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|The Ty Coch pub and Nefyn & District go together like, well, beer and golf. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)|
Perhaps nowhere in the world do beer (or whisky) and golf go together better than at the Ty Coch pub, just steps away from the 12th hole at the Nefyn & District golf course in Wales.
Some pairings are made in heaven.
Abbott and Costello. Einstein and Relativity. Chico and the Man. NFL stars and jail. Batman and Robin.
Golf and beer.
It does not matter whether it is a tired old muni or a haughty private club, the U.S. or Scotland, hot or cold, beverage carts or no, if you study the garbage cans along tee boxes, as I do (okay, weird hobby) you will see a lot of empty beers at golf courses.
And if you ever play in a charity tournament that costs a lot of money or a lavish corporate outing, where the players could theoretically pay for their own beer, you will see an enormous amount of empties just because beer is free. That is just one of golf's paradoxes.
If you are the rare golf teetotaler and think I am crazy or exaggerating, consider the fact that ours is the only sport that has a dedicated facility just for consuming booze, pre, post and middle of the round. We call it the 19th Hole. It's the equivalent of baseball or football teams having bars in their locker rooms, and contrary to the impressions many of these athletes give of being under the influence, and contrary to the occasional victorious popping of champagne bottles, they actually don't have bars. We do. But none quite like the one at Nefyn & District.
Just for the record, F or no F, the locals (this would be in Wales) pronounce it Nevin. But it does not matter what visitors say, because we will never sound right anyway. The important thing to remember is that this golf course more than any other, is the reason to play golf in Wales at all.
The reason is certainly is not Celtic Manor, an even worse Ryder Cup venue than the K Club, and that is really saying something, and further proof that the traveling golfer often follows in the footsteps of the pros at his or her own peril. But that's a rant for another day.
The truth is that Wales has several quality links courses that are the kind of homey, local and charismatic affairs widely found throughout Ireland, and less widely but still found throughout Scotland. Since there are more of them in both those places, along with more and better hotels and restaurants, it can be hard to think of a really compelling reason to take a golf trip to Wales. One is that on average it is cheaper. Another is a love of beer. Or whisky.
There is much more to this wonderful links course than an excuse for drinking, but that is the asset that really sets it apart, so let's tackle that first.
To the degree you can call it famous, Nefyn & District is famous for its pub - meaning that if you have ever heard of the course that is probably why. On one of the back nines (more on that soon), just after the turn, the golf course follows bluffs overlooking the sea, which is not uncommon on links courses in the British Isles, sort of like this year's Open Championship venue, Turnberry.
What is more unusual is the tiny, picture-perfect village that hugs a small cove and public beach (Porthdinllaen Beach if you must know) below the course. Like every small village in the British Isles, and this one is really, really small, there is a pub, the Ty Coch. This is no mere snack bar or halfway house. It is a bona fide British pub, right down to the cask conditioned ales and fish and chips. The village is linked to the links by a footpath from the 12th green and it is not lightly tread. Locals routinely descend the path after their rounds, preferring this pub to the more traditional clubhouse 19th hole. I can't blame them, as it's a gorgeous setting. Locals also routinely choose not to wait that long, and stop at the pub going out, coming back to the 13th tee only after a pint or lunch or maybe half a dozen pints. And so should you.
So much about what makes a round of golf great or disappointing has to do with attitude, and Nefyn & District is the antithesis of all those signs throughout the golf world admonishing us that we "are in danger of losing our place" should we do so much as buy a hot dog at the turn. If you ever have the wonderful opportunity to play an old fashioned private course like Shinnecock or Cypress you will quickly discover that things golfers take for granted, like tee times, are quickly discarded in the face of leisure and pleasure and the entire experience, including lunch, is supposed to be fun.
By walking off the course mid-round, and not worrying about losing our turns, we make a collective statement about having a good time. By stopping for beers at this unusual point, not halfway through but two-thirds, after an even bigger appetite and thirst has been developed, both locals and visitors at Nefyn & District have the opportunity to return something often missing to our beloved game: civility.
The deviation from play is certainly not frowned upon by the course. On its Web site, the club describes four reasons to visit, each with a brief explanation. The four are Location, Value for Money, Hospitality and Relaxed, the last of which is described thusly: "Golf as you like it, with time to take in your surroundings; where else would you find a course with a pub a minute's walk from the 12th green?" Where indeed?
The pub is one big reason to visit that goes Beyond The Course, but there is another: did I mention that there are 26-holes? You don't exactly see that every day. For some reason that probably made sense to the members at the time, or may have had quite a lot to do with the presence of a pub on the course, eight new holes were added in 1993, creating two distinct routings, humbly called "old" and "new," both of which incorporate the original first 10 holes.
Odd or not, and it is, you could easily make the argument that Nefyn & District is the best golf course in Wales. If not, it is nearly the best, routinely ranked in the Top 100 in the British Isles, and certainly the most dramatic Welsh course.
Read almost any description and it will include some variation on the phrase "Perched at the edge of the world." While you sip your beer below the 12th, you will be looking straight across the sea at Ireland, not 60 miles distant. It is as far as you can go in Wales without falling into the sea. The new last eight holes are set on a striking finger peninsula -like those dramatic photos you've seen of Old Head or Cape Kidnappers - simply called "The Point."
The only other things you need to know is that there are ocean and mountain views from every single one of the 26-holes, the place is very warm and welcoming, and it is dirt cheap, just £38, half that if playing with a member.
July 1, 2009
Larry Olmsted has written more than 1,000 articles on golf and golf travel, for the likes of Golf Magazine, T&L Golf, LINKS, Golf & Travel, Men's Health, Men's Journal, USA Today, and many others. He broke the Guinness World Record for golf travel and wrote Getting into Guinness, as well as Golf Travel by Design. He was the founding editor of The Golf Insider, and the golf columnist for both USA Today.com and US Airways Magazine.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The sun came out over Wales Monday, and Senior Writer Brandon Tucker ditched the final round of Ryder Cup play for 18 holes at nearby Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club. As the Americans rallied and ultimately fell short, Tucker offers his unique perspective on the European victory and the celebration that ensued.
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