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.
Date: December 09, 2019