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One mile off M4 J37 follow Porthcawl signs
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Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club, commonly known as P&K, is one of Wales’s few true links courses. Its famous regal neighbour, Royal Porthcawl, lies next door. But make no mistake, Pyle and Kenfig is almost as good in places as the mighty Porthcawl.
Breathtaking views of Welsh mountains, Rest Bay and the Bristol Channel can be seen from this old links course, which was founded in 1922 and originally designed by Harry Colt. Nine holes were commandeered by the military during World War II, but after the war, it was decided to extend the course to 18 holes once again. With great foresight, some wild linksland was identified, which lay closer to the sea. Philip Mackenzie Ross (the architect behind Southerness) was asked to design the new holes…and what a job he made of it. Colt’s front nine is solid enough, but Mackenzie Ross’s back nine, routed through the dunes, is simply outstanding.
Unusually for a links course, Pyle and Kenfig is laid out in two loops of nine. The original front nine is where to make a score because the back nine is a very stiff test, especially when the wind is up. The 11th hole, a 525-yard par five known as the Valley Hole, is where the dunes come in to play – from here on in, it’s sheer entertainment. Drink in the view from the 14th tee, a 416-yard par four – the panorama towards the Gower Peninsula is stunning. Pyle & Kenfig’s last three holes (all long par fours) are amongst the best closing holes in golf. They will severely test the mettle of the very best golfers.
Solid driving is key to a good round at Pyle and Kenfig. If you can avoid the trouble and find the fairways, scoring well will be a real possibility. From the regular tees, the course measures a lowly 6,122 yards against a par of 71. Step back onto the medal tees and it’s a different proposition – 6,728 yards and the par is still 71. The club has hosted a number of important events, including the Amateur Championship in 2002 (with Royal Porthcawl) and the Girls Home Internationals in 2003. Additionally, in 2006, the club played host to the Men's Home Internationals when Scotland emerged victorious.
Good shot making will be rewarded at Pyle and Kenfig - it’s a fair golf course without any unforeseen tricks up its sleeve and the holes routed through the dunes are alone worthy of the green fee.
Front 9 is like your run of the mill parkland course.
Back 9 is far more interesting.
The Pyle and Kenfig golf course, designed by Harry Colt, reminds me of Woodbrook Golf Club outside of Ireland in that it has a bit of history, a lovely setting with lovely views from the golf course, and is a golf course worth playing if one is in the area. I would play it as the second course of the day unless one has decided to play either Royal Porthcawl or Pennard twice the same day. Or perhaps one plays it the afternoon before a day spent at the other two better known nearby courses.
The difference to Woodbrook is that Pyle and Kenfig does have six-seven noteworthy holes whereas I do not feel Woodbrook has more than three, despite its setting by the Irish Sea.
I would not compare it in class to Royal Porthcawl. While Pyle and Kenfig has several holes in the dunes and several holes offer views of the sea, it is not seaside and the dunes are only on a few holes. The best holes at Pyle and Kenfig compare only to the lesser holes at Royal Porthcawl. For me, making that sort of comparison is similar to those who say that Pacific Grove is a similar experience to playing Pebble Beach. No, Pacific Grove is not. This is not meant to be a criticism of Pyle and Kenfig as Royal Porthcawl is one of the very best golf courses in the world while Pyle and Kenfig lies somewhere in the top ten-fifteen in Wales.
As an aside, Wales is gorgeous and a lovely place to visit. Take your pick as to where you want to to: play golf, visit small villages or larger cities, take day hikes near the beaches, explore the hillier areas….etc.
There is not much reason to discuss the front nine as the holes are very standard with generous fairways and uninteresting green complexes including flatter greens. All of the holes are short for their par other than the ninth. Nearly every tee shot looks the same on the front nine except for the ninth. All of the holes, particularly the par 3’s have a good placement of bunkers although all of the bunkers should be deeper in order to add some difficulty to the front nine. The par 3’s, holes 4 and 6 are decent due to the usage of bunkers while the seventh, a short dogleg left par 4 also has good bunkering near the green. There are six bunkers on 4, 5 bunkers on 6 and another 6 bunkers on 7. However, the par 3’s are of similar length of approximately 170 yards and are visually uninteresting.
The third hole has lovely views.
One could improve the front nine considerably by narrowing the fairways, introducing more contours to the greens such as on the sixth, seventh and tenth, raise some of the greens to add fall offs or false fronts such as on the first and fourth holes, put native vegetation closer to the greens and add another ten bunkers or so. It is okay to have two tiered greens that are also raised. Fall offs can be used in combination with greenside bunkers.
While it is still a ‘short” yardage front nine, the routing is fine for the land but the holes simply lack definition and defense. As an example, the green on the fifth hole is either too large for this short downhill par 5 or should definitely add more contours and slope. I do not believe this would make the golf course too difficult; it would simply make it more interesting visually and strategically.
The better holes on the course start on the back nine, particularly holes 12-16.
Ten is an okay par 4.
Eleven starts the holes in the dunes. It is a lovely hole with out of bounds down the left side with four bunkers near the green. However, for a par 5 this hole is too easy. In my mind, it should be shortened by 30 yards and converted to a par 4 or another 45 yards added and place the green even further into the dunes as there is room here to do so without influencing the twelfth tee.
Twelve is a nice long par 3 of just over 200 yards slightly uphill that is well bunkered in the front with two bunkers on each side. There is room both right, left and back to miss the green leaving one a chance at recovery as the green is not difficult despite the right to left slope.
The thirteenth is a short par 4 of 375 yards and requires a shot to follow the marker as it is a blind tee shot to this sharp dogleg right. From the middle left of the fairway the green is tucked back to the left and hidden from view behind the dunes which ring three sides. One needs to hit a lofted shot to get close to the pin. It is not a particularly difficult chip or putt if one is just off the green. However, the grass surrounding the green on the dunes can be punitive if one finds it. It is an attractive hole and one can play all sorts of shots here.
The fourteenth is a mid-length par 4 of just over 400 yards and another dogleg right but from the tee you can see what you need to do. It has a generous sized fairway but taller grass for the very crooked tee shot. The green is fronted by two bunkers slightly pushed up on the left one. It is a larger green that has good undulations to it.
As an aside, there are lovely views of the sea and nature reserve in the distance from the tees of thirteen and fourteen.
The fifteenth is the longest par 3 on the golf course at approximately 220 yards with three bunkers fronting the green and gorse off to the right. The tee shot plays over a slight valley to the green. I think it is the best hole on the golf course.
The sixteenth is a nice long par 4 of 460 yards that falls down from the tee but rises back to the green which is two tiered. The green makes the hole. Either the sixteenth or the fourteenth is the second best hole on the golf course.
Another longer par 4 follows with a green that has a false front that is not too difficult to judge. It does have three bunkers fronting the green. You are out of the dunes for this hole and you immediately wish you had one more hole in them.
I like the finishing hole with the slightly blind tee shot and out of bounds on the left due to the road. The green has four bunkers and swales fronting it. If the green had more interesting contours to it, then it could be a very good finish to the round.
The stretch of holes from 11 to 16 are memorable enough that a visit to Pyle and Kenfig will be satisfying. It is not a golf course that one would go out of their way to play for six holes that are good but not great. There are another three holes also above average. There are wonderful views.
As stated earlier, if the club truly wanted to invest in the course, adding another 75-100 yards but more importantly if they created more challenging and interesting green complexes, brought native vegetation closer in play and narrow the fairways primarily on the front nine, they would improve both the visual and strategic elements to the course. If so, they could certainly have a top five golf course in Wales.
As it is presented today, the better views and interest are looking off the golf course instead of on the golf course.
I agree with most of what’s already been written here. Six holes are top-notch then the rest vary between good and boring. Near the road the turf doesn’t feel like a links course, and the 10th and 18th fairways were basically flooded after heavy rain. Okay there’s a stream there but that gathering of water wouldn’t happen if the ground was sandy and bouncy.
It's still playable and there’s fun to be had but P&K won’t prove the highlight of many trips. During the front nine we were more interested in gazing towards the dunes on the back. There’s a lot of bracken over there which in Autumn turned a striking red, really giving it a unique and wild look. Walking from the 10th to the 11th there is such a marked change in scenery and vibe. If only they’d built both nines over there!
It’s also a fair bit tougher over that side as wayward shots will find uneven lies. I had major trouble on the 13th, do not try and cut that dogleg. I didn’t but stuck one on the inside anyway. The par 3 15th is a bit of a redan, you can feed the ball from the right and around a bunker. The greens in that part were more interesting too but they were in good condition all over to be fair, apart from some expected puddles.
Overall, if planning a Welsh trip I wouldn’t prioritise Pyle & Kenfig but if it works out to be convenient, sure, go for it. In warmer, drier conditions the front nine would likely be more fun as well, it’s fairly wide so I’m sure you would enjoy bombing tee shots and watching them roll out.
10 day trip to Wales in July with my annual UK/Ireland regulars, P&K was first up, and perfect for first off the plane. Gentle front nice and lovely links in the dunes on the back. Pleasant ambiance, nice welcome, good caddies.nice way to start the trip. Try it!
As described, P&K is a tale of two halves. The first 9 is truthfully quite flat and bland but after the turn, the course turns into a links with some memorable holes. Yet we were disappointed. The greens were very bumpy and the green-keeping was very poor for a course that has been highly rated over the years.
WOW - still haven't got to play Royal Porthcawl but if it is much better than this it must be fantastic.
Like other reviewers I have experienced the extreme wind conditions here...some amazingly long drives and some horrifically short ones.
Well worth a visit.
Day 1 of my South Wales tour took me to Pyle & Kenfig golf course on possibly the hardest conditions i’ve ever played in. 50mph winds made it a very fun challenge however it was still a massively enjoyable day. It is a very much a course of two nines, the front nine being relatively parkland type golf whilst the back 9 was absolutely fantastic. Holes 10-14 were proper links golf holes that i thoroughly enjoyed playing, however all the other holes seemed to be a tad bland. Hole 14 would have to be my favourite, a beautiful par 4 dog leg left nearest to the sea, playing through the dunes. A truly magnificent hole. Overall it was a good course and a fun day out to play golf in the most ridiculous winds i’ve ever played.
The main take away from this course has been mentioned repeatedly below - a course of two nines. The first on links like land that is solid, but far from spectacular golf whilst the inward 9 is more like I hoped for. There are about 6 holes (11-16) played in and through the dunes and there are a few more winter holes that look great fun as well.
When you get to the high point of the course and look out behind you, does that just look like the best dune land for a golf course? Quite easily fit in 72 magnificent holes.
The first of the dune riddled holes have deep green vegetation on them and for me, for whatever reason, this reduces the appeal of them. The other holes go back to that classic look and really do look great. If you like that type of golf I strongly suggest Perranporth.
A long, tough finish is good and all up it averages out at a solid 4 balls. Warren from Aust
Anyone going to Pyle & Kenfig should opt to play the inner half of holes -- twice. The front nine is totally pedestrian in nature and devoid of anything that speaks to architectural merit. When one goes from the front to the back it's literally like the scene in Wizard of Oz when you're transported from the black and white images of Kansas and then you see the grandeur and color that is Oz.
The inner half of holes takes advantage of dunes land nearest to the ocean and really jettisons aside the yawns from the opening side.
I have to shake my head when anyone thinks of linking P&K to the stature of its next-door neighbor -- Royal Porthcawl. Truly there's nothing to connect the two besides being located near to one another.
It's also important to point out -- that unlike another Welsh course -- Aberdovey -- that I viewed as being heavily tilted to one 9-hole side -- at P&K the holes on its inward half are not consistently top tier. There are roughly six -- maybe seven tops -- that really stand out for attention.
One can only wonder if P&K had both nines on the side of the dunes land what the outcome would have been. A pity.
by M. James Ward
I'm in complete agreement with the above review. I feel that P&K would actually benefit from being a 9 hole layout. Holes 11-15 that are routed through the dunes are a real delight and in my opinion are a match for anything at Royal Porthcawl. In contrast to this, the closing two holes are very ordinary and the front 9 in particular is a major disappointment over flatter, much less inspiring land. My opinion of P&K might be clouded by the fact that I played the back 9 first but I'm frankly always surprised to see P&K in the mix when the best courses in Wales are discussed; more than 6 or 7 quality holes are needed to be considered a top class golf course.
Apparently, you can’t write a review about P&K without mentioning nearby Royal Porthcawl. So, I will. I've never played it and probably I never will. Personally, I find it a bit eyewatering on the green fees. I wonder if they have an open?
So, Pyle and Kenfig then. They say in Scotland, "if there's nae wind, It's nae golf." and I would say that any links course without at least a stiff breeze is naked, like Fish without the Chips. Fortunately for our happy band we stepped out of our cars into sunshine and the kind of breeze that made you squint and lean. Now, I'm from a heath land course and I have read about the "2 nines." cliche of P&K and to be frank it had dissuaded me from coming sooner. I can confirm: it’s nae heathland boyo. I was expecting something of a Rolls Royce towing a caravan but in fact, the contrast is far less pronounced between the two nines than I was lead to believe. I took in the sublime and liberating 25-mile sea views from the tumbling fairways of the front nine and considered drilling my ball forwards. We made progress with exhilarating and varying degrees of success, it felt like a proper links to me. There are crumples, humps and hollows, hunkered traps and upturned cereal bowls for greens. What there aren’t, are the towering dunes. After five or six wonderful holes, I was really looking forward to meeting the other Sister.
The wind may have flattered the Front Nine but on the back nine it batters. I can imagine that even without the wind, the back nine would be a visceral expedition. Dunes, Blind shots, stark elevation changes, parapet tees and quirky cupped greens. Tick, tick and tick. It is a hard course this and first time out of the box maybe doubly so. I must, however, mention the carnage that is the 11th. In essence a par 5 dog leg to the left that has the bones of a great hole but there is a practice green of ancient vintage, decaying, 100 yards in front of the tee. For a moment, you wonder whether this is some kind of trick? It’s a pointless and ugly distraction. Then at 300 yards there seems to a be another phantom 11th veering high and to the right in the dunes. ??? It seems this sister holds her knife like a pen and pronounces the “Huh” when she says H.
We pressed on from one super golf hole to the next, it’s a dizzying assault on the senses until finally you reach the relative safety and convention of the last three holes. The sweeping journey is over. On reflection I think you shouldn’t choose between the P and the K when you can enjoy both.