Just across the Severn Bridge is the resort of St Pierre, set in 400 acres of rolling South Wales countryside. The graceful 14th century manor house doubles up as an impressive clubhouse and a comfortable hotel. For safe keeping, The Crown Jewels were kept in the manor house during the Battle of Agincourt. The hotel sits alongside the St Pierre church, which dates back to Norman times. It's a majestic setting.
The Old course, which occupies a mature, former deer park, opened for play in 1962, and was designed by C.K. Cotton. It was here at St Pierre, in the 1980 British Masters, that Bernhard Langer became the first German to win a major tournament. In total, St Pierre hosted the British Masters no fewer than eight times. Winners at St Pierre include five former Ryder Cup Captains – Tony Jacklin, Bernhard Gallagher, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Ian Woosnam. Greg Norman found the putting surface on the 362-yard 10th with a 3-wood on his way to victory in 1982 and Ian Woosnam, “Woosie”, was St Pierre’s last Masters’ champion, claiming the title in 1983. St Pierre hosted the Solheim Cup in 1996 – team USA retained the cup, beating Europe by 17 points to 11.
Mature, sentry trees lie in wait to stymie the errant tee shot and a lake covering more than ten acres poaches many golf balls. The 7,023-yard par 72 layout is certainly no pushover – accurate positioning from the tees will pay dividends. Without doubt, the most famous and dramatic hole on the Old course is the 18th – a 230-yard par three – which, unusually, is completely devoid of trees. A solid tee shot across the edge of the lake is required. The elevated tee provides an ideal vantage point to celebrate glory... or to commiserate as the ball finds dry land or a watery grave.
The amateur Arwyn Griffiths will certainly remember the infamous closing hole at St Pierre. He walked on to the tee requiring a par three for an incredible course record gross 63. Sadly, he putted out, having taken eleven strokes. The good news was that his score of 71 was good enough to win the event.
St Pierre is a quality resort, now owned by Marriott. The shorter second course, the Mathern, is pleasantly challenging and complements the Old admirably. Ryder Cup 2010 course architect Ross McMurray of European Golf Design remodelled both courses in 2008. Each course has benefited from 18 new tee complexes, reconstructed, repositioned bunkers and also the Old Course has four new greens designed to improve year-round playability.
A visit to St Pierre will certainly be memorable, especially if you see the ghosts. Allegedly, a grey lady spectre and the ghost of the “laughing gardener” haunt St Pierre. The gardener apparently walks through the gate, into the walled garden and then disappears into the churchyard, roaring with laughter all the way.
St. Pierre is dominated by large trees with huge canopies and must be a typical example of a mature parkland course. Played it in July 2017 and the greens were generally in good condition, not quick, but not slow. The course seemed pretty soft underfoot with little run on the fairways making it play quite long. Greens were also soft making it very much target golf. Thought the biggest test was positioning oneself off the tee as it seemed you needed to know which half of the fairway (not huge to start with) to be on to avoid the huge (both in width and height) trees with your second shot. Not knowing the course I found this particularly difficult, if not unfair at times; for example I hit the middle of the 2nd fairway but was totally blocked out for my second to the green, which was a shame because I thought this was a nice looking uphill dog-leg par 4. Also thought the par 4's at 5 and 10 were interesting holes, with the 10th (stroke index 18) being a short dog-leg requiring an accurate drive and short iron to a back left flag located next to a pond. Must admit (unlike other reviewers) didn't think 18 was a good finishing hole as it is just a long uphill par 3, which with the lack of run was all about length. Infact I thought the par 3's generally let the course down and this is partly why I am giving it a 3 ball rather than a 4 ball rating.
Despite "typical Welsh rain" I really enjoyed the course. Good variety of holes and well presented. Recommend a visit. Only downside (nearly) was that having entered an open AND had a confirmation of my time, om arrival I was NOT on the start sheet ... as I say, it was only nearly a downside and luckily it worked out but after a long drive it would have been VERY annoying had my entry been missed out !
I'm not usually a fan of resort golf courses, but was here on a Society trip which was enjoyed by all. This is a very pleasant parkland course with mature trees coming into play on most holes giving challenges off tees. Some nice changes of elevation, and as noted by other reviewers the 18th is a great finishing hole. The Forest of Dean is beautiful as is the foodie town itself, so taking advantage of the stay and play deals is recommended if visiting the area.
The Old Course is built around a 11-acre lake however water only comes in to play on 4 holes – 10, 15 17 and 18. I found the first five holes to be relatively uneventful however that soon changes. The 6th is a beautiful downhill par 3 with a great view but any errant shots to the right are dead. #7 is a sweeping dogleg right par-5 that is well tree lined to a narrow green. #8 is a short par 4 where you need to find the narrow landing area leaving you with a short approach. I found out that no matter what your handicap is you can’t play the back tees as it is saved for competition play. Yellow is for members tees, which I played, while the reds are forward. There are no blind shots to contend with here but most greens have swales around them. Bunkering is scarce are not very deep and the yardage makers are to the middle of the green. This course is well manicured and definitely has a parkland feel to it with some trees even encroaching onto the fairway. My favourite hole is probably the 17th a par 4 where a well -placed drive with leave you with a mid-iron to a tricky green perched out on a peninsula. 18th hole is one of their toughest. At 235 yards you have to cross over the edge of the lake to a raised green. With out of bounds are left and long, a precise shot is needed here. To read more about golf in Wales visit http://golftravelandleisure.com/category/europe/wales/