As you descend down to the harbour town, situated on the Glaslyn Estuary, you get a distant glimpse of the course located close to a sandy beach with rugged duneland. The pulse quickens with anticipation of what lies in store.
As it transpires you have to wait a little while longer than you might think for the best of what Porthmadog has to offer. The two nines can best be described as ‘chalk and cheese’; the difference between both halves is remarkable.
Eight of the holes are played over fascinating linksland that created some wonderful golf holes. The other ten holes are flatter in nature and more of the parkland variety, albeit fast-running.
The opening couple of holes are a bit of a disjointed affair. The first is a par four whilst the next is a par three that, after a fairly lengthy walk back to the tee, crosses the fairway of its predecessor. The same ditch runs in front of the greens at each hole and is the main threat, although both putting surfaces have plenty of movement to ensure that your work is not complete until you have holed out. The wonderful mountainous backdrop to the short second may also be a pleasant distraction.
After this awkward start the next seven holes are played on the other side of a road and although the Club describe these as heathland in truth it is no more than solid parkland golf. However, the firm and sandy fairways are nice to play from and there are some demanding shots to be had. The approach to the tough fourth, the ‘bite off as much as you dare’ tee-shot at the fifth and the drive at the long eighth are particular highlights. The par three sixth also demands accuracy because there is water short, right and long whilst the other one-shotter on this part of the course has a dramatic elevated tee-shot to a green way below.
As you cross back over the road and walk on to the tenth tee it is as if you have entered another world. The change in landscape is profound. You are now faced with duneland and rolling terrain that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
The tenth itself is a tight par four with a hummocky fairway and a green nestled between large sand hills and bunkered on both sides.
Both par three’s on the links section of the course are semi-blind and play over 200 yards. Holes like these, the 11th and 13th, aren’t built anymore but they were fun to play and reminiscent of how golf was played a century ago.
The most spectacular of all the holes at Porthmadog is undoubtedly the 12th. A potentially driveable par four played right along the coast it is one of the most scenic and thrilling holes I have ever played. In fact with a wind off the left one might have to start their ball out over Samson’s Bay in order to go for the tiny green perched halfway up a huge dune. The sensible play may be to hit an iron from the tee to a fairway that stops some 60 yards short of the green but from here you face a very delicate uphill pitch and the setting of the hole encourages you to be brave.
The next three holes, all par fours, continue in a similar manner played through and over dunes to slithers of fairway and well-guarded greens. The 14th and 15th are particularly good holes with a blind drive at the former and an approach to a raised green between dunes at the latter the best bits. Meanwhile, the 16th offers perhaps the best chance of a birdie but gorse is present for anything too far off line.
And it is gorse that is the main threat at the 17th, a sweeping par five that has banks of the prickly shrubbery lining both sides of the fairway; one that appears much narrower from the tee compared to once you reach your drive. The banks of gorse continues all the way up to a hole that has an odd triangular ditch close to the green that makes the approach much tighter than you might think.
Sadly the final hole returns to the blander ground adjacent to the first and doesn’t quite live up to the drama that has just unfolded over the past couple of hours.
I enjoyed my round at Porthmadog and holes 10 to 17 alone make the green-fee worth every penny.
Eyemouth is an easy-going, golf course with many different sections but mostly plays along the clifftops of the beautiful coastline close to the England-Scotland border.
There is something about Elie that puts you under a spell. It is a truly magical links that, after just one round, has won a place in my heart and mind forever.