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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.
Unusually for a links course Pyle & Kenfig is laid out in two loops of nine holes. Even more unusual is the fact that the club has 23 holes. Five additional holes were added in 1983, largely designed by members. These holes are used to rest holes 11-15 in the winter months, and for use by the junior academy.
Whilst Harry Colt is known as one of the great golf architects of any era, the holes he designed- primarily the front nine- run through more parkland like terrain which I dont believe has as much interest as the back nine routed through the dunes.
Favourite holes include: - hole 1- an uphill par 4 with a lovely green setting - hole 4- a mid iron par 3 - hole 6- a short par 3 uphill
The real interest and the reason you would visit Kyle & Penfig would be to play holes 11-15 which play through some real linksland:
- hole 11 is a par 5 which brings you up into the dunes with the approach to a green which is nicely bunkered both short and at the front of the green. It is a wee bit intimidating!
- hole 12 is a long par 3 which is partially blind off the tee. The green sits in a dell surrounded by bracken, and again has 2 bunkers greenside, and 2 more just short of the green. Playing downwind, with a front pin, and mostly unseen from the men's tee, it was a challenge!
- hole 13 is a tease! It is a short dogleg par 4 with a blind tee shot, and a green partially obscured by a large dune. As the fairway doglegs sharply to the right and the hole is not long it is very easy to hit through the fairway or get the line altogether wrong. Playing it for the first time, with no concept of what lay ahead, and a howling wind, the blind tee shot was a lottery. However I can imagine that knowing the hole one would be able to negotiate it somewhat more competently on a regular basis...It is probably only a fairway wood off the tee, and a short iron.
- hole 14 is again a dogleg par 4 and this time some of the fairway is in sight. With a strong cross wind the challenge was to know where the fairway ended and the rough began, and then to hit the short stuff.
- hole 15 is a long downhill par 3 with another green set in a dell. The green cannot be seen from the mens tee, but from the ladies tee it is quite a pretty hole.
If I had the opportunity to play Pyle & Kenfig again I would head straight to the back nine and play these holes over. The key is to know where you are going and to hit an accurate tee shot. Otherwise it is no fun at all! But hit the fairway and life is all beer and skittles!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I have played this course hundreds of times and one of the joys is that it rarely plays the same twice!. I can fully appreciate the views of those that have only played the course once or twice and subsequently don’t rate the front 9. I felt the same the first few times I played it but gradually I fully appreciated the subtle design and challenges (the 9th is great golf hole and would be worthy of any championship finishing hole, shame it’s not the 18th!) but even if you don’t rate the front 9 you are in for truly world class experience on the back 9.
Holes 11-17 are world class and whilst not the condition of Royal Porthcawl these holes are the equal of anything on the Wales no1 course.
Finally its clubhouse and welcome are 2nd to none in Wales if you live local and are looking for a club to join, you will not be disappointed if they accept you into their ranks.
Tip: try to play the course from the white tees it’s a different test to the yellows (don’t be tempted with the blue tees!!)
Firstly ..... the back nine is fantastic and I would honestly say is as good a 9 holes as I have played anywhere, it is truly very very special.
However in line with some other reviews the front nine is not special at all other than 2 great par 3's and it does feel like a field with greens, all be it great greens and very well sculpted , but nevertheless feels like a farmland course.
However the positives of the back nine far outweigh the negatives of the front nine and this is a must play course.
My strong advice is make sure you play front nine first and class this as a warm up, once you hit the back nine you are in for a real treat that equals if not betters most top courses anywhere.
If we start by looking at rankings, I think 5th in South Wales, is about right. Would I prefer to play any of the ones below over this one? Probably not, though it would be a close run thing between P&K and St Pierre, Rolls, Newport and Clyne (for which I have a soft spot).
So, in terms of score, I would score P&K a solid 4 – it’s definitely a good course to seek out if in the area. 4 for me, is therefore fair, though if ranked 5th in South Wales then you could argue for a 4.5!
When I look at past reviews, in my opinion, the 2.5s and 3s are a bit harsh, compared to scores I see for other potentially lesser courses – it almost seems as P&K is being judged against different standards, maybe due to the difference in look & feel between the 2 nines.
When I see words like over-rated (how can it be – it only scores 3.5, so who is over-rating it?) or run of the mill parkland (it’s not – its heathland with links feel for a start), good to boring and bland I wonder if I am playing the same course. I feel the strong language is a little over the top and is harsher criticism than I have seen for other courses on this site that have similar flaws and issues. P&K doesn’t claim to be the best course in the world and is fairly priced for what it is (it does represent excellent Value for Money in my book), which is a solid, welcoming course in beautiful surroundings.
I also see comments about using the dunes better – I guess not every course has the money (or desire) to do what has been done at say Trump International or Castle Stuart, nor would they necessarily be allowed to given the adjoining land is a Nature Reserve and SSSI. There is a place for all types of courses, and I just wanted to share my counter opinion so people can judge for themselves. Each to their own I guess though – I just like the place and see it for what it is… The R&A also must share my view as they have used it 3 times this century to host the Amateur Championship (with Royal Porthcawl), so consider their opinion as well, and not just mine!
Clearly the front 9 is not as exciting as some of the back 9, but the holes are strong – I like 2 which is a challenge to hit the fairway, whilst 5 and 9 are visually appealing par 5s, and the 2 par 3s are sporting holes, with good greens. 7 is also a strong par 4 which requires good placement. As other reviewers have suggested, the back 9 is excellent in the main, with 11-16 being top drawer in my opinion and would not look out of place on any course in the UK.
The conditioning has always been excellent whenever I have played as well. I tend to play during the winter when other courses in my area (Bristol) are wet and I always look forward to playing P&K (as well as Royal Porthcawl & Southerndown) – how lucky are the people of Glamorgan to have these courses on their doorsteps?
Extremely overrated! I'll start with the good stuff; the back nine is good. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 are all really good holes in dunes and great links land. However, the other 13 holes are in a field, with no dunes and very underwhelming features. 4 is a nice par 3, as is 6. But overall the course is extremely average and you'll wish you played Pennard, Southerndown or Porthcawl instead.
I think Harry Colt and Alistair McKenzie Ross the designers and architects of Pyle and Kenfig would have strongly disagreed with your average critique.
A completely fair review Peter, not sure as a secretary/manager you can give a completely fair and unbiased opinion. Surely you have to look past it and see that other than the great stretch of 4/5 holes on the back nine it is not a special golf course and there are better courses around. But I suppose when you work there it’s a tough pill to swallow
Comical… I’m sure Alistair McKenzie Ross (whoever he is) couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t say P&K is “Extremely overrated” but it has to be said that the first 10 holes and the last hole are not classics, however 11 through to 17 are the real deal. This is one of those “if only” courses – acres of fabulous land all around but not enough of it being used for golf.
I played P & K a few moons ago, and I too was disappointed after being promised so much. The front holes are pretty normal, some are quite difficult due entirely to length, but all are pretty bland in design and in the ground used. Over the road, and it starts to change, 11 to 15 are pure linksland delight, but take these away, and to me overall, all pretty average.
I seem to recall there were a number of winter holes on the 'good side" that looked interesting amongst the dunes. Could the club get them up for all season play and re-route it so it plays say 6 on the boring side and 12 on the good side?
When you wrote "extremely overrated" and "extremely average", did you want to advance the merits of quite a few of those Welsh courses ranked below or just vent your disappointment with the course?
The reviews for Pyle and Kenfig do seem to have a consensus in that most think the front nine is below average and the back nine is very good. I fall in between in that I think the front nine is not as bad as some say but the back nine is not that good. There is just enough interest in the front nine at P&K, with a number of penal fairway pot bunkers making you think about drive placement; pick of the holes here is the par 3 at the 6th with it's tiered green and dog-leg holes at 7 and 8 requiring driving accuracy.
Crossing the road after the ninth, the tenth for me is a straight bland hole and it is the 11th (a nice dog-leg par 5 rising up to the green) which is the start of the dune holes. Par 3's at 12 and 15 are good enough whilst it is the 13th and 14th holes which are the best holes at P&K. Hole 13 has an elevated tee and turns 90 degree dog-leg right to the green which is nestled in the dunes; don't be tempted to cut off too much of the corner here. Hole 14 is for me even better and a good links hole from a slightly elevated tee giving you a view of the hole as it dog-legs right and rises to the green. After the short 15th, holes 16 to 18 are for me a series of bland par 4's; not an easy finish because they are all over 400 yards, but for me it is so disappointing after the links holes that preceded it.
Personally I do think Pyle & Kenfig is rated a bit highly in the Wales rankings. The front nine is ok and the links holes from 11 to 15 are very good (only five holes !), however the finish from 16 to 18 just lacks something and does not finish the back nine in the way the earlier links holes deserved. Overall sneaks a 3.5 balls (3 balls for the front nine, 5 balls for 5 holes and 2 balls for the other 4 holes)
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!