They provide not only a true test of the game but give you much more than that; they provide a memorable and scintillating golfing experience.
How and why? You may rightly ask. And the answer is all to do with the movement of the land.
At Tenby you play over naturally billowing terrain that tumbles, falls and rises in all manner of ways. Sometimes it’s subtle whilst at others, and for the most part, it’s more pronounced with many changes in elevation as you travel over and through the natural duneland. Golf courses are often called rollercoaster rides and this term is no more fitting than here.
The mobility of the land allows for green settings that provide holes of exceptional quality and a uniqueness that cannot be replicated. The rumpled nature of the fairways provide holes of strategy, a variety of lies and a feeling, when walking them, that cannot be bettered. You feel in touch with nature, and you are, because that is what created the amazing topography.
You are faced with some blind shots, others that are partially visible whilst for the most part you know where you are going. The ground game is very much in force on this exciting links, and shot-making comes to the fore, whilst there is also the occasional forced carry; the terrifying par-three 12th is perhaps the best example. Tenby mixes it all up perfectly.
Holes such as the first, third, fourth, ninth, 11th and 12th are of the very highest order; amongst my favourite holes anywhere, the third and ninth especially. They use the land perfectly to give us holes of equal charm and challenge that you will never tire of playing.
Add into the equation the true links delights of the second, fifth, sixth, 10th, 13th, 14th and 18th along with the sterner challenge of the seventh and eighth and you have 15 holes of seriously good golf at Tenby. How many other courses can lay claim to this many? Very few is the answer.
Sadly, there is a small catch. And that comes in the form of three holes that have a real disconnect from the rest of the course. Holes 15 to 17 are played on a parcel of land away from the true Tenby, both in terms of distance and the feel of the turf. I didn’t much care for the design of the 16th and whilst 15 and 17 are certainly not bad holes there is a clear separation of quality from the rest of the links. The club are trying to get this trio to blend in with the rest of the course, and give them more of a linksy feel, but I fear this is an impossible task. Personally I would play these holes as the second, third and fourth so they are long forgotten by the time you walk off the 18th. But let’s not dwell on these for they take little away from the overall experience of playing at Tenby. This is undoubtedly and magnificently captured over the first 14 holes.
In fact the third is about as good as it gets; an undulating fairway that legs to the right with a table-top green where I was advised prior to playing not to miss it right. Upon telling the professional on the day of play about my insider knowledge of this hole he simply smiled and said, “You don’t want to miss it left either.” He was of course correct and finding this green is absolutely essential unless you have the short game of a magician. Holes like this are not created; they are simply discovered amongst the dunescape.
In terms of quirk-factor the 4th has it all. An intimidating tee-shot to a fairway that falls dramatically should you drive far enough before rising up again to hide a green that is set deep in a dell.
Meanwhile the ninth has a thrilling drive to a slither of fairway not dissimilar to the third, before you play to a green tucked partially behind a huge sandhill.
Hopefully, those three holes will encourage you to visit Tenby for they are truly world-class, all-encompassing masterpieces. They are however merely the tip of an iceberg that is some 15 holes deep.
What you also have at Tenby is a real connection with the sea and the town itself. The ninth tee has the most amazing view over a sandy beach towards the picturesque harbour town edging the cliffs that look out to the small tidal island of St Catherine’s and the more distant Caldey Island beyond.
With excellent Dormy house accommodation on site at Tenby and the proximity of the club to town after just one visit this has become one of my favourite places - certainly one of the most underrated - to ‘play and stay’ when golfing not just in Wales but the entire United Kingdom.
Waterville provides a fantastic mix of championship golf & more quirky duney fun.
Dingle Golf Links, sometimes referred to as Ceann Sibéal Golf Club, is one that is trending in the right direction.