The two main destinations on my trip are easily accessible. Exit at J37 on the M4 for Porthcawl or J48 for Machynys Peninsula. From the edge of London it’s no more than a three-hour drive to reach Porthcawl. For those travelling from further afield, Cardiff is the nearest city to Porthcawl served by national rail links. Bristol airport is just over an hour’s drive away. Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) flies to Bristol from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. British Airways (www.ba.com) services Bristol from Edinburgh and Glasgow and Eastern Airways (www.easternairways.com) from Aberdeen.
WHERE TO PLAY
Royal Porthcawl is perhaps the best known course in South Wales. Over the years it’s been a regular venue for significant amateur and professional competitions, including the Walker Cup, the Amateur Championship and the Dunlop Masters. Some of the world’s best players have tested their skills around this intimidating layout. Featuring deep, punishing bunkers, treacherous run-offs and encroaching gorse this is not a venue that beginners will enjoy. For the more experienced player it’s an excellent trial of strategy and patience. Your game must be firing on all cylinders if you are to record a good score – stray off line or get clumsy with the short game and shots will slip away like sand through a sieve.
On the same piece of coastline, almost immediately adjacent to Royal Porthcawl, you’ll find Pyle & Kenfig – or P&K. The layout here winds its way through gorse-strewn linksland before heading out into some incredible duneland where you play from elevated tees and climb to raised greens. There are a number of blind shots and it’s advisable to pay close attention to the course planner as you make your way round – it’s the kind of layout where local knowledge is a massive advantage. The greens at P&K are superb and in the summer months can be lightning fast. A deft short game is required.
Machynys Peninsula provides a completely different set-up to the very traditional clubs at Porthcawl and P&K. Some 30 miles west of Porthcawl near the town of Llanelli, this is a very modern facility offering a gym, spa and superb practice areas. The lovely course was completed in 2005 to a Jack Nicklaus design and water comes into play on 16 holes.
The front nine has the feel of a layout that’s maturing well but, as you make your way onto the back side, the course really shows its class. Offering views across miles of sand to the Gower Peninsula this is a simply stunning setting for golf.
WHERE TO STAY
Situated right on Porthcawl’s famous promenade, the Seabank Hotel motto is “Where business and leisure become a pleasure”. The hotel has an old-world, seaside charm and huge rooms (most offering sea views), superb cooked breakfasts and excellent hospitality are the order of the day.
Visit the Gower Peninsula, the first place in the United Kingdom to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a trip to Parkwood. Ancient ash woodland, it’s populated by buzzard, tawny owl and pheasant. People have lived in the Gower since the Lower Paleolithic Age (some 250,000 years ago) so there’s an abundance of history from medieval churches to pre-historic sites. Arthur’s Stone is one of the most impressive. It’s a Neolithic tomb dating from 2500BC.
Where to play
T: 01656 773702
Pyle & Kenfig
T: 01656 772446
T: 01554 744888
Where to stay
Seabank Hotel, Porthcawl
T: 01656 782261