Nefyn, like many of the courses included in this collection, is not an easy place to reach. Located in North Wales, a three-hour drive from either Manchester or Liverpool Airports. However, like all the courses we have included the drive is well worth the effort. Even were the airline to lose your clubs it would still be worth coming to Nefyn just to walk the course and enjoy the amazing views on the stunning piece of ground, it occupies on the Llyn Peninsula. A rocky outcropping jutting out into the Irish sea with the breath-taking backdrop of the Snowdonia mountain range and Cardigan Bay.
There is a stretch of holes on the new course 1-4 that reminds me very much of Pebble Beach, then there are a couple of holes on the Old Course very reminiscent of Old Head in Ireland. One or two that remind me of Prestwick, and some that are uniquely Nefyn. Nefyn is comprised of three nines and is not world-class golf of the same caliber as those esteemed courses I have just mentioned. There are a few too many quirky or average holes among the great ones, (although one could also say that of Pebble Beach and Prestwick). Those that do criticize the course in their reviews have entirely missed the point. Golf is meant to be fun, and Nefyn is world-class fun!
The Old Course is as Short, Beautiful, Quirky, and Memorable
We started on the Old Course a delightfully short, just 2,508 yards, quirky, nine holes of golf with views rivaling the best of any course in the world. The first is a mid-iron off the tee to a very tight fairway with OB, left, and a cliff to the right. That leaves you with a short iron shot to a blind green some sixty feet above you. Not the ideal hole to start or an idea hole in anyone’s book but the view from the top is priceless. This is followed by a couple of excellent par threes, the second of which is perched on a cliff, don’t go left. The fourth is a stunner, a long par four played across the top of a finger of a headland jutting out into the Irish sea. The only question from the tee is how much of the dogleg can you bite off for it’s a long way down to the rocks if you miss judge it.
The next, a medium length par three, plays straight downhill from a tee next to the lighthouse and offers amazing views across the bay to the mountains beyond. To finish, there are two short and forgettable par fours with a great par three and a tough par five in sandwiched between them.
So, to sum up, the Old Nine in brutal, honestly, you have four excellent par threes, a hard-as-nails par five, a spectacular par four, two throw-away par fours, and one missing only a windmill. That said I can’t wait to play it again, for every visit must play very differently depending on the wind. During our visit, as is often the case anywhere in the British Isles, we enjoyed all four seasons in a single day from glorious sunshine to driving rain and a five-club wind. Then back to sunshine, and a gentle breeze, although “gentle” according to the locals, is still a one-club wind anywhere else.
The New Course Starts with a Bang!
The Front/New course starts so strongly with four of the best holes you will ever play that what comes afterward will always be something of a letdown. The long par hole first at 449 yards, sweeps majestically downhill and left to a green framed by the sea and mountains beyond. The second, a dogleg right, hugs the cliffs the entire length of the hole. As do the next two holes reminiscent of several holes at Pebble Beach. At the short par three 5th, the course heads inland again and while there are many fine holes in this section, even the best of them would struggle for a mention after the sensory overload of the first five holes. Which you never quite make up for on the downwind holes.
The 13th provides the next great hole, a long dogleg left with a difficult tee shot. Guarded by thick brushes down the left and a bunker right, the second goes straight back towards the ocean. The 14th runs parallel to the ocean, then you head inland once more for a fairly average set of finishing holes. At 6,520 yards from the back tees it’s quite short but add in the wind and it may not seem that way and mid-length par fours quickly change to fives.
A Quirky History
The course started life in 1907 as a nine-holer but was remodeled and expanded to 18 in 1930 by the legendary golfers J.H Taylor and James Braid. Additional holes were added a few years later but not another nine as you might expect. Give the quirky nature of the course it comes as little surprise that for many years Nefyn operated as a 26-hole golf course with loops, of ten, eight, and eight. After a damaging storm in 2013, the course reopened with 27 holes in three loops of nine, they have today.
There are additional dangers at Nefyn besides the gorse and the cliffs. On the new course, the 9th and 18th fairways cross each other leading to much confusion among the first-time guests. In addition, many holes are close enough to each other, especially in the wind that balls often stray from one hole to the next. There are lots of non-playing walkers everywhere on the public footpaths running through the course or just wandering across the course oblivious to the danger of a golf ball traveling at 100 mph, and apparently to the wind or the rain as they head for the beach anyway.
The course was in impeccable shape, the fairways generous and the rough punishing but short enough to find your ball. The bunkers of which there are many are not the deep-faced, sodded kind that you will find on many links courses that wrecks your card. At Neyfn, with a couple of exceptions you can easily extract yourself losing just a single shot. Welsh, Masters champion, Ian Woosnam, ranks Nefyn among his favorites and holds the course record with a 67. While the course ranks on every list of the top 100 courses in the UK. It should not be missed if you find yourself anywhere near Wales, I will gladly drive three hours to go and play it again.
At a Glance:
- 27 holes with spectacular views offering the best photo ops of any course on your trip
- You can see the Irish sea from every tee
- 3 hours from Manchester from or Liverpool airports
- Some of the best par threes you will ever play
- Generous fairways for a links
- Excellent conditions
- Large comfortable and casual clubhouse with spectacular views and a surprising, good choice of food
- There are numerous small hotels and B & B’s in the area but often sold out in the summer months, book ahead, the club will advise you as to your best options.