Pennard Golf Club in South Wales: you'll either love or hate this historic links stuck in time
In discussions I’ve had with other golf industry people about Wales, one particular course has come up more than any other. It isn’t Ryder Cup host Celtic Manor or the country’s most prestigious links Royal Porthcawl.
“Be sure to see Pennard,” they all said. In a recent interview with architect Tom Doak, he named it among his five best “undiscovered links” in the Isles (to put things in perspective, he considers Scotland’s out-of-the-way Machrihanish closer to mainstream than hidden).
I finally saw Pennard Golf Club today and was blown away. The course opened in 1896 and seems to have bypassed the 20th century entirely. It’s more of a mountain top course than a links course, loosely resembling similar rugged and rocky topography I’ve seen in South Africa’s Western Cape.
Now, this isn’t a world-class links in terms of playability (especially playing it just after Royal Porthcawl in the morning, which is as good of a links as anywhere in the British Isles - more on that later). Pennard is very quirky and first-timers to the club don’t stand a chance of playing most of the holes properly. The fairways can’t be more than 10-15 yards wide and are in some spots unidentifiable. The rough is at times bare, while thick and tall elsewhere without much rhyme or reason. Take a hickory-shafted set of clubs out and you’re playing 19th century golf, and will probably shoot better, to boot. Big metal drivers do more harm than good here. Tour operators in Wales say their clients who play Pennard call them either gushing about Pennard or cursing it.
The par-5 16th hole is simply incredible. I’m racking my brain for a prettier hole I’ve ever seen in my travels and can’t name one. It’s simply jaw-dropping, perched well over the sea. You can look way down and see little beaches tucked between rocks, filled with locals out in swim suits and some are even surfing (in temps around 65 degrees, by the way).
You won’t find a more vintage and visually stunning course in the British Isles than at Pennard Golf Club. Whatever opinions you come away with will be strong ones.
More on Pennard and Wales to come at WorldGolf.com
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