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A breathtaking view of the Rhinog Mountains greets you on the 10th tee. A straight drive over the marker is important to avoid the OOB on the left, the hidden bunkers on the right and to be positioned for the approach shot to the green. Take an extra club for your second shot to avoid the bunkers protecting both sides of the entrance. The 10th will give you a good flavour of things to come on the back 9.
On days when the Russian bear has sent a strong Siberian wind, the 11th will be one of the toughest on the course. Any type of wind makes club selection critical and, generally, one extra club to what you think will usually pay dividends due to mounds in front of the green. The safest play is to the right hand side of the green which, if you don’t hit or stay on it, may leave you In Porthmadog’s own “Valley of Sin” but with a very reasonable chance of an up and down.
The 12th is a spectacular short par 4 hole, which has the potential to be a card wrecker if not played with your golfing brain tuned in. It is usually set up such that stronger players can try and drive the green. Others should play a mid iron to the bottom of the slope and then a short iron. The beach of the beautiful Sampson’s Bay is not a place for golf balls – it is OOB - and balls are a danger to walkers, dogs, sunbathers and any other non golfing species so be careful with your tee shot. Just below the green on the right is Porthmadog’s most challenging bunker with black hole properties! So, being slightly long rather than short is usually better. The bank behind the green is, however, coastal grass which may trap the ball if you are unlucky so a par here is a good result.
The 13th tee provides one of the greatest scenic outlooks in the UK so take a breather and look around you. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, if you tire of this view, you are tired of life (who needs London anyway?!). When you switch the golf brain back on, club selection and shot will vary from day to day with the wind and given the steep drop from tee to green. As with many holes, one extra club will usually yield a better result as the large dunes in front are still some way from the bowl shaped green.
For men, the 14th nearly always provides the biggest challenge of the day as they face the Himalayas - routinely voted as one of Wales’s top 18 holes- and often played into a head on Westerly wind. The carry is longer the further left you go and so over or slightly to the right of the marker is the better tee shot. Ladies are much luckier as they start from the top of the dunes. However, the second shot for both defines the quality of the hole. OOB to the left and beyond the green plus several fairway bunkers and three around the green provide plenty of challenges. Even strong players will be happy with a par here.
The 15th is a classic links hole with no bunkers but a fairway that defines the word “undulating” – which looks most impressive in a low setting sun. A tee shot towards the left half of the fairway will give the best approach. The green is over 40 yards long, elevated and protected by steep coastal mounds right and left, covered in ball devouring grass. If your tee shot leaves more than a short iron to the pin, then the smart play might be to lay up just in front of the slope to the green and try for a chip and putt.
A short par 4, which is defined by the approach shot. Plenty of trouble if your tee shot is too far right and it may obscure the green so a line just left of the marker with a slight fade is the optimal shot. A large bunker in front, plus one right and left and OOB at the back require that you need an accurate second where the centre of the green is the best place to aim for- irrespective of pin position.
The 17th is a classic par 5. The tiger line for strong players is over the marker on the corner of the gorse with a slight fade to give the best chance of reaching the green in two. For all players, there is plenty of gorse and coastal vegetation on both sides to catch anything that is wayward. The second shot is best played to the right hand side of the fairway to set up a clear approach. The split level green is surrounded by heather and trees and has a horseshoe burn in front so an accurate approach shot – whether your second, third (or more) is vital.
A great finishing hole. Two hidden fairway bunkers on the left and plenty of gorse on the right as you stand on the tee. The U between the two Moelwyns in the distance gives a great view and a good line. You can play left to Moelwyn Mawr with a slight fade or a more tigerish line is to start just to the right of Moelwyn Bach with a draw – the latter perhaps more for stronger players. The green slopes quite steeply from front to back and has tricky bunkers either side waiting to catch a wayward second shot. Playing short to the front centre of the green is the safest route if your name is not Mickelson and will leave an uphill putt and a chance of a great birdie to be celebrated at the 19th!