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North Wales Golf Club: Links to the Past

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The North Wales Golf Club, located in Llandudno, Wales, has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century. The club was founded in 1894, when golf rapidly grew in popularity across the British Isles, partly due to the advent of the railway, which enabled people to explore outside their towns and cities for the first time. As a result, golf clubs began appearing all over the countryside; many of them, like North Wales, Prestwick, and Western Gailes, had railway lines connecting or adjacent, becoming part of the course’s aesthetic.

Manchester businessman Tancred D. (TD) Cummins recognized the potential for a links-style course in the scenic coastal resort town of Llandudno, a setting with stunning views of the Conwy Estuary and Snowdonia Mountains.

Cummins called on Harold Hilton, two-time Open champion, and John Ball, England’s most prominent amateur. An initial course layout was agreed to, a lease was signed, and they created a course that blended seamlessly with the surrounding dunes and coastline.

In this post, we’ll discover North Wales, one of the ten oldest links in Wales, and a course called “a gem” by no less than the great Henry Cotton. We’ll learn its origins, explore the course, its signature holes, and its characteristics. We’ll close with further reading suggestions and videos that will bring the course to life.

If you enjoy these course writeups, consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter to receive updates on new posts, partners, and discount codes. For more information, check out the other courses featured in our Legendary Links series, which will soon be published in a book, “Links Around the World.”

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History

Construction of the course began in 1894 and was completed the following year. It officially opened for play in 1895 with a grand ceremony attended by local dignitaries and golf enthusiasts. The original clubhouse was a modest wooden structure, but it served as a gathering place for members to socialize and enjoy a post-round drink.

In the early years, North Wales Golf Club attracted golfers from across the region who were drawn to its stunning views and challenging layout. The club hosted numerous tournaments and events, including the 1909 Welsh Amateur Championship. As the club’s reputation grew, so did its membership ranks. Many prominent local businessmen and community leaders joined the club, establishing it as a hub of social activity in Llandudno.

TD Cummins took to naming all the holes and soon found himself with an unexpected issue. The par-3 13th, a one-shotter that plays directly into the wind, was named “Hades” by Cummins. However, the commissioners from whom he purchased the land found the name inappropriate, given the land had connections to the Church. To alleviate their concerns, he named the 18th “Paradise,” with both names remaining to this day. Cummins served as Club Captain and Secretary for 38 years, from 1894 to 1933.

The Club has undergone several renovations and improvements to keep pace with the game’s evolution. The biggest change was some 20 years ago when the green of the par-3, “Sahara,” was lost through coastal erosion. The course has been lengthened and updated to accommodate modern equipment while preserving its classic charm and character. The clubhouse has also been expanded and modernized, offering members and guests first-class amenities and dining options.

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Did You Know?

North Wales Golf Club boasts a rich heritage intertwined with the legendary Royal Liverpool Golf Club, also known as Hoylake. At the heart of this connection is John Ball, who made history by becoming the first amateur and the first Englishman to win The Open Championship in 1890. He also dominated the British Amateur Championship, securing the title eight times. Ball and Bobby Jones share the distinction of being the only men to win the Open and British Amateur in the same year.

Of Ball, Bernard Darwin wrote, “I have derived greater aesthetic and emotional pleasure from watching John Ball than from any other spectacle in the game.” North Wales founder TD Cummins was captivated by the 1894 Amateur Championship at Hoylake and witnessed Ball’s prowess firsthand. This encounter led to Ball’s visit to Llandudno, where his input and endorsement were pivotal in shaping the course.

Ball’s association with North Wales Golf Club is commemorated annually, with a competition in his honor and a putter he used to win the Amateur in 1907, 1910, and 1912 proudly displayed in the clubhouse. Harold Hilton, another member of Royal Liverpool, also advised Cummins on the course layout. The connection between North Wales and Royal Liverpool is symbolically represented in the North Wales Club badge, echoing the Hoylake motto “far and sure.”

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The Course

A classic out-and-back links, North Wales plays to a par of 71 at 6,310 yards from the Championship tees. The course features all of the quintessential characteristics of seaside links, including sand dunes, blind shots, pot bunkers, holes playing along the sea, the railway, and scenic vistas across the water. The course may be short, but the small greens and ever-present coastal winds aid its defense.

The round starts with a short par-4. The blind approach is played to a small elevated green that will be affected by the prevailing westerly wind, which cannot be felt from the fairway, causing players to misjudge the shot and end up short. The risk/reward 2nd plays into the wind again, with a choice of routes off the tee and all of the trouble in front of the green, making club selection paramount. The short, flat par-4 3rd is protected by a cross ditch, making a layup and short iron the better play to the small green.

The first one-shot hole is “The Railway,” a 200-yard par-3 played into the wind to a multi-terraced green. The theme on the first four holes is club selection, a subject near and dear to our hearts. The first par-5 comes at the 5th, “The Hill.” An uphill dogleg, the fairway is flanked by trouble, and you must hit it to have any shot at the green. Another par-5 awaits at the 7th, with a ridge 200 yards from the green obscuring it from view.

The double-blind 8th starts with a blind tee shot over sandy dunes running alongside the railway. A ridge also obscures the approach shot to a sloping, well-protected green. The outward nine concludes with North Wales’ most scenic hole, running along the beach. “Chasm” sits along the Conwy Estuary, with views for days from an elevated tee. On a windy day, you may need to follow Tom Watson’s “goalpost” lesson and aim out to sea in order to find the fairway.

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Inward Nine

The back nine starts with the par-4 “The Ruins,” another blind tee shot played along the beach, and the two-shot 11th, the hardest on the course, features a ditch that runs the length of the hole. The short par-4 12th is wide open, but the slope of the green and a swale at the back make it a tricky scoring hole.

The 13th, the aforementioned “Hades,” is a classic links par-3. It plays into the wind, set amongst sand dunes, and is played from an elevated tee with the beach as a backdrop. The “saving grace” is the flat green with minimal defenses. The final par-5, “Long,” features a forced carry off the tee, with the short two-shot 15th counterbalancing.

The closing stretch echoes some classic links with back-to-back short holes “OL” and “LO,” at 16 and 17, considered the signature holes at North Wales. “OL” plays into the wind with the small green obstructed by humps and the flagstick barely visible. “LO” brings in an element of target golf, a short but scenic one-shotter. The round concludes with the par-4 “Paradise,” a drive and a wedge to end your day.

Visit North Wales online at https://www.northwalesgolfclub.org.uk

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PuttView Golf Books

PuttView Books are detailed yardage and green maps designed to help golfers save strokes, especially under tournament conditions. They offer precise visual representations of courses, including topographic slope percentages, fairway arrows for slopes over 4%, and a dual view of greens accurate to the millimeter. The books are printed on high-quality waterproof paper, sized to fit traditional yardage book covers, and are USGA legal. 

Customers praise PuttView Books for their stunning detail, stylish presentation, and the confidence they instill in decision-making on the course. With 30,000 courses represented, your home course is bound to be available, as is North Wales!

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Further Reading

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Classic Golf Links
by Donald Steel

Summary: Classic Golf Links of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland by Donald Steele is a guidebook featuring 75 spectacular links golf courses in the British Isles, covering their history, design, and challenges. The book includes scorecards, hole maps, photos, and playing tips for each course, providing key information for golf travelers while celebrating these revered seaside tests.  With writing by Donald Steel and photos by Brian Morgan, Classic Golf Links is considered an essential reference for experiencing the best of links golf.

This book is a must for anyone with an affinity for links golf. I bought this book years ago and still return to it often. The pictures are amazing and they alone will make you fall in love with these courses.

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Golf Courses of the British Isles
by Bernard Darwin

Summary: “Golf Courses of the British Isles” by Bernard Darwin is a classic text that explores and celebrates the unique beauty and challenges of golf courses throughout the British Isles. Darwin, a revered golf writer and grandson of Charles Darwin, provides insightful commentary on the architecture, history, and character of iconic courses, blending personal anecdotes with expert analysis. His vivid descriptions transport readers to the very greens and fairways of famous venues, highlighting their natural beauty and the intricacies of their design. The book, illustrated with evocative drawings by Harry Rountree, remains a timeless tribute to the game of golf and is considered a must-read for enthusiasts of the sport and its storied landscapes.

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Anatomy of a Golf Course
by Tom Doak

Summary: The book explains the thought process and strategies used by golf course architects in designing courses, including factors like hole length, placement of hazards, and routing. It aims to help golfers understand why certain design choices are made so they can better approach playing the course. Written by acclaimed golf architect Tom Doak, it appeals to both knowledgeable golfers and beginners interested in course design and architecture. The book also includes an appendix with examples of noteworthy golf courses that are worth studying.


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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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True Links
by  Malcolm Campbell & George Peper

Summary: True Links by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper profiles over 240 of the world’s top links golf courses across the British Isles and beyond, examining their history, design features, and status as an authentic “true links.” Organized geographically, the book offers photos, maps, scorecards and playing tips for renowned seaside tests like Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Cabot Links, Barnbougle Dunes and others that meet the authors’ criteria.  For links golf aficionados, True Links serves as an illustrated guidebook for experiencing the unique joys and challenges of the game’s most revered coastal courses.

Videos

North Wales Flyover
North Wales every shot
North Wales – VLOG

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