Nefyn & District Golf Club
- Par 71
- 6201 Yds
Now for something completely different.
It could be Nefyn and District’s club motto.
Perched – sometimes precariously – on the very extremities of north west Wales, Nefyn has proved so resistant to categorisation that only in the last couple of years have golfers outside Gwynedd recognised how special it is.
Now it is celebrated precisely because of its extraordinary and perverse nature.
Every single tee affords an ocean view – but links golf this is not.
Many of the fairways look sufficiently expansive to land a jumbo on – but occasionally a seven iron can seem a brave choice of club.
Several of its holes are laid out on a peninsula the width of no more than a solid nine iron.
Often described as a holiday course, it is far from easy walking and most will lose more than the occasional ball on their way round.
Not content with the traditional 18 holes, Nefyn has 26, the youngest 10 years old.
But the most striking paradox surely lies in its scale.
It is an enormous course, stretching for miles around the coast. It invites prodigious drives and plenty of long irons and fairway woods.
Dog-legs can frequently be cut, but invariably only by taking on a portion of the Irish Sea.
But the figures on the Old Course card only add up to the modest total of 6,201 yards.
And given the generous landing areas on most holes, the lack of penal bunkering and the true greens, why is it not the sort of course where there is every chance of beating your handicap?
Well, Nefyn has its own defences, especially on the impossibly narrow finger of land on which the spectacular back nine of the Old Course unfolds.
Many of the yardages count for very little on the cliff tops, where there is precisely nothing to protect the golfer from the onslaught of the elements.
Take two of the short holes. The 9th measures 158 yards, the 14th 165. One calls for a three iron, the other a feathered wedge. Which way round is irrelevant because next time you play the opposite will probably be true.
If you play the New Course, you avoid playing the 14th altogether.
The 26 holes that collectively comprise Nefyn & District are all in play every day, with the first 10 common to both loops.
From there the original layout continues, opened in 1907 and subsequently amended by James Braid, down the length of the peninsula.
The most striking paradox surely lies in its scale, an enormous course which stretches for miles around the coast.
As the aerial photograph illustrates, it is an extraordinary piece of land – and an understandably vulnerable one.
Because of the threat of coastal erosion – landslides are not unheard of here – a further nine holes were added in 1993.
Eight of these are in play today and collectively form the second half of the new Course, which picks up from the 10th green, conveniently located in front of the clubhouse.
With due respect to these holes, it is the inward half of the Old Course that sets the blood racing.
The back nine is coruscating; every hole a mystery waiting to be unravelled.
Take the 11th, technically drivable for big hitters on a good day.
Realistically, only the insane or the inspired would even consider it.
The first part is straightforward, calling for little more than a mid-iron into the trough.
Those playing the hole for the first time will then be baffled. In front is a huge hill, covered in shaggy rough. Up the right can be seen a fence, cliffs to the right of it. Because of the shape of the hole, the second – played with little more than a wedge if you can bring yourself to trust the yardage – should flirt with the fence to find the completely hidden green.
Three-hundred and twenty-three yards of pure terror.
Bewildered? You will be.
Now tackle the 12th, a short par five from the back tees with a drive played apparently along a path cut into the hillside. The fairway, in so far as it exists because it certainly cannot be seen, slopes massively from the right.
Another 100 yards on, over a marker post, it evaporates to accommodate The Pot, a blow hole that has ruptured the land and pumps sea spray high into the air when the tide is in.
In the distance lies the green, sloping seditiously from back to front making a putt down the green practically impossible.
Four-hundred and seventy-eight yards of pure terror.
So be thankful for the presence of what must be Wales’ most inaccessible pub within a hundred yards or so of the green.
The Ty Coch Inn, after which the hole is unsurprisingly named, lies at the bottom of the cliffs in the tiny village of Porthdinllaen.
Visitors cannot bring their cars, and the nearest place to leave them is Nefyn’s car park and from there continue by foot alongside the golfers.
When you eventually emerge on the 13th tee, you will be relieved to be greeted by a fairway the size of a couple of football pitches. Unfortunately, this hole curves round to the left, the cliffs lying on a straight line between tee and green, and the most accessible part of the fairway is some 250 yards from the putting surface.
So, just a question of how much of the dogleg to cut off.
The expanse of cropped turf ends just in front of the green, suddenly protected by clumps of rock and rough ground on either side. The narrow entrance is only open to shots coming from a certain angle, meaning there is much more of a premium on the position of the drive than you might have imagined.
Now you are at the very end of the peninsula, with the sea on three sides, but Nefyn being Nefyn it is not yet time to turn back for home.
First there is the ticklish 14th to negotiate, played from an elevated tee to a green far below.
A tee squeezed behind it, right on the edge of the cliffs, takes you over yet more cliffs – and an active lifeboat station – back on to terra firma.
The final short hole, the 16th, is played back over the edge of The Pot before Nefyn’s final fling.
This time the fairway slopes towards the right so a strong tee shot up the left is called for. Then, beyond the marker post, you leave the ocean behind for the last time, the hole twisting round to the left towards the distant clubhouse far above.
If the last is an anti-climax, it is also represents an element of respite, and although it measures little more than 300 yards it does play directly uphill.
It is not entirely fair to ignore the first 10 holes. If a few of them are mediocre the scenery more than compensates. But with the last eight so fresh in the memory, there is little room for anything else.
That is not to say you will be disappointed – far from it.
The opening hole plummets downhill to a green framed by the sea behind it.
The next four hug the coastline before a couple of substantial par fours and then the climb back to the clubhouse.
Playing here can be thirsty work, so the best way to enjoy Nefyn is undoubtedly to stay the night locally. Although only 20 miles or so from Caernarfon – which is in turn about an hour from Chester – this is a remote part of the world.
Hardly the sort of place you pass by every day, it is worth making the most of it while you are there.
And the longer you have to soak up its wild charms the more attuned you can be to cope with its intricacies.
Enjoy the view.