This is the part of Wales where most of the big names are located – and indeed there is, in truth, too much high-calibre action for one trip. We would advise dividing the courses you fancy into one Cardiff-based trip and one centred around Swansea. Trust us, you won’t be short of options, even if you stay for a week!
Of course it was in South Wales that the golf world descended in 2010 for the game’s biggest week. The weather wasn’t kind but it showed that not even extraordinary rain can put a dampner on golf in Wales; the 2010 Ryder Cup was one of the most dramatic editions in its long and distinguished history.
Most golfers will want to tread the fairways that Tiger, Phil, Rory and co did, and the good news is Celtic Manor Resort are extremely switched on in terms of making it affordable to ordinary golfers – in stark contrast to previous host venues. So while the Twenty Ten is a high-calibre experience, you will see some terrific play-and-stay offers at Celtic Manor Resort, giving you a round on the star course, one or two on their other layouts and a B&B stay. Your time on Ross McMurray’s thrilling Twenty Ten design will be the highlight; Celtic Manor Resort worked hard to produce a truly world-class course to accompany its five-star hotel and once won the right to host the Ryder Cup, Sir Terry Matthews delivered the stellar, purpose-built course he promised. European Golf Design’s McMurray has skilfully taken the best bits of the existing Wentwood Hills layout and blended in striking new holes to provide a magnificent risk-and-reward experience that’s perfect for matchplay. With water on half of the holes – including a grandstand finale – this is a ‘must play’ venue.
Celtic Manor Resort isn’t the only Tour-standard play-and-stay venue in the area, with Marriott St Pierre near Chepstow in Monmouthshire a Solheim Cup host back in 1996 and a regular host of the European men’s circuit. And The Vale Resort is the regular base for the Wales rugby team, such is its quality off the course – and on it, the National course is as much of a beast as some of the Welsh pack! After these inland delicacies, you might want to head for the coast and the first classy course you come to is Southerndown... which, erm, isn’t really a links! Located high up in the hills near Bridgend, it does have a linksy feel with the turf and the gorse but this is more downland in character. It can be very tough when it’s windy and the uphill 1st is a very unforgiving start. Grazing sheep help keep the fairways tightly mown.
Then we move further east to a true links; Pyle & Kenfig. It was laid out by Mackenzie Ross, who said in 1946 that he had seen no finer golfing land than that on the back nine at P&K. It sounds a little far fetched, but go there for yourself and judge the veracity of his suggestion (we predict you’ll come away nodding in agreement). The front half is perfectly good, but then gives way to truly awesome holes cut through sand dunes.
Next door is the pride of Wales; Royal Porthcawl. This is world-class links fare right from the very start, with three holes along the shore of the highest order. With the wind often stiff and the greens seriously slick, it is often a rather chastening experience – it is so easy to de-green yourself on this opening trio – as well as a delightful one. The cream of GB&I and America’s amateurs, including Tiger Woods, lapped it up when the matches were held here in 1995. The sea is visible from every hole and with little evidence of a weak link, this is indisputably Wales’ No.1.
Moving south of Swansea and onto higher ground again we come to Pennard, undisputably one of the most under-rated courses in Britain and Ireland. It oozes character, a clifftop venue with a links feel to it – as befits the club’s own description of its course as ‘the links in the sky’. There are no weak holes here with a handful right out of the top drawer – not least the 7th and 16th. Laid out by James Braid and amended by CK Cotton, it is a GB&I Top 100 course in the making.
With Swansea now behind us, we are on the outskirts of Llanelli when we discover a new Jack Nicklaus design at Machynys Peninsula. The green fees here are surprisingly good value given it is a modern championship course by Jack, is routinely in fantastic condition, overlooks Carmarthen Bay and offers plenty of very fine golf holes. The high-glassed dining room on the first floor of the clubhouse is a superb spot for breakfast or lunch.
Nearby Ashburnham at Burry Port has a modest start and finish but this is otherwise an exceptionally good links. If you don’t love it here, you probably need to stick to parkland golf – it’s that good, with 15 of the country’s very finest links holes.
Finally we come to Tenby in beautiful Pembrokeshire. This is holiday links golf as many of us remember it, except it is just quite a bit better... This solid links can get really fast running in the summer and has some wonderful holes, such as the 3rd, which is played to a plateau green, and the next, which has a punchbowl green.
You can now see why we insisted that in order to fully discover its extensive charms, South Wales requires more than one trip – there is just so much quality golf. Start planning your two golf trips to South Wales now...
For more information see the Visit Wales website.
A hole you would relish: Royal Porthcawl, 2nd, Par 4, 451 yards
A tough drive with a long carry is followed by an exacting second to the beach-side green, with out of bounds lurking down the left side...