The Takeaway: The most iconic feature at Royal St. David's isn't found on the course; it is the towering Harlech Castle perched on the hillside across the street. The course's best holes come late in the round when the dunes come into play while the front nine is far less engaging. Grade B
Designer: Harold Finch-Hatton 1894
Phone Number: +44 1766 780361
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Royal St. Davids Golf Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Gwynedd, Harlech, LL46 2UB – WALES
What to Expect: Harlech Castle keeps a watchful eye over the links at Royal St. David's which enjoys a setting amongst the dunes on Wales' northwestern coastline. The Snowdonia mountains and some peaks of the sea deliver from a visual perspective as one of Wales most picturesque courses. The layout is mostly flat with the front nine offering little inspiration in the terrain while the back nine heads out to the dunes where the interest jumps dramatically, as does the challenge. The 15th hole is the highlight at RSD with a classic links offering with a partially blind tee shot and a greensite amongst the dunes that is undeniably engaging. Course conditions are maintained at a firm and fast level which encourages the ground game to be utilized when working your ball around the course. As is common with most courses in the UK, players will be required to walk but can rent a trolley to help tote their clubs around. Ultimately Royal St. David's stands as one of Wales' better offerings, but the lackluster front nine prevents it from being one of the top tier layouts in the U.K.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 12th Hole – 434 Yard Par 4 – Playing directly towards Harlech Castle, the downhill tee shot on the 12th provides an inspiring visual. Five bunkers await in the driving zone where the fairway tightens with the castle providing the ideal line to thread the trouble. The approach shot plays to an inviting green that is receptive to both aerial or ground game shots.
Best Par 3: 11th Hole – 152 Yards – Tucked into the base of the beginning of the dunes that characterize the back nine, the 11th is a short par three that players can get aggressive with. The putting surface features challenging undulations to navigate, but with a scoring club in your hand you can go pinseeking. With bunkering and fescue surrounding the green, you'll need to be accurate to keep a bogey off the card.
Best Par 4: 15th Hole – 439 Yards – In classic U.K. fashion, Royal St. David's offers a partially blind tee shot on the 15th where players have to swing with some faith if they are going to properly execute. The hole doglegs right and plays to a raised green surrounded by dunes on the sides and back. It is the best back-to-back set of shots on the course and walking away with a par is plenty satisfying.
Best Par 5: 8th Hole – 518 Yards – Playing towards the Snowdonia mountains, the 8th takes players away from Harlech Castle to offer a change of scenery. The hole bends slightly and steadily to the right which promotes a fade off the tee and a cut shot into the green. Tipping out just over 500 yards and on firm fairways, this is also a great opportunity to reach the green in two and card a birdie.
Birdie Time: 16th Hole – 352 Yard Par 4 – The short par four 16th cuts from left to right and offers a chance to cheat the inside of the dogleg and scoot a tee shot up by the green. A trio of bunkers hunt in the fairway and the green is surrounded by trouble, but with such a short approach shot awaiting them, players should only be thinking about how close they can stick their second shot to the flag. Be aggressive here, this is a fun hole that is all the more fun when you walk away with a three on your scorecard.
Bogey Beware: 3rd Hole – 467 Yard Par 4 – A long hole that plays slightly uphill, the lengthy 3rd is an early test. The tee shot plays away from Harlech Castle to a rippled fairway with slightly uneven lies throughout. The well protected green is surrounded by bunkers with the sand pits in front being stretched out well short of the green while the bunkers on the sides and back are tucked in much tighter. The visual deception can mess with players' confidence and any deviation on the ideal line to the green will quickly get repelled off the edges. Walking away with a par here is an early accomplishment to be proud of.