Royal Porthcawl Golf Club is located on the Glamorgan Coast in Wales, near Swansea. The club was founded in 1891 as a nine holer, and then became eighteen holes in 1895. It was granted 'Royal' status by King Edward V11 in 1909. Harry Colt made extensive renovations to the course in 1913, which was again changed by Hawtree & Taylor in 1925, and Tom Simpson in 1933.
The course is set in rolling linksland right on the coast. There are no large dunes, but a consistent low lying rolling sandy terrain proves to be in this case the perfect location for a championship links course. And that is most certainly is!
The routing at Royal Porthcawl is a little unusual for a links course- it is not out and back, nor 2 loops of nine- rather the entire 18 holes move off to all points of the compass, only returning to the clubhouse at the eighteenth hole which crosses over the first...
The quality of the turf at Porthcawl is as good as any of the top links, and the whole course is beautifully maintained. My sources say it is like this all year round.
I was particularly struck by the bunkering at Porthcawl. Fairways were strategically bunkered, but not overly so- and greens were defended staunchly by these yawning holes. All are revetted pot bunkers- some big, some small- but all very deep- over the years they had to be made deeper to retain the sand which earlier simply blew away. And each of them has contours surrounding them effectively making the drawing area for the bunkers so much larger. To a degree, the look of those deep yawning bunkers defines the look of Royal Porthcawl.
The greens themselves are impressive- large, with tiers giving numerous pin positions, and not overly contoured. If you are good enough these greens will reward your good shots...
There are a number of teeing grounds ranging from reasonable up to 7096 yards off the back markers. Playing a long par 4 into the wind it was unnerving to look back up to 40 yards to see a back tee nestled into the rough behind. These guys are good!
The course starts strongly with 3 strong par 4's right along the coast, and never lets up. There are no weak holes, and no hole is alike. This is a championship course of the highest order, and in my opinion is an obvious candidate for The Open Championship. With The Open returning to Royal Portrush in 2019, Wales is the only country in the UK not to have hosted it, and in Porthcawl we have the best possible option. My understanding is that some discussion is happening even now, so one day this may happen. I hope so- because it is a most deserving site.
When one plays Royal Porthcawl the wind is ever present- sometimes mild breezes, sometimes stronger- but ever present. It defines your game. I would strongly suggest repeat games at Porthcawl!
While there are no weak holes, I do have some favourites:
Holes 1-3 run away from the clubhouse, straight along the beach, and fully exposed to the wind. It's an 'in your face' start!
Hole 4- a mid length uphill par 3 which turns away from the beach. A pair of imposing bunkers must be carried to reach the long contoured green..
Hole 6- a strong par 4 playing inland with a green angled right to left with a large bunker protecting the front left of the green, and further sand waiting to catch the ball which strays long..
Hole 7- a short par 3 with bunkers and mounding galore. The green complex here is subtly different in look and feel to the rest of the course, and apparently this is the result of Tom Simpson's work in 1933. The kidney shaped green is pinched in the middle and is quite narrow- with pot bunkers either side at this point. It is a wonderful links golf hole!
Hole 8- a short par 5 with stone wall and bunkers tightening the landing area for the second shot. Do you lay up or take it on? It's a classic risk/reward par 5.
Hole 10- a shorter par 4 which can play long when the wind is hurting. I love the low table top green running left to right to the fairway.
Hole 11- another classic par 3 with a quality green surface protected by more of those yawning bunkers. Love it!
Hole 12- a par 5 with a blind carry over rough and a sandy ridge to a fairway peppered with pot bunkers as you near the hole.
Hole 13 is a strong par 4 downhill. It is one of the famous holes at Porthcawl, and the second shot has to carry some turbulent ground. However the tee shot here did not impress me, as it was largely undefined, and exposed- making it hard to find the fairway with strong cross winds off the tee. Such a pity given the epic approach!
Hole 14- another wonderful par 3 exposed to the cross winds.
Hole 16- a strong par 4 with impressive fairway cross bunkering dominating the hole.
Hole 18 is a par 4 playing directly toward the sea in front of the clubhouse. It crosses the first hole. With the sea as a backdrop and rough terrain to be carried for the last 100 yards or so, it is a fitting closing hole for a quality championship course.
There are no weak holes!
And after the golf, the clubhouse awaits!
Unimposing from the outside the clubhouse is warm and welcoming on the interior, and a great place to spend some time. Service levels are excellent and there is plenty of history to absorb.
The club also boasts a dormy house with 3 double rooms (each with ensuite and sitting room), and 6 single rooms.
Royal Porthcawl is a Travelling Golfer 'must play'.
Other Golf Courses in the Area
Other golf courses in the area worth considering are:
Pyle & Kenfig GC
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