Royal Porthcawl - South Wales - Wales

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club,
Rest Bay,
Porthcawl,
Mid Glamorgan,
CF36 3VW,
Wales


  • +44 (0) 1656 782251


Royal Porthcawl Golf Club is located off the beaten track, east of Swansea and west of Cardiff. Despite being the highest ranked course in Wales, it remains relatively unknown.

The club was founded in 1891 and Charles Gibson, Royal North Devon’s professional, laid out a 9-hole course on Lock’s Common. In 1895, an adjacent piece of land became available and Ramsey Hunter created an 18-hole layout. Porthcawl was granted its royal title in 1909 by King Edward VII. Over the years, the layout has been extensively modified, primarily in 1913 by Harry Colt, F.G Hawtree and J.H. Taylor in 1925 (when the duo added four new holes) and by Tom Simpson in 1933.

The first four holes and the last six holes represent classic links golf, but the holes in the middle rise up onto higher ground, offering fantastic views across the Bristol Channel. This middle section of the course, with plenty of gorse, has distinct heathland characteristics. Darwin completely disagrees with our sentiments. He wrote about “the very excellent links of Porthcawl. Links they may worthily be called, for the golf at Porthcawl is the genuine thing – the sea in sight all the time, and the most noble bunkers.”

Royal Porthcawl measures 7,065 yards from the back markers, but position from the tee is just as important as distance. Gary Wolstenholme will vouch for this. Wolstenholme played Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup here at Porthcawl and despite being constantly out-driven by Woods, Wolstenholme controlled and positioned the ball better and secured a famous victory at the last hole.

The Bristol Channel acts as a funnel for Atlantic gales and the course is fully exposed to the wind. It’s not a traditional out and back layout – the holes loop back on one another, playing in various directions. With an absence of trees and dunes, the wind plays a powerful role.

In 2014, the Senior Open Championship was hosted at Royal Porthcawl. This was the first time a Major Championship had been staged in Wales. The event turned out to be a one man show when Bernhard Langer cruised to a 13-stroke victory over nearest rival Colin Montgomerie and, in doing so, the German broke the tour record for the largest winning margin in a 72-hole event.

Three years later, the event returned to Royal Porthcawl and once again the evergreen Bernhard Langer emerged victorious, claiming his third Senior Open title with a four under par aggregate score of 280, three strokes better than that of runner-up Cory Pavin from the United States of America.

Architect Martin Ebert sent us this exclusive quote in August 2020 regarding work his firm had undertaken at Royal Porthcawl:

“The recent project at Royal Porthcawl has followed on from Course Manager Ian Kinley's resurrection of a wonderful old rough edged bunker to the right of the 5th fairway. This is something Mackenzie & Ebert had proposed as part of an overall masterplan some years ago. With the bunkering, old aerial images showed them as being much larger and rough edged hazards. Many of them had been lost over the years as well. The information was supplemented by the wonderful plan which the great Tom Simpson had drawn up which hangs in the men's changing room. This depicted some tremendous rough edged bunkers sketched out in his talented drawing style.

Some highlights of the project have been the full restoration of the carry bunkers at the par three 4th hole and the huge cross bunkers at the 16th. Some new bunkers have also been added to ensure that the course poses the right questions for the modern day elite players. They can be found at the 2nd (down the left and right), the 5th (two to the left), the 13th (down the right), the 15th (to the left) and at the 18th (to the left).

In addition, the flatness to the left of the 6th hole has been completely transformed with the construction of a range of dunes into which a bunker has been set. Some ecologically valuable sand areas have also been created where it was necessary to win material for the construction works.”

If the above article is inaccurate, please let us know by clicking here

Write a review

Reviews for Royal Porthcawl

Average Reviewers Score:
Description: Royal Porthcawl Golf Club is located off the beaten track, east of Swansea and west of Cardiff. Despite being the highest ranked course in Wales, it remains relatively unknown. Rating: 9.1 out of 10 Reviews: 80
TaylorMade
Chris Wanless

Royal Porthcawl is class personified! From the moment you enter the gates and view the quaint clubhouse hugging Rest Bay, you know you’re in for a special day.

The clubhouse is somewhere you’ll want to spend an hour pre tee time. The walls are adorned with the club’s legacy. Pictures of Tiger Woods, Dr Frank Stableford, Edward VIII and many more who have sat on the same wooden benches where a post and pre round drink is a must! Breakfast in the restaurant is a necessity with floor to ceiling windows offering uninterrupted views of the first hole.

The course is akin to riding your favourite rollercoaster and starting at the top. There’s no build up or tame opening here. The course opens up with a stunner of a first hole. From an elevated tee box with the wind off the left from the bay, you need to send your tee shot out to sea and watch the wind nestle it onto the fairway.

There’s no out and back style links here. Like your favourite rollercoaster it throws you one way, loops you another and disorientates you and throws one good hole at you after another, using elevation to create 18 quality holes that doesn’t let up until you hole your final putt.

It would be near impossible for me to highlight my favourite hole here, but the Par 3s are all stunners. The contours, bunkers, run off areas and varying lengths make for one of the best collection of Par 3s I have played to date.

At the end of the round, 4 of us sat in the bar and the discussion of “Best Course You’ve Ever Played” arose. Whilst it is so difficult to compare Links/Heathland/etc, what we all could agree on is Royal Porthcawl is right up there with the “Most Enjoyable Course We’ve Ever Played”. I cannot wait to come back!

For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/

May 08, 2022
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
1 person found this review helpful

Andy

I had been looking g forward to playing RP for some time and entered their Spring Open.

A day with a reasonable but not stupid wind, so the course had its protection. That said, the wind was from the East not the prevailing West.

A great opening hole threading a drive between the bunkers off the white tees, leaving a wedge into a very tough green. Then for two tough par 4's with low SI's. A very strong start!

A birdie on the par 4, 7th helped my round and confidence before a beautiful short par 3. What a great par 3!

The back 9 just as strong, with just a couple of holes that didn't make my "cut".

A very slow round in the Open, let down my overall memory of the day, but a great course, well worth a visit and one that I will definitely try and go back and play again.

April 29, 2022
7 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Response
David Baxter
May 05, 2022

I think the short par 3 you refer to is the 7th, so am guessing your birdie was on 6, which is a tough hole with recent bunkering changes and the pin always difficult to get at. I thought condition of RP was excellent in their Spring Open, and I would urge you to go back. Not sure how pleased the Nr 1 course in Wales would be getting a lower rating than Cotswold Hills (nr 10 in Gloucs) ! .. of course it is all about opinions

Greg Watson

Finally after a 2 year wait due to Covid restrictions, I was thankful to wake up to a beautiful clear spring sky with the promise of temperatures getting up to a heady 15 degrees, we were in for a treat. After an unusual diversion through a housing estate we finally made the turn into the secluded and private road leading to the entrance at the No1 ranked course in Wales. Straight away the place has its own unique aura as you buzz the intercom and are let in through the gates, parking up its hard not to smile as you look out onto the resplendent Bristol Channel that was already awash with surfers riding the waves in the early morning sun.

After an impromptu tour of the clubhouse, seeing some of its memorabilia, including the original application for the "Royal" warrant initially declined by a wonderful gentleman who was happily sat looking onto the sea from one of the many windows within the perfect clubhouse, we settled for breakfast. In the dining room we had our first view of this amazing links land. The first home looked amazing and immediately whetted the appetite of me and my travelling companions, so much so the breakfast nearly went cold as we looked on aghast.

The course straight from the get go demands the ability to shape shots and thread with arrow point accuracy between the numerous and cavernous bunkers, which had been increased and had a makeover during the last few years, back to their original look, which I have to say are sublime and I am a big fan of. Walking from the 3rd to the 4th you get a glimpse of the newly installed grass paths, that although early into the year were starting to look amazing.

The par 5 5th is a memorable hole and after carefully reconsideration and believe me painstaking deliberation was my favourite hole, followed very closely by the super tough par 4 16th. A tough finishing stretch is sure to test the resolve of even the best golfers, but not the less an enjoyable one.

Unfortunately, the greens were not running that great, due to being hollow tined and over seeded understandable for the time of the year, but hopefully I will return here one day to sample the delights in the midst of the playing season.

March 28, 2022
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
4 people found this review helpful

James

The best way to understand Royal Porthcawl, is to view it from space. Links courses are never pretty. In the same way a piste, or a mettled tarmac road aren’t alluring to the eye. They all look the same. Snow is snow. Grass is grass. Roads are roads.

What separates them is the journey upon, and the flanks.

I have seen many photos of links courses. As have you. Maybe you have taken more than a few? I bet you have endured many too.? You’re not the first. You won’t be the last.

Every year we watch the Open. And, let’s be honest, Links courses all look the same on TV. Just as the individual faces in the gallery change year on year. The gurning winner thanks his mom. And his God. And so, the holes look the same. The canvas is never the picture though. The page isn’t the story. But we love to dab and scribble. Don’t we?

I feel the same way when some one shows me a picture of their children. Lovely.

Especially my wife.

Playing Royal Porthcawl however, is a unique delight. Like spending an unexpected afternoon being utterly surprised by your least favourite child.

At the end of the line, It’s remote, and unsupported by a plethora of local Links, only Pyle and Kenfig. Which is one, not two.

So, it is relatively untroubled by box ticking, ball spot collecting, thousand dollar four-balls and choppers on the range.

It’s modest, ship lapped and tin roofed club house is a nonchalant portent of the magnificence beyond. All that is right with Wales is distilled in this royal crucible. So stop a while, fore and aft.

It isn’t out and back. It’s like being at a child’s party. Forced into a blind fold, you are spun round ten times or more, and then released to walk a dizzying plank. Your senses over whelmed, tumbling and raw.

The picture says it best. If this isn’t on your list. If this is a box you hadn’t yet thought to tick. Then you are either young or Ignorant. Perhaps naturally both? I have disabused of one. Time will the other. If it hasn’t already.

So, make haste west, whilst your blood is hot and hope is high.

Royal cinque ports, Royal Porthcawl. Two of many princes that will never be king. Unless…

JCB Lay

February 03, 2022
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
5 people found this review helpful

Response
James
February 13, 2022

Thinking about it, it is only on TV that Links courses always look the same. As we are often viewing them from the back of the green as players hit into the green. All of the bunkers are facing away from the viewer. How soon before we have a two shot split screen view? I cant see Bryson wanting a drone buzzing around above his head though...

Alex Frolish

My wife often jokes that I will state that every song is my favourite, perhaps insinuating that I use the term more loosely than I might. However I tend to avoid using superlatives when describing golf courses. Bearing that in mind, I’m happy to state that Royal Porthcawl is one of my favourite golf courses on the planet. I have visited five times since early 2019 and it gets better with each visit. It’s understated yet regal aura envelopes you as you make the final turn to the clubhouse from the approach on Mallard Way and dominates your thoughts throughout your visit and long after you leave.

The clubhouse and putting green surrounds are spellbinding. I’ve seen many sea views from clubhouse windows, but the sheer proximity of the water and the serenity of the spectacle will live with you for the rest of your days. The interior of the clubhouse has the feel of a military Officers’ Mess with a nautical leaning and the wooden floorboards, rich furnishings and photos of past captains adorning the walls of the main bar act as a portal to view back many a decade.

The course itself is eminently memorable from start to finish. There is no easing you into your round here and the opening three holes have you toiling along the closest part of the property to the beach and often battling into the wind. What a start it is and these opening par 4’s have the ability to make or break a round.

One of the standout features of the course is that the par 3’s are all utterly characterful and different in the challenges they pose, both in length and green side danger. What they also share is that the greens display the ability to eject a poorly struck shot and distribute it to a sub-optimal, position while rewarding solid strikes played to their heart.

I have yet to play the perfect stretch of golf holes but the run of holes from 9 -16 here is perhaps one of the closest stretches I have seen to achieving that accolade. It is a stretch that has so much variety and is easy to love. I am particularly fond of the tee shot on the risk reward par 4 10th where you will enjoy one of the most expansive views of the course. And the jewel in the crown of the par 3 offering, is the 11th, with its necklace of punitive bunkers distracting from the true test of the hole which is its deceptively large and difficult green. A word of warning; 15 and 16 need to be plotted and played with a clear head as they are two of the toughest par 4’s on the course, containing a multitude of features to ruin your day. They loom large on the card as you approach with a good round in progress and will induce a knowing bounce in your step down the closing stretch if you are able to navigate them without incident.

There is clearly an appetite within the club to forward and continuously improve the course. The recent bunker upgrades and work on the grass walkways can be seen as evidence of this. The walkways deserve special mention as they really are a piece of art in their own right. They engender a flow to the course that is both aesthetically and practically pleasing. It’s these small touches that can make an already brilliant offering truly world class and make no mistake, Royal Porthcawl is world class. The enjoyable and engaging test, supreme condition of the golf course, endless sea views and characterful clubhouse and surrounds make this one of those courses you’ll want to return to again and again.

January 26, 2022
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
7 people found this review helpful

T P Dean

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Royal Porthcawl on two separate occasions over this calendar year, and on reflection I’d have to categorise it as one of the finest links courses in the UK. The routing is magnificent, the beachside setting is beautiful and the two-tiered hilly nature of the course means that views are ever present. The perfect blend of championship golf, providing a test of the best, and a layout that displays quirk and beauty can all be found here. Royal Porthcawl is no entry-level links, this is a course where your game needs to be sharp. And whilst not by any means unplayable for the masses, it’s a course more suited to the low handicap golfer for the greens are quick and tricky whilst the course is demanding of the long game.

After the sublime first three holes that are located end-to-end along the bayside, the rest of the course constantly moves and switches direction. The longest par three on the course at the 4th is then quickly followed by the shortest hole at the 7th that’s only 120-yards. It’s a super short hole with knuckles and pot bunkers surrounding the putting surface that stand ready to gobble up anything slightly offline. This is a theme that flows throughout the remainder of the course. Porthcawl is a classy piece of design and the green surrounds are up there with the best in Britain.

In addition to the 7th; the 9th and 10th both have devilish runs-offs whilst the 14th is a damn sexy mid-length par three and comes with one of the most beautifully shaped green surrounds I’ve encountered on a links. 11 and 13 are another two outstanding holes on the back nine. The 11th being a delightful par three with a string of bunkers embedded into the face of the bank into the green, whilst 13 is a triumph of a hole with a lovely walk down to the green as the hole pitches downwards towards the sea. A cunningly placed bunker 80-yards short of the green also prevents the golfer from playing the canny running shot downhill.

Cross bunkers force decision making on 15 and 16, where only the genuine beasts among you will be able to clear them, mere mortals however will need to hold back. 17 is something of a rarity on the course as I’d view it as a connector hole, improvements could be made here to the landing area for the tee shots. 18 meanwhile, is not the kind of closing hole that invites you to ease your way to a restful conclusion. The final hole has a nasty 60-yard area of dead ground that you’ll need to clear or chip short of to avoid the worst of the punishment, but one can’t help but fall for the beautiful green-complex that sits neatly in front of the beach.

In addition to the natural beauty and rawness of Porthcawl’s property, Martin Ebert has recently completed a variety of course enhancements, typically featuring natural bunkers in the fairways and pots around the greens, although I feel that some greater creativity in the shaping of the fairway bunkers wouldn’t have gone amiss and there are one or two that are a little misplaced. I guess this will be worked out over time as the course continues to evolve as they always do. Otherwise, my only other genuine criticisms that prevent me from escalating Royal Porthcawl into the ‘perfection’ category would be that the course is too unforgiving for the higher handicap golfer to truly enjoy, and the management of the brambles amongst the rough could also be improved.

I saw recently that our learned friends at Golf.com omitted Royal Porthcawl from their newly released World Top-100 rankings. They should genuinely hang their heads in shame for being so absent minded. Royal Porthcawl remains one of the best, and any World list without it lacks credibility. Its omission is likely due to Wales not being the most fashionable place for the golf tourist, and let’s be frank, it’s usually raining when you get there, so the natural question when enjoying that post-round drink is whether the club needs to host an Open Championship to gain the recognition it deserves? It shouldn’t need to, and due to the lack of infrastructure available on and around the site, it won’t ever be blessed with this opportunity, but as a course, I’d suggest that it’s more deserving of hosting a major championship than various others currently holding down a place on the rota.

November 24, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
7 people found this review helpful

David Baxter

Royal Porthcawl is a fabulous course, and in November 2021 it was in better condition than I have seen it before. Even the wider grass paths as mentioned in another review have improved the look and condition. It's still got tradition, aura, a top quality practice area, large tricky greens with immense pot bunkering, sea views and a great variety of undulating holes, but since my last visit RP have made a number of changes which have further improved the course. This seems to be mainly new fairway bunkering which are largely natural looking bunkers and they have bedded in nicely (looking like they have been there for years); for example new bunkering on the 5th has significantly tightened the tee shot, and on the 6th the new bunkering has totally transformed and improved the look of the hole. A great job, well executed.

I think my favourite stretch would be holes 1-3 along the coastline, hole 9 is fab, and the back nine seems just seems to get tougher and tougher with the 15th probably the pick; however in reality no poor holes whatsoever. Royal Porthcawl is without doubt a test but it is a treat and my personal nr 1 favourite course. Walked off the course thinking Wow !

November 14, 2021
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
3 people found this review helpful

Response
BB
November 14, 2021

David - your ratings are often quite austere, so nice to see you throw off the shackles with 6 balls for a course

David Baxter
November 15, 2021

Good to keep some space for the cream at the top !

Javier Pintos

This was one long awaited and I can say it matched all the expectations I had an more: a fantastic Club House where I enjoyed lunch before the round watching surfers enjoying the ocean, a golf course that is pure quality and challenge worthy of an Open Championship, a Secretary that on his day off went to receive me as it was my 400th course played worldwide and a post round 19th hole with the most welcoming members I have met in a while. Plus a sunny day, with just the enough wind to make it challenging and a course in immaculate shape, how can a human being ask for more??

It was a long day that included 3:45am wake up call, drive to Airport, 3hs flight, catch luggage and rental car and then drive 3h20m to arrive on 40mins before tee off … but the adrenaline was high enough to be set for the challenge and play a very decent round of golf in company of fellow Golf directors Arnau and Stefano.

The course was restored and improved by Mackenzie & Ebert at the same time and in similar manner to Nairn GC and the definition of bunkering, the contrast on the different type of them, the yellow color of rough, the fantastic green complexes and a course that off the very back will beat you 100 out of 100 times, it was just one of those great afternoons.

The very first thing to highlight is the set of par 3s … PERFECT! Two short ones with very good greens running in opposite directions and the other ones mid to long range (depending on the tee box selected) where getting the ball to stop on the green is quite tough and missing any of the four sides is just magic needed to make a 3.

Par 5s are also very good, with 5th being the very best with that elevated green and 17th with a slight room for improvement if they finally use the chipping green as the one for the hole, it has some serious platform changes and it is tough to get it in 2!

Par 4s are all along the range from 350 to 460 (from the white, you have Blues and Open tees as well) where usually the greens will be the star of the hole. And the best 2 are monster 16th with those 2 Spectacles not allowing a full Driver and then asking for a 200yds shot and finisher facing the ocean downhill and we had the sun fading away on the horizon, one of the coolest images of the day.

If finally R&A makes the brave call and gives Royal Porthcawl the 2026 Open, I would be as happy as every welsh golfer but not only for the accomplishment but also because this will bring many of the great courses they have up in the bucket list for many travelling golfers. And trust me, with 2022 being sold out in Scotland and Ireland, Wales could be an awesome Links Golf Vacation!

October 27, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
2 people found this review helpful

Michael Richmond

Staggering in every sense. Top 5 U.K. course for me, and a clubhouse and a welcome to boot. We played on a miserable day and I loved every hole. What an absolute delight. We then proceeded to drink red wine, kümmel and crepe de menthe in the beautiful clubhouse and couldn’t have been more warmly welcomed. If you’re reading this and thinking about playing, just go and enjoy it. It’s absolutely wonderful.

October 22, 2021
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
2 people found this review helpful

BB

We had a choice - 15 mins to invest in a sensible warm up, or 5 mins to enjoy a bacon roll & cup of tea. It’s not unusual that we chose the latter and enjoyed sitting out on the terrace trying to listen in on the stories of possible Welsh Rugby Legends. We then ran to the first tee to make our time, ketchup contrails following us around the corner. Some things will never change.

It was a case of hurry up & wait, as the group ahead were taking their time. A fine view awaits you. It’s grin inviting, but sneakily technical, with the sloping fairway bringing bunkers into play. I opted for the right side, missing the fairway by an estimated 3 metres. I say estimated, because I couldn’t find my ball. A Welsh Magician, possibly Shane Williams, had made my ball disappear. Slightly vexed, I gave myself a Dutch Mulligan, and played 3 up into the green. And what a green it is, I thought, the smile quickly returning to my face. I was going to have a nice day.

What follows isn’t at all flashy, but ticks most links boxes in an assured fashion. After deciding to hug the left side on subsequent holes, I really enjoyed chatting to the walkers out walking out in the fresh sea air, on holes 2 and 3. The routing takes you to the moon & back, and your rocket only has a minor wobble around 6-8 as it navigates one corner of the property. Conditioning was good and the green green grass paths a nice touch - even if the one from hole 7 to 8 was a little too long.

The set of Par 3’s is excellent, with the 11th being my pick of the bunch. Although I might add a few yards of length to the 7th (did I really write that sentence?). Hole variety throughout is more than fine. The 15th was a strange one - good enough, but rough-edged bunker style at odds with what had gone before, making the home feel transported in from somewhere else. 18th is a fitting finish as you sex bomb your balI into the unknown. Only lost one more ball after the 1st hole suggests the course was pretty playable. And you don’t need to be a big spender to tee it up here for there are twilight deals to be had - wish more top courses would follow suit.

This course isn’t perfect, but diamonds in the rough like this are surely forever - it’s very good. And the beer? Enjoying a pint of “Royal Porthcawl” - from Glamorgan Brewery - in the clubhouse proved a fitting end to a quality experience

October 16, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
5 people found this review helpful