British Isles links golf courses such as the Old Course at St. Andrews really let you unleash the driver a la Tiger Woods or John Daly. But Tenby Golf Club in Wales is a more restrained round of golf.
TENBY, Wales - There are the links courses in the British Isles that really let you nail it with your driver. The Old Course at St. Andrews is a long-bombers dream, with big swingers like Tiger Woods, John Daly and Lorena Ochoa prevailing on its wide-open links.
Then there are other historic links like Tenby Golf Club in Wales, which weaves blindly through wild dunes and thick grass and simply screams, "leave the driver in the bag, dummy!"
It sounds easy, of course. But how many golfers can proudly boast they can resist the temptation - without ducking into the nearest pot bunker fearing the wrath of God?
If you think you can hit irons and hybrids off the tee all day without reaching for the Big Dog, be sure and raise the stakes when your group visits Tenby on your Wales golf tour.
Tenby is a bustling port town in southwest Wales, and the golf club here stakes its claim as Wales' oldest affiliated golf club, opened in 1888. The linksland itself is rugged and has some stunning vantage points, when certain tees and greens peak above the dunes. From these spots, especially the highest point of the course on the 17th tee, you can look across the sea to Caldey Island, a quiet, religious island void of television that observes a mandatory silence law after 7 p.m.
The course has seen its share of changes in its long history. James Braid came along in 1910 and upgraded the layout. In the 1960s, three new parkland holes, 15 through 17, were added after three were lost to the sea. The eighth hole, "Penally Butts," was shortened to a par 3 because a walking path that crossed the fairway was blind from the tee, so the town ordered the change. They're currently working on some new holes on the linksland as well.
Today's course is just a 6,373-yard par 68. But the real reason you should leave driver in the bag is the gnarly rough. The course sits on a naturally delicate site, so the club must get permission from authorities any time they want to cut the rough, which can happen only a few times each year. The result can be a lot of lost balls just a few yards off the fairway. Making the shots even tougher is the fact that many holes have blind or partially blind approach shots. Amid the sea of dunes and wild grasses, visiting golfers can have a tricky time figuring out just where to hit if from.
The first hole is the most difficult, so, considering it will probably be your first swings of the morning, anything short of utter disaster should be taken as a triumph. It's a par 4 but measures over 474 yards, playing out towards the coast, meaning it's generally into the wind. Adding to the challenge, the fairway is mostly blind from the tee, guarded by a large dune to the left.
Big numbers are a threat on just about every hole here, even one of the five par 3s.
The par-3 12th, "Y Ddau Gwm", is a little devil. The green sits elevated over two deep valleys to either side, filled with long grass on the steep slope. When the grass is long enough, missing the putting surface by just a few feet can result in a lost ball.
Tenby Golf Club: The Verdict
At Tenby, a little restraint goes a long way. Keep your tee shot in the fairway, and the course is much more enjoyable. Otherwise, you'll spend the day looking for lost balls.
That said, Tenby boasts great links terrain filled with excellent views of the coast and plenty of quirks. It's reminiscent of an unrefined Prestwick in a lot of ways: a historic, 19th century pedigree and an imaginative routing with lots of thick rough and blind shots. If your group can partner up with a member or someone who knows the course, don't pass it up.
Green fees at Tenby are £36-45.
Tenby hotel options
Tenby has numerous hotels. But if you want to stay closer to Swansea and Cardiff, stay at Morgan's in downtown Swansea, the town's only luxury boutique hotel. The town of Saundersfoot is also near by, home to the St. Brides Hotel & Spa. Spa lovers won't want to miss a treatment and relaxation overlooking the Carmarthen Bay here.
Tenby is a hopping seaside town with plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from. If you want something quicker, the clubhouse offers a daily lunch menu as well. Be sure to look in the clubhouse closely for an old picture of the greens keeper from 1888 - a small, grizzled fellow who resembles a Nepalese Sherpa.
In Welsh, Tenby is "Dinbych-y-Pysgod," which translates into "little fortress of the fish.