The near 70-mile trek from Aberdovey is likely to take you every minute of the suggested two hour drive (I actually drove from Harlech and I've been on long haul flights that seemed to have passed quicker) whilst those who have already ventured west to Tenby will face another hour in the car to reach this interesting layout which has one of the most amazing finishing stretches I have ever played; green complexes at 15, 16 and 17 are utterly amazing.
Before that we have 14 holes that if they don’t quite excite us they certainly don’t disappoint. Many of the holes play across a side slope and they gradually rise throughout the round. They start of with an upland links feel – good turf and some nice undulations – but as we climb higher the ground becomes more pasture-like.
I wouldn’t quite class Cardigan as a true links course but it’s not far off and you are assured of all the unpredictable kicks and bounces associated with seaside golf; lost balls are probably a common occurrence here. Bunkering is minimal, bracken is a threat and you must use the lay of the land to score well.
The highlights on the first two-thirds of the course - where par is 72 and the length 6,455 yards - is a fine green complex at the third, one of several two-tiered greens, an impressive downhill fourth, with gorse the main danger down the left, and the impressive 90-degree dog-leg fifth, which has a brilliant green complex with a steep drop-off towards the front right.
Cardigan makes a more than promising start and the green at the short sixth is also nicely located but the course goes a little flat after this and there is a bit of a monotony to it all. It often feels as though you play the same shot but at different holes. The drives on three and 12 and again at seven and 13 not only share the teeing ground but look the same too. Holes nine and 11 at the summit of the course also have a similarity with reversed cambered fairways. I suspect that if I were to play here regularly I'd also end up hitting shots from similar points on the course due to the gathering nature of the hillside.
The middle part of the course, however, isn’t what you’ll remember Cardigan for, that'll be long forgotten by the time you drive out of the car park. In all fairness it won’t be the opening third either although it is very good. The last four holes will stay in your memory forever though!
Perhaps it is the unexpectedness of the closing holes that catches us a little bit off guard but they are absolutely sensational.
After the descending 14th hole we now drop down even further to a lower level, beneath where we started, and play four holes that contain some of the quirkiest and craziest links golf you’ll encounter. I have no words for the greens at the 15th, 16th and 17th because you just have to see them to believe and appreciate them but the shape and contouring of the putting surfaces is simply wonderful and each one cranks up the funkiness to a different level. At this point the course has taken on an entirely different dimension. As well as the brilliant internal contours the siting of the greens is excellent and whilst there was a low-lying mist on my visit here in June 2016 I suspect the views of Cardigan Bay will only add to the aura these last few holes undeniably possess.
The final hole doesn’t have the same high quality green complex but boasts one of the most fascinating fairways with humps and bumps everywhere.
I would definitely recommend a visit to Cardigan. The fact that it is one of the best courses in Wales probably says more about the lack of depth in quality throughout the country but that’s not knocking the course because it’s very enjoyable, highly entertaining and any course that can do what the last few holes do here is well worth the visit alone in my book.
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.
It was an impulsive, crazy… and some would say utterly ridiculous… decision that took me to The Machrie in the Spring of 2018.