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Royal St David’s gets a 125th birthday re-vamp

ROYAL St David’s Golf Club has marked its 125th year anniversary by investing more than £160,000 both on and off its magnificent links course.

The Harlech club, who has enjoyed record-breaking green fee income for the last two years, has ploughed more than £60,000 into a clubhouse improvement project that has seen it being re-decorated and high-quality furniture added.

The dated dormy accommodation, which was previously the steward’s flat, has been completely refurbished to make it more enticing for couples as well as groups of ladies and men.

“There are five rooms, three of them twin/double and two singles, and the finish is fabulous. They are all ensuite, with brand new beds and we’ve bought beautiful quality bedding and towels,” explained Royal St David’s Club Manager and Head Professional Gareth Lewis.

“There’s high speed Wi-fi in there too now, which is important in this day and age.”

To showcase the new facility, Gareth and his team has introduced a stay and play package that includes two rounds of golf and an overnight stay in the dormy, with breakfast, for just £165. Additional nights and rounds may be added at reduced rates too.

“The dormy refurb was only complete late last month but already we’ve had some great feedback from our guests,” added South Walian Gareth.

Out on the historic links course the changes have been equally successful. A variety of projects, costing in excess of £100,000 have taken place over the winter months.

A new tank, pumphouse and borehole have been the biggest investments but the subtle tweaks to some of the tougher holes are the ones golfers will enjoy the most.

“We have always been a place that good golfers love to come and play but I think we were known as being a very tough test. The changes we have introduced have made the course much more player friendly. The rough is not as brutal and the playing areas are wider,” explained Gareth.

A ditch that meandered across the par four 10th fairway 100 yards short of the green was considered by many to be unfair on the shorter hitters who struggled to clear it in two. That’s now been filled in and replaced by two large bunkers that still prove challenging but are fairer.

Perhaps the most noticeable change is on the par three 11th where an ageing path and thick rough on a bank were the destination for any ball just left of target. This area has been beautifully contoured to create a much better look as well as making the target considerably bigger.

The par three 14th has a new forward tee, again to improve playability, and timber sleepers taken from the old ditch on the 10th fairway have been re-used here as a fabulous new feature.

The already stunning 15th hole has been aesthetically improved too with new paths leading from the tees down to the fairway.

Another change, the only one that makes the course tougher, is a new championship tee set back a further 30 yards on the 16th. Even if you’re not playing from here, it’s well worth a quick look as it provides a magnificent sea view from the course for the first time.

The course improvements come only 12 months after an extensive improvement programme to raise sand lines and thus sand levels above the water table. A total of 76 bunkers were raised during the winter of 2017-18.

Over the years the golf course has hosted many top events, including five Ladies’ Championships, nine sets of Home International matches (ladies’, men’s and boys’) and 11 Welsh Amateur Championships and Welsh Ladies Championships.

Next month it will host the Welsh Ladies Strokeplay Championship and then the British Women’s Senior Championship in September.

In 2020 the Girls and Women’s Home Internationals will also be held at Royal St David’s.

It plays over essentially flat linksland between a tall dune ridge on the coastal side and an imposing 13th-century castle on the town side, underneath which the course sets out over a front nine that builds towards a splendid back nine.

The par-three fourth, with its raised green, stands out early on, while the back-to-back par fives on the seventh and eighth represent the links’ full quota of three-shotters.

The course begins to skirt the dune ridge more closely on the ninth, with a string of magical back-nine moments following in its wake, from the semi-blind 220-yard 14th, to the stirring 15th, which has to be one of the best (and toughest) holes in the UK.

The new championship tee on the 16th, or the viewing steps behind the existing tee, provide a rare glimpse of the sea and an elevated view of a seemingly modest par four, where clusters of pot bunkers up at the green add to the test.

The 17th is another cracking par four that is well protected in front of the green and the 18th is a par three that can play anything from a wedge to a driver, depending on the wind.

The youngest of what might be called Britain’s senior clubs, Royal St David’s was founded in 1894 and is most certainly royal – Edward VII gave the club his patronage and the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), while he was Prince of Wales, captained the club in 1934.

To mark its 125th anniversary, the club will host a special members dinner and as usual will stage its annual Open Festival and Open Week.

The club has managed to find a blend of keeping with tradition while also making subtle changess that keep improving playability. “We will never rely on our reputation,” said Gareth. “We are always striving to improve.”

While we won’t be around in another 125 years, you can be rest assured this magnificent golf course will be – and everyone that is fortunate enough to play it in 2144 will, like us in 2019, leave with fabulous memories of a special place.

Editor’s Opinion

GOLFERS Local’s Paul Chapple took his parents, Brian and Joyce, to sample the new dormy accommodation and play the recently improved Royal St David’s course last month…. Here’s what they thought.

We left Chester at 3pm and made the scenic trip west via Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog. It took just over one and a half hours to get to Harlech.

For my Yorkshire-based mum and dad it was their first trip there so for me, having been a regular visitor for the last 10 years, I was keen to show them round.

We collected our dormy keys from the friendly and helpful catering manager AJ.

In the winter months the clubhouse closes at 5.30pm so we had time for a quick drink in the bar and then decided to head off to Harlech’s fabulous beach for an early evening stroll before dinner in the Y Branwen Hotel opposite the golf club.

After a great meal we headed back to the newly refurbished dormy to get a good night’s sleep. I was in one of the two single rooms and my mum and dad were next door in one of the three doubles. Both rooms had spectacular castle views as well as overlooking the first tee (I paced it out and it was 37 steps from my bed!)

We met for a beautiful full Welsh breakfast before heading out onto the course.

As one of the early starters (we had just a couple of twoballs in front), we were round in under three hours and were back in the clubhouse enjoying a welcome warm drink and a fantastic bowl of French onion soup by 12 noon.

I left my mum and dad in the spike bar while I popped upstairs for a catch up with club manager and head professional Gareth and when I returned they had been joined by about 10 members who were all keen to welcome them to the club and chatted passionately about the course. Lady club champion Ann Lewis even offered to take my mum and dad for a game if they ever came back.

We headed back to Chester after lunch and in all we were only away for 24 hours, but yet it felt like we really had had a break.

Seeing the course improvements was great and my mum and dad have vowed to return with some of their golfing friends from Yorkshire in the next few months.

For a short, good value golfing break it doesn’t get much better than this.