We are very lucky to live in or adjacent to a ‘little piece of heaven on Earth’ as David Lloyd George famously described the Ceiriog Valley. And are we not ‘heaven’ blessed to have such first rate golf courses within striking distance of a well-played Par 5? The jewels in the golfing crown are surely the well-established golf clubs at Oswestry and the Vale of Llangollen.
If the Vale and Oswestry are the Oscar winners of the area, then we have a worthy Best Supporter at Henlle. These three attractive courses offer a substantial and enjoyable challenge to all golfers, irrespective of ability.
Vale of Llangollen
The scenery at the Vale of Llangollen is outstanding with magnificent views of the Dee Valley, whichever way you hit your ball. The holes are demanding but the walk is relatively easy, apart from a steep climb at the end of the ninth and from the 18th to the clubhouse. The view out over the course from the comfortably furnished clubhouse is stunning.
The signature hole is undoubtedly the long par 4 ninth that runs alongside the river. It requires a tee shot towards the right side of the fairway so you can see round the left hand dogleg to the green. But beware the big tree to block you out and there’s a watery grave to catch you out if you venture too far right. To finish the hole is a delightfully long two level contoured green that will test your pace, break and line judgement.
The 18th makes for a memorable par 3 finishing hole. It looks simple at around 150 yards but can prove a test of nerve and mettle when you’re teeing off in front of all the assembled golfers watching from the decking area above. A final note of caution here – be mindful of the wind, it’s often not blowing in the direction you think!
Oswestry Golf Club
Oswestry Golf Club is another well-kept, well established club with stunning views across the Shropshire countryside, some beautiful feature holes and has an enviable ability to drain away most amounts of rainfall to stay open, although the past winter’s snowfalls did put its great greenkeepers to the test.
Like Llangollen, the walk is not too difficult, although the climbs at 17 and 18 are a bit steep when your legs are running out of puff. The holes are varied, and those running along the club’s borders can be testing for golfers whose ball flight is naturally left to right. Farmland and the Montgomery Canal await the stray slice! The course is kept in immaculate condition and the greens are ultra reliable, giving the golfer no excuses for poor shots or putts.
My favourite hole is the 7th, a short par four that comes back to the clubhouse and measuring just short of 300 yards from the yellow tees. For the longer hitter, taking on the green is tempting if you can clear the trees or slide the ball right to left around them. However, if you hit left to right best mindful of the Greenkeeper’s compound.
Oswestry’s excellent clubhouse offers a panoramic view out over the course with great views of the 7th and 18th greens as well as the 1st tee, which makes your first shot of the day that much more intimidating.
Henlle Golf Club
Henlle is very new in comparison to the established duo, but has some stunning holes that run around or across lakes and ponds that boast an array of waterfowl. You’ll catch the occasional heron seeking out lunch.
Some of these watery hazards are not immediately obvious when you are playing the course, which adds to the degree of difficulty. And there are some intimidating mature trees inconveniently in direct line to your target. If you are the type of golfer who hates the thought of splashing out of sand, then be heartened at Henlle. There are very few bunkers on the course, but other hazards more than make up for the lack of sand.
I have a love/hate relationship with the 12th at Henlle. It is a long (180 yards) par 3 that requires a tee shot through a corridor of trees and over water. I love it because of the view from the tee. I hate it because I invariably play it poorly!
But my favourite hole is the 14th. So far, these courses have punished the drive with a left to right flight. Standing on the 14th tee, it is perfect for the faded tee shot. But take care here, hidden at the bottom of the hill is one of Henlle’s dreaded ponds.
A good tee shot at 14 gives you about a seven iron through another corridor of trees to a delightful sloping green, protected by a couple of the few bunkers on the course. Always a pleasure to play that hole well.
Henlle’s rather grand looking clubhouse is extremely well equipped for functions and has a good bar and terrace area for that much needed refreshment after 18 holes.
A final tip, whether you’re looking to improve your game, or just starting out, give the pro at Oswestry GC a call. Richard is a PGA accredited golf coach. Personable, supportive and encouraging, he keeps it simple. He has a swing room too, where you can work on specific areas of your game and get all the analysis you need… to make your next round even better.
Words by Ian Payne