Pennard is living proof, if proof were needed, that the modern game need not exclusively rely on long and tedious 7,000-yard layouts to provide a contemporary test. Measuring under 6,300 yards from the tips, time and again this delightful course provides holes of modest length that confound the thoughtless golfer and reward the skilful one. Few other courses feature fairways and greens with such dramatic undulations and finding yourself on the wrong side of the hole can be akin to falling foul of a city-centre one-way system – you can see where you want to be but there is no way to get there.
Even on the shortest of the par fours, such as the 12th and 14th, birdies can all too quickly turn to bogeys and worse. On the former, the land throws everything to the right to leave a semi-blind shot to the green. And at the latter, the green is delightfully situated over the brow of a hill and then runs from front to back. That you are close enough with a good drive to see all of this before you pitch makes the second shot all the more ticklish.
Those are just two examples of the fun to be had at a course whose history dates back to 1886 and that was laid out by the prolific James Braid. The five-time Open champion declared he had never seen a better piece of natural land for the game – which is quite a boast – and his work was modernised, yet with the philosophy intact, by Ken Cotton.
The village of Pennard is located on the Gower Peninsula, that area of stunning natural beauty that is gloriously under-appreciated and therefore unspoilt, within a half-hour drive of Swansea. Even the approach is unusual, across a bleak moor, until you reach a course that stretches to the very edge of the cliffs.
With sensational views, the ruins of an 11th-century castle, grazing cattle and some thrilling topography a game here could never be described as lacking in incident.
And from the very start, the golf is of wonderful variety. A stiff opener travels up and over a crest to a sunken, hidden green while the 2nd is the first of a quintet of ticklish short holes.
The 3rd turns sharply left and after a claustrophobic drive opens out to reveal the ocean in the distance. By the time the 6th green comes into the view, the challenge of Pennard starts to be apparent.
Good scoring is dependent on finding the right angles into what can be puzzling greens, nowhere more so than at the 7th, a delightful and spectacular par four played downhill and where the difficulty lies not in reaching the green but the opposite – finding a way of stopping the ball before it runs over the back and miles beyond.
Strategy at the 8th, going the other way is dictated by whether the pin is cut on the higher right or lower left portion of the green while the 9th is much less subtle and much more stern at 440 yards and doglegging to the left.
The 10th is 488 yards of pure temptation because, from the elevated tee, the fairway can be seen unfurling towards the green in the distance. Unfortunately, a ditch at the bottom of the hill means the tee shot for long hitters is often just a lay up.
Perhaps the two most memorable holes are still to come, namely the back-to-back par fives of 16 and 17. The first turns sharply to the right towards a green attractively perched on top of the cliffs. It is tempting to attack in two but anything missing left will finish in big trouble.
Meanwhile, the 17th is the harder of the two, doglegging to the left and uphill to a distant green. It calls for a measured approach in three blows or alternatively a blind second of some quality across the angle to a green surrounded on three sides by gorse. It is a shot best left to the experts because it is all too easy to run up a substantial number here.
The closing hole is of medium length but with more gorse in play must be treated with respect. In an ideal world, a round here will be followed by a spot of lunch followed by an afternoon 18 but even if one game is all you have time for, few true golfers would consider this anything other than a entirely worthwhile excursion.