Few courses in all of Wales have such a superlative opening of holes as Tenby. Any visit to the club is augmented by the superb location -- plenty of things to do and see -- with golf most certainly high on the list.
The quartet are challenging and architecturally interesting in a variety of ways. The opening salvo reminds me of any James Bond or Indiana Jones movie -- best you're seated the minute the lights go down low in the theater or you will certainly be missing something of note.
Tenby opens from the championship tees with a long par-4 of 462 yards -- it's a par-5 of 476 yards from the medal tees -- requiring two solid strikes to get near the putting surface. It also helps to shape the tee shot from right-to-left but be forewarned -- going too far left means a date with the out-of-bounds awaiting the hapless play. The tee shot features a blind shot over a narrow saddle opening and clearly signals the game is most certainly on.
The 2nd is no less challenging -- fortified by a long narrow green -- the approach must be played with total confidence in order to achieve a hard-earned par.
At the 3rd you encounter arguably one of the finest under 400 yards par-4's in all of the UK. Generally, the prevailing wind is with the player and it pays to take heed as the fairway bottlenecks considerably. Those who seek to hit driver had better execute with laser-like precision. The smart play is to lay-up before the narrowing and hit one's approach from that area. The green is simply grand stuff, utterly devilish and providing steep drop-offs on either side which can propel one's ball into a harrowing position.
The 4th continue the challenge in fine fashion. The ground is naturally rumpled and gives the appearance of an ocean on a stormy day. A long accurate tee shot can finish over a blind rise and the approach from this position becomes a matter of total faith in one's ability. Assessing the yardage and the trajectory one wishes to execute the shot are equally called upon. The green is beautifully situated in a bowl-like setting. When you finish the hole -- look back from the rear of the green and admire the manner by which Mother Nature played such a sterling role.
The land movement at Tenby is very good amongst the links holes -- plenty of twists and turns with fairways featuring an assortment of lies and the different types of stances you'll need to improvise when playing. Thinking carefully before striking one's ball is essential on the opening half of holes. The proximity to the ocean allows for varying wind velocities to Impact play and the tightness of the turf ensures plenty of ball movement when any shot strikes the terrain.
The series of par-4's from the 7th through the 11th is also a good mixture. At the 7th there's a rail line hugging the right side of the hole with OB awaiting. There's also a series of fairway bunkers - big enough to snare a golf ball into but far from an automatic escape. The elevated tee at the par-4 9th is also a wonderful hole that provides a glorious view of the coastline and a view of the town and St. Catherine's Island & Fort. With a turn of the shoulder you can also take in the view of nearby Caldey Island.
The 10th and 11th are solid two-shot holes -- each going in different directions so the wind pattern will vary. The 12th is the best par-3 at Tenby. The tee is along the edge of the property line with the nearby beach and the green is slightly angled so when a pin placement is in the far right area it will take a supreme shot of total skill to find the mark.
Unfortunately, when one leaves the 12th you're envisioning a rousing finish to cap off the round. Alas, that's not going to happen. Much has been made of the three holes on the other side of the rail line. I concur their inclusion is totally out of character with the holes found on the links side. However, holes #13 and #14 do not really add anything to the equation and while they still possess a links connection they are truly lame when held against the likes of what one has already played. I was informed the three original holes were lost to the sea and that the club added the "new" holes in the 1960s.
The 18th tries to sort things out as players return to the links side of the course. The extreme rear tee does provide a wonderful view of the clubhouse in the nearby distance and the pesky OB runs down the entire left side must also be factored into the mix with any approach struck too strong.
How many times has one gone to a movie and after a rousing opening and much build-up you're anticipating a grand finale and then left wanting at the end. That's the story with Tenby -- the course should have been much better because the quirk you encounter and the various twists and turns of the terrain are really fun and memorable. The other missing ingredient for me is the lack of a quality par-5 or two in the mix. There really isn't such a hole at Tenby. The backbone of the course rests with the collection of par-4 holes on the links side.
Tenby is certainly worth the visit -- but the disappointment of "what might have been" still resonates for me.
by M. James Ward
Date: February 20, 2018