GOLF TRAVEL

A "Wale" of a Golf Trip: United Kingdom’s Unsung Golfing Playground

By Shawn Nicholls, Staff Writer

Chances are, if you’ve taken a dream golf vacation to the United Kingdom, you’ve hit the popular tracks in England and Scotland, and maybe even a few in Ireland. But the one place you may have missed, is Wales.

Unfortunately, you don’t know what you are missing.

Wales is littered with golf courses; 200 to be exact. Many are championship caliber tracks, and many others are worth the time and effort just for their scenery and culture. Some are worthy of European Tour events, and one other has even been selected as a future Ryder Cup venue.

 

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Not sold on quality and quantity? How about convenience? Wales is only a 45 minute trip from London -- a proximity that is slowly making the tiny country the best little golf destination that no one knows about.

That Wales has emerged as a legitimate European golf destination is of little surprise to those who have set eyes on the pure beauty of the Welsh countryside.

In addition to the 750 miles of coastline rimmed with beaches that are whiter than a Tiger Wood grin, Wales is also home to a comfortable climate that stays warm and dry longer than some of the sister nations in the archipelago. (We submit the near freezing temperatures at the British Open at Muirfield this year for example.)

What is most amazing about the abundance of golf in Wales is that the country is diminutive at best. At its maximum, it is only 100 miles wide, and nearly a quarter of the land is at least 1000 feet above sea level. Accordingly, more land in Wales is considered woodland than urban.

About 2.8 million people inhabit the land nationwide, with the largest concentration situated in the capital, Cardiff, a coal-exporting port during the Industrial Revolution.

As for the golf, it’s hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of the more spectacular to chose from.

Where to Play

Starting at the shore and moving inland, the first course worthy of a loop is Royal Porthcrawl (+44 1656 782251), the 1995 host of the Walker Cup. The first nine holes were developed in 1891, with nine more showing up in 1895. The club was later given Royal status in 1909 by King Edward VII.

Sloping towards the sea, the championship course sports an unusual links style devoid of sand hills. The good news, however, is the layout provides magnificent views of the water from just about every hole. The clubhouse, sitting just off the 18th green, looks out over to Bristol Channel.

For a slightly more extravagant experience, travelers should find time to rest and relax at the Celtic Manor Resort (+44 01633 413 000), annual host of the Wales Open and future site of the Ryder Cup. In addition to 400 luxury hotel rooms, four restaurants, two health clubs and a full service spa, there are three magnificent championship courses, all on a 1400 acre plot about 45 minutes from London’s Heathrow airport.

Wentwood Hills, the most traditional of the three, opened in 1999 and will host the Ryder Cup when it comes to Wales in 2010. The course’s greatest asset is its variety, and many have described it as a mixture of American and Wales style golf, both hilly and green, and flat and rolling.

The resort’s first course, Roman Road, is a rare par-69, and has long been known as one of Britain’s best tracks. And those seeking to sneak in an extra 18 holes late in the day will find just what they are looking for at the Coldra Woods, a par-59 that is sure to test their iron play. It also is the most history-ladden track of the three, with several holes passing through an old training ground for the Roman army.

Also in West Wales, hidden in the southern slope of the Gwendraeth and protected by lush forests and alive with the chirping of exotic birds is the Glyn Abbey Golf Club (01554 810278), first opened in 1992.

Glyn Abbey is home to an uncanny number of trees – 35,000 to be exact – that were planted when the golf course was under construction.

Although only 6,173 yards, the par-72 is still known as one of the stronger tests of golf in the Wales region. Take for instance the finishing hole, a moderate par-4 of 343 yards. It is a tough carry to reach the fairway from an awkwardly placed tee box, and the dogleg left makes this hole particularly challenged for the average, slice-minded golfer.

In addition to solid practice facilities and a comfortable clubhouse, Glyn Abbey also features a full gym, among other amenities. And all of this comes at a reasonable price. Golfers even have the chance to pay per day, instead of per round, with the chance to get in as many holes as the daylight allows.

On the property, guests have the opportunity to stay in the eight person stone cottages, while the popular Wawn Wyllt Inn is just a few miles down the road.

The Old Course and Country Club at St. Pierre Another is another notable Welsh track that also includes a great Marriott resort and all the wonderful amenities that go along with their hotels.

Finally, no trip to Wales would be complete without paying a visit to the capital city of Cardiff, and while you’re there, you can partake in three great parkland courses, St. Mellons, Whitchurch, and Tredegar Park.

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