Hole by Hole Tour
The opening hole is arguably one of the most challenging in North Wales. If you are too far left off the tee, the trees may block your second shot but don’t go too far right or you’ll be out of bounds! The green slopes significantly from back to front and the burn has magnetic qualities for golf balls. So if you are hitting anything more than a short iron into the green, a lay up in front of the burn may be the sensible strategy with a hope to chip and putt, especially if there is a strong prevailing Westerly wind
Tu Hwnt I’r Afon
The second also features the ball magnetic burn and out of bounds to a wayward hook or if you are too long. The tee is sheltered so may fool you with wind strength. Clubbing for the centre of the green, irrespective of pin position, is the safe play.
Twll Ty’r Ysgol
At last a chance to open the shoulders and stronger players will be hoping for a birdie opportunity. However, there are bunkers right and left to pick up wayward shots – easy enough to find in a prevailing Westerly wind. Bunkers also guard the green left and right so an extra club into the green will probably pay dividends.
A very tough Par 4, especially into the wind. The best line off the tee is just left of or over the lonesome pine. The elevated green slopes steeply upwards front to back with drop offs all round and bunkers protect the left and right entrance. Lying up in front and playing a short chip and run may well avoid you having to show Michelsonesque skills that you don’t have!
Dros y Llyn
One of the course’s iconic holes and definitely the key to our Amen Corner. It is justifiably Index 1 for the ladies and many men will find it tougher than its rating of index 4. Water left and right and plenty of gorse waiting if you are too long! The conservative line is straight at the 150 yard marker (look at the top of Moel Y Gest – admire the view – and then scroll down!) Stronger players will want to play a draw over the middle of the right hand lake which could then leave a wedge to the split level green but any waywardness will find plenty of trouble. The green has water hazards at respectful distances in front right, on the left and behind.
Yn Y Llyn
A very picturesque par 3 that is surrounded by water. It’s a bigger green than it looks but again the tee box is protected and can disguise the strength of wind which can add or subtract one or two clubs to what you need. If you go in the water, please read the local rule on the card as regards dropping and the Captain’s Charity jar in the Clubhouse will gratefully receive your donation as further penance.
Twll Y Beudy
If you are still playing to your handicap after the opening 6 holes, you should be pleased. Unless the wind is coming from Siberia (as it does sometimes, especially in Winter) , then the 7th should be downwind and offer a great birdie opportunity for strong players. For all players, it gives a chance to “open the shoulders”. However, beware the OOB on the left with trees beyond and two bunkers on the right which often make their presence felt. Approaching the green, there is quite a big lake which will devour any ball which is pulled or hooked (by right hander’s that is) and it’s a water hazard so will require you to play over it again should you go in it! A couple of greenside bunkers on the other side will receive those being over cautious in avoiding the lake! The green is split level so pay attention to the flag position before playing your approach shot.
Glan Morfa Bach
The 8th is actually shorter than the 7th but plays longer due to a highly elevated green. From the tee, there are four bunkers on the right waiting to trap slightly wayward drives of many lengths. Strong players will look to play a long right to left shot to follow the contours of the hole and set up a chance to reach the green in two. For most players, the safest second shot will be to lay up on the left half of the fairway between the road and the burn but beware of OOB and another small burn if you go too far left. The green is long and narrow, sloping significantly from front to back, and is guarded by three bunkers. The pin position could make two clubs difference so note it well when you see it from the road below. With its many subtle borrows, you’ll usually be happy to two putt here.
The 9th is rated index 18 for both men and ladies as it has a large green and can be benign on a calm day – plus it gives a great view of the surrounding scenery. However, a burn in front- boarded with railway sleepers- and 5 bunkers round the green ensure that it is no “gimme”. In classic coastal golf style, the wind can easily change the hole into one which inflicts quite some pain to an otherwise good score so play safe and club for the centre of the green irrespective of the pin position when the wind blows unless you feel fully on your “A” game .
A breathtaking view of the Rhinog Mountains greets you on the 10th tee. A straight drive over the marker is important to avoid the OOB on the left, the hidden bunkers on the right and to be positioned for the approach shot to the green. Take an extra club for your second shot to avoid the bunkers protecting both sides of the entrance. The 10th will give you a good flavour of things to come on the back 9.
On days when the Russian bear has sent a strong Siberian wind, the 11th will be one of the toughest on the course. Any type of wind makes club selection critical and, generally, one extra club to what you think will usually pay dividends due to mounds in front of the green. The safest play is to the right hand side of the green which, if you don’t hit or stay on it, may leave you In Porthmadog’s own “Valley of Sin” but with a very reasonable chance of an up and down.
The 12th is a spectacular short par 4 hole, which has the potential to be a card wrecker if not played with your golfing brain tuned in. It is usually set up such that stronger players can try and drive the green. Others should play a mid iron to the bottom of the slope and then a short iron. The beach of the beautiful Sampson’s Bay is not a place for golf balls – it is OOB – and balls are a danger to walkers, dogs, sunbathers and any other non golfing species so be careful with your tee shot. Just below the green on the right is Porthmadog’s most challenging bunker with black hole properties! So, being slightly long rather than short is usually better. The bank behind the green is, however, coastal grass which may trap the ball if you are unlucky so a par here is a good result.
Pen Yr Ynys
The 13th tee provides one of the greatest scenic outlooks in the UK so take a breather and look around you. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, if you tire of this view, you are tired of life (who needs London anyway?!). When you switch the golf brain back on, club selection and shot will vary from day to day with the wind and given the steep drop from tee to green. As with many holes, one extra club will usually yield a better result as the large dunes in front are still some way from the bowl shaped green.
For men, the 14th nearly always provides the biggest challenge of the day as they face the Himalayas – routinely voted as one of Wales’s top 18 holes- and often played into a head on Westerly wind. The carry is longer the further left you go and so over or slightly to the right of the marker is the better tee shot. Ladies are much luckier as they start from the top of the dunes. However, the second shot for both defines the quality of the hole. OOB to the left and beyond the green plus several fairway bunkers and three around the green provide plenty of challenges. Even strong players will be happy with a par here.
Pen Y Boncan
The 15th is a classic links hole with no bunkers but a fairway that defines the word “undulating” – which looks most impressive in a low setting sun. A tee shot towards the left half of the fairway will give the best approach. The green is over 40 yards long, elevated and protected by steep coastal mounds right and left, covered in ball devouring grass. If your tee shot leaves more than a short iron to the pin, then the smart play might be to lay up just in front of the slope to the green and try for a chip and putt.
A short par 4, which is defined by the approach shot. Plenty of trouble if your tee shot is too far right and it may obscure the green so a line just left of the marker with a slight fade is the optimal shot. A large bunker in front, plus one right and left and OOB at the back require that you need an accurate second where the centre of the green is the best place to aim for- irrespective of pin position.
The 17th is a classic par 5. The tiger line for strong players is over the marker on the corner of the gorse with a slight fade to give the best chance of reaching the green in two. For all players, there is plenty of gorse and coastal vegetation on both sides to catch anything that is wayward. The second shot is best played to the right hand side of the fairway to set up a clear approach. The split level green is surrounded by heather and trees and has a horseshoe burn in front so an accurate approach shot – whether you second, third (or more) is vital.
A great finishing hole. Two hidden fairway bunkers on the left and plenty of gorse on the right as you stand on the tee. The U between the two Moelwyns in the distance gives a great view and a good line. You can play left to Moelwyn Mawr with a slight fade or a more tigerish line is to start just to the right of Moelwyn Bach with a draw – the latter perhaps more for stronger players. The green slopes quite steeply from front to back and has tricky bunkers either side waiting to catch a wayward second shot. Playing short to the front centre of the green is the safest route if your name is not Mickelson and will leave an uphill putt and a chance of a great birdie to be celebrated at the 19th!