Thursday 16 September 2010, 14:08
Hopefully lots of visitors from "over the pond" will be coming to the country, possibly for the first time, and as well as watching golf they might also like to play on what are now regarded as some of the finest courses to be found anywhere in Britain.
There are some wonderful golf courses in Wales, the like of which most Americans will never have seen. There are mountain top courses where the wind and rain batter at the fairways all year long. There are glorious stretches of links where deep heather and gorse are augmented by sand traps that sometimes feel a mile deep. And there are parkland layouts, beautifully manicured and a delight to the eye.
There are nine hole courses, 18 hole courses - even an 11 hole course. There are courses that are flat, courses that often seem best suited for mountain goats. There is, quite literally, something for everyone.
But which is actually the oldest course in Wales? Golf in the Principality is a relatively new sport, even though the game itself has been around for centuries.
View of the 13th hole at Tenby. Image kindly supplied by Tenby Golf Club.
Tenby is usually reckoned to be the oldest Welsh golf course, the club being founded in 1888. However, it is on record that the Mayor of Tenby once actually adjourned a court in order to play a round of golf on the sand hills to the west of the town. That was in 1875 so it is clear that golf was being played in the area long before the club was actually founded.
Tenby is now one of the best and most atmospheric courses in the country. It borders the Bristol Channel and has magnificent views out towards Caldey Island and, on a fine day, far off Lundy as well. You won't find many trees here but you will find plenty of gorse and sand traps and you only have to play it once to realise why Tenby has hosted so many major championship events.
Borth and Ynyslas sits by a beach. Image kindly supplied by Borth and Ynyslas Golf Club.
Borth and Ynyslas, on the shores of Cardigan Bay just north of Aberystwyth, also lays claims to be the oldest club in Wales. Although that accolade has been given to Tenby, members at Borth claim that their club was in existence by 1885, some three years earlier.
The course at Borth and Ynyslas sits on the margins of a fine sandy beach, being set amongst the deep and rolling sand dunes of Ynyslas. It is one of the most picturesque of all Welsh courses but when the wind blows in off the Irish Sea - a wind that sometimes seems to blow vertically and horizontally at the same time - it is undoubtedly one of the hardest.
Club house at Pontnewydd, near Cwmbran. Image kindly supplied by Pontnewydd Golf Club.
The other course with claims of longevity is Pontnewydd, just five or six miles away from the Celtic Manor Resort, on the fringes of Cwmbran. Club members and local historians insist that the club was up and running by 1875, well before either Tenby or Borth and Ynyslas.
It is, however, unfortunate that there is no documentary evidence to prove this claim, one way or another. Members will tell of players coming by train, then walking or driving in horse pulled brakes that were lined up in ranks outside the station, waiting expectantly for the journey up to the course.
Pontnewydd is now an 11 hole mountainside course. Players tackle the existing holes and then play seven of them again, albeit from different tee positions. It is a quirky and unusual golf course, one you will either immediately fall in love with or hate on sight.
Wherever you choose to play in Wales, history sits waiting to greet you. All of the clubs have wonderful old photographs on their walls, showing past members and events - and they all have staff and players who are more than happy to sit and talk about past glories and the state of the game today.
The modern courses of Wales, places like Celtic Manor and the Vale of Glamorgan, are fine tests of golf and are well worth a visit. But if you want to experience the history of Welsh golf then take time to visit places like Tenby, Borth and Ynyslas and Pontnewydd. You will not be disappointed.
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Thursday 16 September 2010, 12:30
Thursday 16 September 2010, 14:36