I marvel at the degree of authority that some golfing publications bestow upon themselves when it comes to categorising the golf courses of the world.

Golf Digest , for instance, one of the cloutiest international magazines, recently felt able to list the best hundred golf courses outside the United States . How many of the world's best hundred are there inside the USA, I wonder?

A few, I suppose. Three of the Hot Hundred, I was fascinated to note, are in Wales.

Royal Porthcawl, they will be delighted and perhaps mildly surprised to know, is the 15th best non-American course on our planet and is ninth best in the British part of it - which will certainly surprise Birkdale, Lytham, Hoylake and Royal St George's all of whom it exceeds.

The second ranked course in Wales (and 67th in the world), no one will be surprised to learn, is Royal St David's, at Harlech. But this is a course, surely, that deserves a special listing.

Is there another par-69 championship course anywhere? Not one so tough, I'll wager.

Harlech has been a blind spot for me for all my golfing days. I was born not 40 minutes away, as a fast crow flies, I have been regaled with stories of the place for year after year and yet I had never experienced its pleasures. Until last week.

They were dressing the greens so the legend of the strain they put on one's putting skills could not be tested. But the course is as severe, the back nine, anyway, as to put serious doubts on your ability to play the game and, yes, I agree with everyone: the 15th is a killer, especially as the marker post is in the wrong place, or so it seemed to me.

But the point about St David's is its setting. It is drenched in atmosphere, what with those magnificent mountains in the background and, of course, the castle.

For anyone with a feeling for history, when you gaze at that ancient pile, and if you know what it represents, golf becomes secondary.

A fearful guardhouse is how one writer described Harlech Castle, one of a string of such places that Edward the First erected following his predacious move on Wales in the 13th century.

Coincidentally, I had just finished Jan Morris's compelling book Wales in which she describes Edward's invasion thus: "This was conquest: not infiltration, not suzerainty . . . but the seizure of one country by the armed forces of another and its suppression by an army of occupation." (Does that explain why the Welsh tend to gloat a little when they beat England at rugby football?)

But in 1404 Owain Glyndwr captured Harlech (the most thrilling of all Edward's castles, according to Morris), established a Welsh parliament and from this tiny spot on the north Wales coast, conducted his affairs of state.

"A little nation . . . living, epically, on the knife-edge of history."

Phrases like that stick in the mind when you stand on the fairway at Royal St David's and look inland at that awesome structure.

Now, St David's has its own history. When the seas retreated a few centuries ago, they left a stretch of land on which our forbears had the very good sense, in 1894, to lay down a links and well done, them.

No need, here, to eulogise this famous golfing place. But in the clubhouse they are presently displaying a series of plans for, shall we say, the amendment of the course.

Modern technology, it seems, has rendered it less of a challenge than it once was, expert eyes have been cast on it and it is proposed that no fewer than 11 holes shall be changed.

Whenever I read of historic golf courses coming up for " alteration" I think of well-meaning individuals moving into the Louvre and touching up the Mona Lisa.

But Harlech wants to stay on the various championship rosters and these changes are, apparently, necessary.

I don't think the intrinsic character of the course will be harmed and as I understand it, the Castle is not to be sold and then converted by Tesco.

Then I turned for Birmingham and in the hills, near the village of Trawsfynydd, I called in at the farmhouse that was home to one Ellis Evans, Hedd Wyn, to give him his bardic name.

Evans earned fame for writing a poem in the Belgian trenches in 1917, submitting it to the National Eisteddfod at Birkenhead, and, fatally, taking a German bullet without knowing that he had won the chair.

The chair was covered by a black cloth, transported to his home, it has been known ever since as the Black Chair and I went to see it and the five others that this gentle man won in his short lifetime.

And I spoke to Mr Gerald Williams, the son of one of Hedd Wyn's sisters, who cares for the sheep and acts as eloquent curator of this tiny, touching museum.

Had he seen the terrific war film Hedd Wyn, that was made in 1993 that was nominated for a Hollywood Oscar? He had and was not impressed by its sincerity. Why? I asked.

"Too much drinking of beer; too many women in it," he replied. "It was juiced up."

There will be those who hope that they are not juicing up, too much, that famous golf course which lies just down the road.