Royal Porthcawl - South Wales - Wales

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


  • +44 (0) 1656 782251

  • Golf Club Website

  • M4 J37, 3 miles to Porthcawl

  • Contact in advance – weekdays only


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 for 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.”

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Reviews for Royal Porthcawl

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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: 64
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Eric Veenhuyzen
For links golf addicts such as myself Royal Porthcawl is an absolute must do. Because of the absence of dunes and hills the sea can be seen and heard from virtually all holes. The absence of dunes and hills also means that the always present wind adds extra challenge to this already challenging golf course. The fairways, greens and bunkers are all well manicured, the semi rough is not too punishing, but stay out of the rough.
March 23, 2014
10 / 10
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James
A superb challenge in a gorgeous setting. No massive dunes here, but terrific sea views because of that. The par threes are all wonderful, and the 14th one of my favorites anywhere. A tiny target in a cross-breeze. All that stops this being a 6 baller are two things: a slightly over zealous rough clearance programme making it a shade more forgiving of wide drives than can have been intended, and the last two par fives that are both a shade too similar to one another, and a shade to much an uphill slog for my personal taste.Make no mistake though, this is a brilliant links, as good as or better than many more famous.
April 14, 2013
8 / 10
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Dan Hare
To echo the preceding reviews, a tremendously challenging and enjoyable Championship links. It was perishingly cold and I played badly, but still loved it and can't wait to go back. Classy yet friendly, a straight up 6 ball course.
April 10, 2013
10 / 10
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Bobo
Played Royal Porthcawl yesterday in a very strong breeze and I have to say that without doubt it is the best and hardest course that I have ever played.The front 9 is some of the rawest links golf you can possibly see with the sea coming into play on the first 3 holes; all long, tough par 4s.I am 1 handicapper and shot 83. You dont have to be way off line here to find real trouble. I can imagine that the higher handicapper could be chewed up and spat out pretty ruthlessly round here so make sure you take plenty of balls.I can see why the R&A are taking the Senior Open Championship here in 2014, 2019 and 2022 with the view to possibly adding it to the full Open roster.As somewhat of a golfing purest, links golf for me is the purest form of the game and this course can more than hold its own with anything that the courses on the open roster have to offer.Superb!!
June 25, 2012
10 / 10
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thomas
November 09, 2012
Royal Porthcawl is simply pure class. Top notch in every way. Lovely mostly oldie-worldie style clubhouse. Very efficient, friendly and obliging staff. The course itself constantly twists and turns in different directions and is a really strong test of golf with many fine, tough holes with numerous well positioned deep fairway bunkers. Even from the centre of the fairway (or the tee on the difficult par-3's) the greens are mostly difficult to hold being steeply contoured and heavily bunkered - if you miss them on the 'short side' you'll do well to make an up-'n'-down. The 1st tee to the 3rd green is a tough opening sequence into the prevailing wind whilst the 4th, is a hard to hit par-3 with a very contoured green. The re-greened par-5 5th offers a little respite then it's the 6th, where care is needed, and the tiny semi-blind par-3 7th. The 8th turns left around the practice ground wall then there's a very fine stretch of challenging holes from the 9th, with it's new green complex, all the way to the raised green 15th. The 16th and 17th play gradually up a hill and then it's all downhill straight towards the sea on the 18th with views across to Devon and Pembrokeshire. An excellent new short game practice facility has recently been added, a splendid touch, far to often overlooked at other clubs. RPGC is a splendid place to spend time. I thoroughly recommend it.
Matthew Adams
Links courses can be odd things for many reasons. Many love their quirkiness and their raw, wild aesthetics, while some will dislike their sometimes rather industrial backdrops. Royal Porthcawl does have some industrial vistas with some of the few remaining heavy industry sites in South Wales off to the West. Royal Porthcawl is quirky for many reasons but for me the greatest quirk about the place is that this world class course exists solely for the quality of golf, with no snootiness, and some way from any large city, although the M4 motorway makes it so accessible.

Like almost all links courses the greens were still in tip top condition in March, at a time when many parkland dancefloors will be tigned and sanded to more closely resemble dimpled, dusty shortbread. Royal Porthcawl Golf Course - Photo by reviewerThe course may also play a touch more easily in March than summer with the rough low and the greens not too quick. On my few trips into greenside bunkers they did not contain that much sand but were all consistent with each other. Due to the reduced winter rate in March, two holes were on temporary greens, which is always a shame, especially when it affected the excellent holes 5 and 9, which appeared to being having major surgery. However, it would be difficult to choose which two greens you would prefer to be out of commission, even if you had the choice, such is the quality and variety of all the green complexes.

Links courses are known for their flatness so this course – thanks to holes 5, 10, 12, 13, 17 and 18 – must qualify as one of the more mountainous. I know Cruden Bay has greater changes in elevation but I struggle to think of any links course to match the slopes here. The 17th was a great reminder for me (not that I needed it) that links golf demands a high level of focus for each shot. Standing on the 17th tee, on course to match my handicap, I left the green a few minutes later with an 11 and a good lesson learnt. The day was further enhanced by dry weather, a good breeze and a blue sky adorned with fluffy white clouds and vapour trails tracing the progress of jet-setters to distant shores. Stunning.
March 26, 2012
10 / 10
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Keith Baxter

After being too long away, I returned to play Royal Porthcawl some eight years after my last visit. The reason for the relatively short trip from my home in Devon was to Fergal at Royal Porthcawl Golf Clubmeet up with Fergal, our US Consultant, who is significantly more than mid-way through an epic journey, whereby he’s aiming to become the youngest person to play the World Top 100. The recent inclusion of Royal Porthcawl in a notable American magazine’s World Top 100 rankings made me smile, as we were the first publication to rank Porthcawl in our World 100 back in 2006.

Playing golf with Fergal is firstly a pleasure; secondly it’s a rather daunting experience for the average golfer (of which I fall squarely into that category). My rather paltry 10 handicap is no match for a +1 golfer who wants to see every course from the back tees. Under normal circumstances, I play off the regular mens tees or perhaps, if I am feeling lucky, off the mens competition tees. Fergal naturally wanted to experience the Walker Cup course, so off we went on the first, all the way back along the side of the pro shop to the tips where only fools and scratch golfers care to tread.

Since I last played Porthcawl, David Williams extended the course and, more recently, Mackenzie and Ebert have been advising the club on various aspects including bunker changes and greens modifications. Indeed, both the 5th and 9th greens were out of play in March 2012 as they have been reshaped and re-laid over last winter. These latest changes are sure to make Porthcawl a wonderful test and will stretch the field when the Senior Open Championship comes here in 2014.

There are so many things I love about Porthcawl… the uninterrupted sea views, the revetted bunkering, the topography (which is an easy walk but could never be described as flat), the magnificent greensites, the one-shot holes, the brutal closing stretch and, last but not least, the conviviality of the wonderful club itself. If I lived within a 30-mile drive of Porthcawl, I’d join. It’s the best course in Wales by a comfortable margin and it’s perhaps the best Welsh golf club too. A worthy World Top 100 course and, in my book, it’s outstanding. 9/10. Keith Baxter, Editor-in-Chief

March 25, 2012
9 / 10
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John
A brilliant course, with four of the best opening holes I have ever played, and I have played a lot of the courses ranked in the world top 100. The only blemish to my mind are the sixth and seventh, both of which look completely out of character to the rest of the course and play away from or out of sight of the sea. The proximity of an enormous house to the seventh green is also a blight on the landscape. But these are minor gripes. The opening stretch of the course, played alongside the sea, is wonderful. All of the par 3s other than 7 look great and demand well struck shots, and the finishing hole with the green nestled beside the beach caps of a thoroughly enjoyable round. The course has always been in great condition when I have played it, and the clubhouse is absolutely charming. I couldn't decide between 5 and 6 stars, but have given it 6 on the basis that I wouldn't even have to consider the choice if it were not for holes 6 and 7. A course worth making the effort to play.
July 21, 2011
10 / 10
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Cédric
Royal Porthcawl has, alongside Royal St George's, the most amazing and dramatic set of greens I have seen. Not only are they beautifully contoured and sloped, but they were also fantastically fast and true. For those 18 pieces of grass alone, this place should not be missed. The club atmosphere is also very friendly, familial and unformal, unlike some of the other "royals" across the kingdom. The course is more hilly than I had anticipated from pictures and a little quircky in places (drive at the 1st crossing the 18th fairway). The dormy house is not as nice as the one at Lytham, but nonetheless a nice place to stay. Very much recommended. Cedric
April 14, 2011
10 / 10
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Brian Mulligan
I played Porthcawl in early March. Course was in superb condition. The greens especially were playing very fast and true. The greens seem in many places to be mere extensions of the fairway, with many of them being open to typical links bump and run shots. One or two blind tee shots, but all not excessive. Having played many top championship courses, I would rate Porthcawl as one of the best courses never to have hosted an open, alongside Nairn and Hillside. The clubhouse is an extremely cosy place to reflect on your game afterwards.
March 25, 2011
10 / 10
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Webbedrobin
March 25, 2011
Agree totally with this review. Played for the first time yesterday on the bargain winter rate (cannot afford the summer rate!). Excellent welcome in the pro shop. A good score on this course is well possible but getting used to the lightening fast greens took some time. A great advert for Welsh golf.
Chezza
You can see the sea from every hole lads. Enjoy yourselves, she's a beauty". And as if by magic those enthusiastic words from a member, as he walked off down the 1st stirred the Welsh mist which came rolling in and had consumed us by the time we'd teed off on the 2nd. With visibility down to at best 150 yards, at worst 100, a course with an already hard reputation became a whole lot harder. I think this is the 1st time I've ever found myself asking for a breeze. I'd just presumed from my limited links experience that 25mph cross winds were a given. However, having spent 2 hours in the car to get here we were determined to not let it spoil the day. So, adopting Arnold Parmers attitude of, hit it, go find it and hit it again we preceded to have great time. Stand out hole for me was the 120 yard 7th, but that's down to it being literally the only hole to stand out in the mist. The course condition was really beginning to come alive after the winter and the greens were in tremendous shape. It’s hard to judge the 2 nines but in the mist the front nine felt that little bit wider where as the back was placing more demands on accuracy off the tee, I'm not sure if this rings true on a clear day though? We had been warned about 15 and 16 being card wreckers but in the mist 12 and 13 were brutal with both approach shots truly being hit and hope after much study of our course guide. The much talked about bunkers here are tough although it was the fairway Bunkers on 17 rather than the 2 greenside (9th and 14th) I visited during the round which cost me dearly and just took the edge off a cracking stab at this course 1st time out. But I have to say they did not ruin what was a very funny afternoon for myself and playing partner. A special mention must go to the members at this fine course, they are a credit to themselves and their club, I can truly say I've never meet a friendlier bunch in 10 years of playing.
March 24, 2011
8 / 10
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