has a history tracing back to the year 1093 where Bernard de Neufmarche ordered a priority to be built after his victory. The priority was destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII and became the site of a parish church and in the 1920s was designated a cathedral.
For a short period each year Brecon loses its tranquil nature as it becomes the centre for music fans from around the world as it hosts the Brecon Jazz Festival. Since its inception in 1984 it has grown and developed into a genuine world-wide phenomena.
Practically all the leading jazz artists in the world have performed at the festival including George Melly, who lived locally, Courtney Pine, Humphrey Littleton, Amy Winehouse, Van Morrison, Joan Armitrading and Hugh Masekela.
The site of Cradoc golf course has seen a great deal of gory history over the centuries but there are few more peaceful places to enjoy a relaxing (well as relaxing as golf can be) game with superb scenery and delightful facilities.