Like Panmure, St Andrews New and Murcar, to name but three, Pyle & Kenfig is destined forever to live in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbour. In its case, Royal Porthcawl is the golfing elder while the others have to compete with Carnoustie, the Old Course and Royal Aberdeen respectively. Witness the 2002 Amateur Championship, hosted by Porthcawl, with P&K, as it is known to the locals, used for the strokeplay section in the early part of the week and long forgotten by the time eventual champion Alejandro Larrazabal was being handed the trophy at the weekend.
As is so often the case with such courses, most first-time visitors count P&K as little more than a makeweight when planning a pilgrimage to Porthcawl, venue of the 1995 Walker Cup when one Tiger Woods was on the losing American team.
It is treated as a ‘while you’re there’ optional extra; the warm-up before the main event. This is an unfair dismissal of a course that, in places, is every bit as impressive as Porthcawl itself. On the positive side, better that so many golfers call in at P&K for the reason they do than never bother on account of it being a golfing outpost.
Once they have played at both courses, though, many would sooner come back here. Homely, friendly and down-to-earth, visitors tend to feel more comfortable here than they do in the more august setting of Royal Porthcawl just a mile or two down the coast.
Not that P&K ever actually quite gets to the sea. Indeed, the entirety of the front nine, not to mention the 10th and 18th holes, are played well inland, which makes this a course of two halves.
Homely, friendly and down-to-earth, visitors tend to feel more comfortable here than they do in the more august setting of Royal Porthcawl just a mile or two down the coast.
Originally designed in the early 1920s by Harry Colt, the more inland front nine that stands today is his work. But with nine holes commandeered by the military in the Second World War, Philip Mackenzie Ross was called in to replace them with new holes shortly afterwards. And what a job he made. Having made the decision to cross the road (it was then a path) and construct them in the duneland, they are now undoubtedly the highlight of a round here.
Indeed, it is only a shame that when the club later attempted to build a further nine around and beyond them, the conservationist movement, that bane of golfer, prevented the land being converted to what was surely its best use.
Had that proposal come to fruition, P&K would assuredly not be in the shadow of Porthcawl any longer. Because, while Colt’s front nine is entirely worthy – only the rather featureless short 6th could be considered sub-standard – it is only having reached the 11th tee that the fun really begins.
That said, excellent putting surfaces and some trademark Colt bunkering mean the front nine, played over generally flat land, is never dull. It is only in comparison to what follows that it suffers.
Certainly, any score that is to be made must be set up on the opening half. For a start, there are two relatively modest par fives, even if they play in opposite directions meaning it is rare both will offer an obvious birdie opportunity on the same day.
The third and final par five comes at the 11th, a magnificent dogleg that takes you from the more open, flatter land into the heart of the dunes. It is followed by a stern par three, uphill, and then come P&K’s two signature holes. The 13th is blind from the tee and doglegs sharply to the right in a natural valley. Be warned that the marker post is somewhat subjective – long hitters should play to the right of it or club down to avoid running out of fairway. The green is partially hidden beyond a steep-faced dune on the left that makes the target appear much smaller than it really is.
It is the kind of hole, having played it for the first time, you want immediately to have another go at. The elevated 14th tee offers views of the links that might have been and beyond it Rest Bay, the Bristol Channel and even the distant Gower Peninsula. Nor does the hole itself disappoint, curving uphill and to the right and tempting the daring to cut off too much of the dogleg.
Then comes the notoriously tough finish, beginning with a 200-yard par three to an awkwardly contoured green that at least plays downhill.
A trio of 400-yard-plus par fours await after that. The 16th is the most attractive, the 17th the most difficult and the 18th a rigorous closing hole. A mere warm-up for Porthcawl? P&K is assuredly rather more than that.