That famous Welsh song proudly proclaims, ‘We’ll keep a welcome in the hillside, we’ll keep a welcome in the vales’, and nowhere can this be truer than in the region’s many golf clubs, where I’ve only ever been greeted and treated as you would hope to be. They keep just as friendly a welcome on the coast too, even at the south’s most famous and revered links, the mighty Royal Porthcawl. The clubhouse is exactly how a good golf clubhouse should be – warm and welcoming, steeped in history and with magnificent sea views. Soaking it all up with a reviving post-round drink is hard to beat, especially when you consider the quality of the links you’ve just played.
The sea is visible from every hole too, perhaps a little too closely over the opening trio where anything straying left will end up out of bounds among the pebbles. But if you do end up OOB, you’ll be in good company, as Tiger himself made just such a faux-pas against Gary Wolstenholme in the 1995 Walker Cup.
Links golf of this quality would come at a considerably higher price elsewhere in the UK, and that holds true for nearby Pyle & Kenfig too – where several holes play through dunes the like of which you’ll find nowhere else in the country – and the exhilaratingly rugged hilltop test at Southerndown, just inland from Ogmore-by-Sea.
For my most recent Porthcawl trip, I’d moved on a little from the spare room at my brother’s house, and based myself at The Bear Hotel in Cowbridge, a few miles west of Cardiff. This ancient yet contemporary inn really is the ideal base from which to explore both the courses on the coast, and the hilltop tracks in the Valleys. But if you wanted to set up camp further east, The Newbridge on Usk, part of the Celtic Manor Collection near Abergavenny, is a fine old riverside ‘restaurant with rooms’, where you can dine in style in the two AA Rosette restaurant.
The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, with its three courses and imposing hotel, has done much to put Welsh golf firmly on the map, hosting the Wales Open since 2000 and that memorable Ryder Cup in 2010. The eponymous Twenty Ten course also played host to the ISPS Handa Wales Open from May 31 to June 3 this year, with Thongchai Jaidee triumphing. But South Wales’ tour heritage dates back much further – the Old Course at Marriott St Pierre near Chepstow was a tour stop for many years, and also hosted the 1996 Solheim Cup.
More recently, the Vale Resort at Hensol near Cardiff has further bolstered South Wales’ golf resort credentials with two courses to enjoy, including the Wales National, one of the longest tests in Europe. Like me, you’ll probably enjoy it more by setting your ego aside and venturing forward to some slightly more playable tees!
A trip to Royal Porthcawl: