Ah Pennard, you’ve truly found a place in my heart. What a stunning location. Situated 200 feet above sea level and offering glorious views across the Gower Peninsula and out to the Pill Estuary and Three Cliffs Bay, Pennard is every bit a true and genuine links. Set perfectly immersed within dunes, every single hole has an abundance of personality.
I admit that Pennard will divide opinion. Sure, the course may be a little agricultural in places, livestock can be found wandering the course at certain times of the year and although they weren’t erected when I played, I understand that a select number of greens are sometimes surrounded by fencing to guard from straying cattle. It’s not immaculately maintained in the way that Open rota courses are, but what a supreme layout this is. It may even be the best piece of land across which I’ve ever played golf.
Pennard shares lots of similarities with James Braid’s other designs at Perranporth and Brora which are also wonderful golfing landscapes and the course feels untouched and as Braid intended. Most holes are played blind, hitting towards marker posts to infinity fairways and hidden green sites. Wickedly undulating fairways merge into heavily contoured greens and the holes themselves are played across an assortment of directions. The course will cause confusion to most golfers experiencing the links for the first time; the 3rd tee for example, with no directional marker post in sight on this dogleg hole surrounded by shallow dunes, the fairway and green are largely hidden from view.
The 4th hole is where you’ll get your first real sight of the wonderful views on offer at Pennard. Don’t become too distracted though as this short par five asks questions of the golfer to find the right angles on each shot if you’re hoping to avoid an early meltdown. The plethora of humps and hollows that are a feature throughout the course begin to come into play on the 6th whilst the 7th, a hole that features a church wall to the left and ruins of a castle to the right has the most wonderfully awkward green complex. Making par at the testing 9th hole is a wonderful score whilst the par five 10th is characteristic of the eccentricities you’ll face at Pennard. Another hole that left me scratching my head on the tee to the point where I had to walk the first hundred yards of the fairway until I was sure of my strategy before hitting my tee shot. A six-iron from the tee followed by a hybrid-three into the elevated green ended up being the perfect play and an extremely satisfying birdie ensued. Quirky as this hole may be and surely not to everyone’s appetites, taking my bias from making birdie aside, I still found Pennard’s 10th to be an absolute beauty.
After this, the drama doesn’t let up and if anything gets turned up a notch. The 11th green is simply perched onto the side of a hill but approach with caution as this tiered green, complete with false front will spit the ball back at you if you’re not accurate for distance.
The slopes at Pennard aren’t subtle, typified by the 12th fairway that will repel any ball away to the right rough. In these burnt out Summer conditions, I could see no way of finding the fairway and this would be my one main criticism of the course with the 18th fairway also being similarly angled. Yet another severe slope greets you on the 13th, this time a par three so only the poor shots go punished here, but no matter what the quality of your tee shot, breathe in the wonderful views of the clifftop campsite and beach in the distance that will surely soften the blow of any poorly timed golf shot.
Signature holes then keep coming head-on, 14 with its massive humps in the fairway, some of which are over 10’ high, playing sharply uphill to a raised green. Then 15, a par three on top of the hill that plays to a tremendous peanut shaped green. 16 is a stunner and the first of two back to back par fives playing out to the corner of the cliff whilst the scenery from the 17th tee is equally breath-taking. I had to wait for the group in front here to clear so was able to soak in the soft afternoon light across the sea and watch horses go trotting along the beach. What a sight.
Once ready and when the group in front rings the bell, you’ll find that the 17th snakes in a double dogleg shape around gorse. I found myself out of position with my tee shot here and discovered the hole to be overly penal; it’s tight, blind and unforgiving. Plop; into the gorse my ball went and my first lost ball. It was the end of my score, but it didn’t dampen my spirits about the quality of this wonderful course. There’s just nothing pretentious about Pennard, and that’s why I loved it. Pennard speaks to my tastes; it’s absolutely my cup of tea, and make that a big mug of welsh brew with a chocolate biscuit on the side.
Pennard might well be known for being the “Links in the Sky” but even that description alone doesn’t quite do the course justice, Pennard is as beautiful as it is dramatic and, in my opinion, one of the finest links courses in the UK.
By the way, did I mention the views?
Date: July 12, 2018