Southerndown - South Wales - Wales

Southerndown Golf Club,
Ogmore-by-Sea,
Bridgend,
CF32 0QP,
Wales


  • +44 (0) 1656 880476


"Not far from Porthcawl – as the aeroplane flies – is another excellent course, Southerndown," wrote Bernard Darwin, in The Golf Courses of the British Isles. "It is perched high aloft and looks down on Porthcawl, amid the many other glories of a beautiful view. You may look out far over the sea, or again over a wide stretch of English – or rather Welsh – landscape. The breezes blow cool and fresh here, and on a still and stifling August day, when the golfer is almost too limp to crawl round Porthcawl, he will be wise to refresh himself by a round on the heights of Southerndown."

Southerndown Golf Club's elevated site, high above the Ogmore River Valley, provides arresting views across the Bristol Channel. Over time, sand has blown up from the seashore, coming to rest on the rolling slopes and giving the turf at Southerndown a rather links-like character. In fact, you would be hard pressed to categorise the course – it's quite unique – but one thing is for sure, it's absolutely natural. There are no trees or artificial water hazards, just bracken, gorse and bunkers waiting to trap the wayward drive. Oh yes, we'd almost forgotten, there are a couple of other things – the ever-present wind and the sheep – serious hazards in their own right.

Willie Fernie originally laid down the course in 1905. But this wasn't the same Willie Fernie who won the British Open Championship in 1883 – it was his namesake – a fact we learnt from Southerndown's knowledgeable Secretary. Herbert Fowler made improvements in 1908, followed by more alterations by Willie Park Jr. six years later. Shortly after the Great War ended, Harry Colt was engaged to carry out further modifications and not a lot has changed in over a hundred years since then.

"Bracken to the left of you, bracken to the right – and a fairway rising up to the sky," was how the great Henry Cotton saw Southerndown's opening hole. It's certainly a most challenging two-shot hole and it's followed by two more, which are equally tough. The four par threes at Southerndown are noteworthy, especially the 5th hole, known as "Carter's Folly" – it's expertly bunkered and calls for an accurate iron shot.

James Braid and Harry Vardon predicted that Southerndown would become a great course, and they were right. It's hosted a number of important events including the Piccadilly Masters and the Martini International. The most notable current event is the Welsh amateur competition, called the Duncan Putter, an annual 72-hole competition, which has seen Peter McEvoy and Gary Wolstenholme emerging as winners.

No trip to South Wales would be complete without a game at Southerndown – it's an exciting experience with a warm and inviting clubhouse, which completes the perfect day.

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

Write a review

Reviews for Southerndown

Average Reviewers Score:
Description: Over time, sand has blown up from the seashore, coming to rest on the rolling slopes and giving the turf at Southerndown Golf Club a rather links-like character. Rating: 6.8 out of 10 Reviews: 32
TaylorMade
Greg Watson

A stunning venue for a golf course perched on high with views over the peninsula and Porthcawl in the distance, your golfing appetite does get warmed before you have even struck a shot.

A very good test of golf, hard to imagine you would ever play a round here without any wind, and our visit was no exception, howling across the course made hitting the gorse guarded fairways extremely difficult. With sheep roaming the hill it has a wonderful at ease with nature feel.

A lot of the holes are simply stunning and idyllic in their framing, and for the time of year the greens putted well. A thoroughly enjoyable course and one I would certainly recommend is put on the list for all golfers.

March 19, 2022
7 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

T P Dean

My lasting memory of Southerndown is the sheep. They’ll greet you when you arrive at the entrance, whilst on the course you’ll find them snuggled up in bunkers, you’ll see them standing resolute in the middle of the fairways (the safest place) munching on grass, and they’ll bleat at you when you’re on the tee. But they’re completely integral to the overall Southerndown experience and I hope they will forever remain in place.

Yet Southerndown is more than just the shared golfing experience with our woolly friends. It’s a pretty, hilltop, lay of the land course routed over rolling and free-draining downland. And once you’ve got past the vertical hike to the 1st green (referencing BB’s comment below, Painswick’s opener is steeper, but it’s a marginal call), there are some gorgeous views that you can enjoy, particularly at the 2nd green over the Ogmore Estuary. And the golf itself is played across the most raw, rough and natural land.

Aside from the lung-busting opener, the 4th was the first hole to really grab my attention at what was a lovely downhiller, playing over a marker-post and across a humpty dumpty lumpy fairway. The course then hits its pinnacle at the next; a pretty par three across a valley-type depression in the land to an elevated green set on top of a plinth of clumpy ground and a couple of naughty pot bunkers set into the bank’s face. There are more highlights that come after the enjoyable earlier holes though; an excellent set of diagonal bunkers heightens the quality of the difficult 6th whilst the double green across 10 and 16 is a feature that I always enjoy at any course. There were some minor negatives such as the forced walk back to the tee on the 8th and some bad green damage on the 14th (I hope that was temporary), but notwithstanding that, Southerndown is a joyful golf course to play.

Recalling BB’s review again below, his comments are pretty much on the money; the back nine is indeed less memorable than the outward leg, but the closing stretch is a part of the course that has remained with me, and it’s where the tiredness from those hill climbs will be particularly tested. A pinched fairway on 17 has gorse that comes into play more so than any of the preceding holes - a noticeable departure from the openness of the rest of the course, and even if that element of the hole is safely negotiated, there is an area of dead ground through the final 100-yards that will catch any timid approach shots. The split, two-tiered fairway on 18 concludes the round with a hole that will likely divide opinion. In all fairness, the right hand side is probably not wide enough to make the average golfer pick that side, so I bottled out and just took aim at the shelf in the middle of the fairway and prayed for the best, but it’s one final element of quirk to provide a discussion point on the return to the clubhouse.

Southerndown can’t be discussed in the same breath as the magnificent Royal Porthcawl, or even the beautifully bananas Pennard, but it’s a decent addition to a South Wales coastal itinerary and offers something diverse from anything else in the region.

February 04, 2022
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

BB

Southerndown, grazing sheep up ahead,

Don’t forget what Tom Doak’s book said,

Something special gonna come at the last,

Downland fairways are running fast,

Southerndown.

The urge to paraphrase Neil Young’s famous rebuke of southern values is strong because I question if this is “The Best Downland Course In The World”. Unless it’s the only downland course there is. Whatever “Downland” means anyway. Looks a bit like a links, plays a bit like a links, but isn’t a links? Because you can’t feel that soil-pH-altering-salty-spray? Or because the actor who played Hannibal Smith in The A-Team says it isn’t?

Digression #1 Course classifications can be a tough task at the best of times. Walton Heath remains the best heathland I’ve played primarily because it’s the only one I’ve played. Any course with more trees than heather plants is surely a woodland course? A parkland seems an easier call. And of course identifying a true links is an obvious one. But of this ilk, my preference is for Yelverton & Sheringham. Assuming they are of the same ilk. It’s quite confusing.

Digression #2: A side note on the ProShop. I only actually visit other courses in order to collect a colorful logo ball for my son in to help indoctrinate him into golf - but Southerndown didn’t have any. I was tempted to just have a beer in the clubhouse and leave without playing the course. Glad I stuck around, because it’s supposed to be about the golf course, but still.

Back on topic: Negotiating the first hole climb is such an effort that I forgot to write my score down. Could this be “the steepest opening hole in the world”? The second hole is a welcome downhill respite with a blind drive and a great view out over the estuary when you reach the green. The third goes back up the hill. Then the fourth back down the hill. At this point it felt like I had the Grand Old Duke of York on my bag calling the shots.

I loved the par 3 fifth - an all or nothing knob to knob shot playing across a valley (for a change), where you secretly won’t mind coming up short in order to enjoy the challenge of getting up & down. At least this is what I told myself in retrospect as I walked off with a bogey. Hole 6 is an uphill par 5 with a series of imposing bunkers seemingly devouring the left side of the fairway, and hole 7 is a downhill par 3. The 8th is a nice par 4 that, you guessed it, goes back up the hill. From memory, the 9th may have been a flat hole.

My recollection of the back 9 is a little less

complete although one thing sticks: If you’re not getting up & down around the greens, you will at least regularly do so on the walks from tee to green. They remain quality holes, but I felt they blended into each other somewhat more than the front half. The obvious exception is the closing 18th, a hole that would grace many a course and is worth calling in sick from work to play. It could be improved if they’d clear the vegetation out a little on the right side to give a fuller view of the clubhouse - but even in its current state it’s a pretty special way to end a round.

Southerndown is a quality golf experience and worth adding to any South Wales trip. But I’d argue it’s overrated. If you don’t agree with this view, then I brace myself for the Sweet Home Alabama rebuke: Southerndown don't need him around anyhow.

December 05, 2021
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

Response
Phil Cottington
December 07, 2021

I thoroughly enjoyed this review and it matches my own experience in that, save for the 18th, the back nine I remember a lot less than the front. The fifth was also very much enjoyed by all of our party. For any readers who have not played the course though, I believe (I could be wrong) the first photo attached here is actually from Pennard Golf Club down the road a bit! Sorry for being that guy!

BB
December 07, 2021

Good spot Phil! Intended to add photos of the second & fifth, but instead have 2 images of their 18th and one from a completely different course. Multi-tasking (i.e. writing a review whilst drinking beer) is not my strong point

MR ADAM BAKER

A challenging links-style course with scary bunkers around the course - deep with huge lips. Some of the holes are a little bland, keep it straight and long and you're ok! The final hole is fantastic.

September 02, 2021
7 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

Ivan

Played in Mid July 21 - had an excellent day weather wise, sunning and just a breeze. The course rating has it as very easy, my usual handicap these days is 22 round here just 19. It starts with 3 holes that get you up to the top of the course, once there the views are great, the fairways are generous and it is a lovely days holiday golf. As someone who struggles to walk these days once you are on the top it is a fairly easy walk as the up hill is done in the first 3 holes when you are fresh.

Highly recommend it if you are in the area.

July 19, 2021
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

Rob Wallace

A good golf course but many more clubs in Wales I would rate higher, very exposed so be prepared for the wind and elements. If your lucky enough to play in the calm it’s a very playable course that’s normally in decent condition.

February 05, 2021
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

tamas

The uphill approach into the club surprised me. The first hole then rises steeply up from the clubhouse, it’s not really an attractive or enjoyable hole and you might need crampons in wet weather. But once you’re up to the green, the rest of the course plays on and around a plateau, with tremendous views over the valley and down to the coast.

Up on the plateau, the holes play up and down, and are bordered by gorse and bracken, but the playing corridors are reasonably wide so it never feels narrow. Being high up, the course is exposed to the wind. In mid-August we weren’t battered by the weather, but I imagine this can be a brutal place to play golf when it’s cold and windy.

The course has some long and tough par fours, but the collection of par threes were the stand out holes for me. The 5th is 175 yards and plays from a high tee over a valley to an elevated green – it’s a 165 yard “heroic” carry to the small green. The 7th played long at 218 yards into the wind. It was downhill but the green is surrounded by gorse making it a small and intimidating target. I would have liked to run the ball into this green, but the fairways weren’t really firm enough for this. The 10th is 168 yards but played a lot shorter downhill and downwind. The double green (shared with the 16th) is framed by a host of bunkers and has some heavy undulations: it’s an attractive hole. The 14th is another medium length par 3, with a green shaped like a figure of eight with bunkers either side pinching in the centre of the green.

We noticed some of the greens had slopes on them, but they were running so slowly the challenge was negated. The main challenge was trying to whack the ball hard enough to reach the hole. At least they were true. We enjoyed the challenge of the last few holes, in particular the 18th which drops back down to the clubhouse, with an interesting two tier fairway cut into the side of the hill.

No review of Southerndown would be complete without mentioning the sheep. Although the sight of the sheep adds a quirky charm, their droppings do not. Playing in the morning, the course was covered in the stuff and there is no way you can get round without trudging through the sloppy mucky mess. We noticed a tractor sweeping most of it away during the morning, so I would recommend an afternoon visit. Overall, a good test let down a little by conditioning.

September 07, 2020
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

Russell Lambert

Over an excellent breakfast in the clubhouse, I looked at the steeply uphill first fairway with sheep everywhere and wondered what kind of game we might be in for but Southerndown proved to be a very fun course and we really enjoyed our game.

It's an unusual mix as it feels like a links but is on very high ground so you get excellent views down the coast at the start and then inland to the hills later on. It's not too demanding off the tee as the fairways are wide and there's not much rough. The greens were smooth but relatively slow so you could be aggressive and a good score is possible for anyone playing well.

I thought 9th was a very good looking hole and the closing stretch from the 15th is excellent with the split level fairway 18th being a nice surprise. After walking through the sheep for 4 hours you will need 10 mins to clean your shoes and trolley wheels and the club has plenty of facilities for this so not a problem. Southerndown is well worth a look if you're in the area for Porthcawl.

August 30, 2020
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

Phil Ree

Southerndown is deemed as downland but I prefer someone below’s description of “a links in the sky”. The first few holes would be a hard walk on a hot day but it levels out and pretty much plays like a links course. A few holes wouldn’t be out of place at nearby Royal Porthcawl and the drainage is excellent. You then descend the slope to the 18th, clubhouse and sunset over the Channel if you’re there late enough.

I’m struggling to name a favourite hole as it’s such a steady, enjoyable test. The 18th’s split-level fairway did stand out. It felt unique too, it’s a bit heathy, all the bracken had turned an alluring deep red and every hole has a view – some towards the sea, half over the Welsh hills. I can think of one lesser hole, a late par 3 but that’s only really because it looked and felt less dramatic.

Condition was good too, I’ve read some complaints of fairways being poor but we had no issues. All the greens rolled well, the clubhouse and bar are nice, the practice facilities are decent… My main gripe was the lack of sheep roaming! It was busy though so I guess if you want to see Southerndown’s famous sheep nestling in bunkers then a Saturday’s not the time.

Overall then, I’d say Southerndown is a worthy addition to any visit to the area, whether there on a golf trip or just work or other leisure. It’s not particularly strategic but if the wind starts gusting on that big hill I’m sure a lot more decision making would be necessary.

October 29, 2019
7 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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

Michael Frankel

Too bad, this summer Wales was parched, and the club has no sprinkler system. Rock hard fairways but regular greens were fine. Built on a bluff, it's down land not links but many well designed holes. Would be nice to play under better conditions.

October 20, 2019
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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