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One mile off M4 J37 follow Porthcawl signs
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Harry Colt, Philip Mackenzie Ross
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.
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.
There’s so much good stuff to talk about at Pyle and Kenfig it’s not hard to see why it’s regarded as one of the best courses in Wales and a personal favourite of many.
Due to its proximity ‘P&K’ is often compared to Porthcawl and whilst there are many similarities, particularly the green complexes, it doesn’t quite match its Royal neighbour from a true championship perspective.
However, it makes up for a lot of that in the charm it exudes between holes 11 and 14 and the venue has staged many notable championships itself over the years.
For the most part Pyle & Kenfig plays as an upland links on high ground with only a distant view of the sea on several holes. The entire front nine, on the East side of a road that dissects the course in half, has a lovely feel to it but also teases the golfer with a view of the fairways and greens of the back nine that meander between large dunes on the other side of the road.
However, my advice wouldn’t be to rush the outward half because there is plenty of merit in these holes with a number of strong par fours; the opening three being particularly good whilst the seventh and eight each dog-leg slightly but to different sides. Two par fives, running in opposite directions, are also solid holes and the one-shotters are sound too.
The subtle front nine may not have the eye-candy of the second half, or be as dramatic, but there is an authority about the holes that commands respect. It isn’t true rugged links golf and doesn’t possess an ounce of quirk but it is solid golf nonetheless and goes about its business in an efficient manner.
Pyle and Kenfig is a super course in an area blessed with many fine links. It can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the majority of them and with on-site Dormy accommodation it is a great place to base yourself out of if visiting this lovely part of the country.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.