Porthcawl: A right royal day out!

One of the great seaside links

Michael Smyth
Thu, 18 Apr 2013
Porthcawl: A right royal day out!

Royal Porthcawl is as traditional a links course as you will find anywhere in the world. Ease into the club's car park and immediately your surroundings paint a picture that promises an unforgettable day playing golf by the seaside with a rustic clubhouse perched above the beach and views beyond stretching across the Bristol Channel.

Founded in 1891 the club is home to arguably the greatest course design that legendary Harry Colt shaped during the last century - eventually created exactly 100 years ago.

I couldn't wait to stride to the first tee, where the sea immediately comes into play. It's a short opening par-4 with a prevailing easterly wind bent on helping my tee shot towards the the beach or at the very least gobbled up by a nest of pot bunklers that are a Colt trademark.

Avoid the hazards and the approach is uphill with a short iron to a green where par-4 is more than acceptable.

Second and third holes follow the flow of the land – another Colt trait – before turning my back to the Channel with a par-3 of 200 yards that demands a well stuck 4-iron that is both crisp and accurate to a green that slopes from the back.

The par-5 fifth is a generous driving hole with a plateau green, while six favours the right side of the fairway to set up a mid iron to a surface that is both flat and smooth.

It's always refreshing to play a par-3 hole that is the architect's Royal Troon's Postage Stamp and the 7th is certainly that at just 122 yards. But while it's short in stature it's also treacherous with its narrow entrance protected by a necklace of pot bunkers, one of which I found with my approach.

A touch of draw spin off the tee is demanded at the par-5 8th and if successful then with tail wind, the cross bunkers 75yards short of green should not come into play.

On the way to the 9th tee, the almost-halfway hut backs onto what surely must be one of the most generous practice grounds in the UK and provides my first sampling of Welsh cockles and fairy cakes washed down with an equally welcome cuppa.

On then to the 9th surely among the best two-shotters in the land requiring a tee shot drawn on to the fairway avoiding a greedy bunker before a committing an approach to a green, typical of Colt's upturned style surrounded by gathering areas surrounding it.   

The short par-4 tenth offers a little respite before the par-3 11th tempts you into hitting one club extra than you might think to find the well protected green.

Colt loved the occasional blind tee shot and the par-5 12th asks just such a searching question but demands that the golfer avoids bunkers and gorse to set up a birdie opportunity.  Following the dogleg 13th comes a par-3 that allows no margin for error. Miss the plateau green and you'll fight to secure even a bogey!

The final four holes provide a stiff test with 15, 16 and 17 uphill and 18 a fitting finish in front of a clubhouse that has hosted many of the game's legends including a 19-year-old Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup. For the forthcoming Speedy Services Wales Seniors Championship, the par-5 17th will provide a fitting climax as the final hole, offering as it does the chance of birdie or even eagle to claim the title.

The current 18th will become a somewhat inverted opening hole - as was Woburn's Dukes course for so many top championships.

Like many links courses the wind is a big factor and although more than 7,000 yards off the tips, I found length not as much a premium as positional play.


What is unique about Royal Porthcawl is that despite its rich tournament history and prestigious standing you are treated like a member for the day by the friendly staff from the clubhouse to the half way hut.

Affable head pro Peter Evans, only the third to hold the post in the club's history, is worth seeking out for a story or two based on his knowledge of the course and its surroundings. An onsite dormy house with rooms at very reasonable rates.

Whether basing your next golf trip here or swinging by for just the day, this ‘must play’ venue is certainly golf for grown ups.

Green fees: £115 (Monday-Thursday); £125 (Friday); £135 (weekends and bank holiday); Day tickets from £165

Address: Rest Bay, Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan, CF36 3UW

Telephone: 01656 782 251 (clubhouse); 01656 773702 (pro shop)

Website: www.royalporthcawl.com

Getting There: Royal Porthcawl is roughly four miles from junction 37 of the M4 in South Wales. The closest train stations are Pyle (five miles) and Bridgend (eight miles).

Golfmagic's Andy Roberts took on Rhys Davies at Royal Porthcawl in 2011. Click here to see how he got on.

Have you played Porthcawl? What did you think? Share you views with us in the forum below and on Twitter.