Royal Porthcawl

Royal Porthcawl

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Royal Porthcawl Golf Club

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

Any course ranking is always subjective but there are rarely any arguments over the best course in Wales. When the sun is shining, with views of the breaking Atlantic rollers from each and every one of its 18 holes, there are few places a golfer would rather be than Royal Porthcawl. On other occasions, when the wind whips down the Bristol Channel, it becomes a course of rare difficulty as those same vantage points are exposed indeed. 
 
You only need look at the winning scores at the 2023 Senior Open to back that up as Alex Cejka eventually saw off Padraig Harrington after both players finished on +5.
 
Unusually for a links course, Porthcawl is far from flat and some of the greens are built into the general incline away from the shore. The prevailing wind, roughly off the sea, counteracts the effect of the slope but anyone who has ever encountered it blowing in the opposite direction will know that greens such as the 4th and 5th are treacherous in the extreme when both forces of nature are working in alliance.
 
In such conditions, the true challenge of links golf is at its most apparent. Certain holes can be little more than survived and a bogey represents a worthy score indeed. Retaining control of the ball - even if only partially - is paramount, as are the virtues of equanimity and patience.
 
With much skill and the occasional dose of good fortune, though, it is possible to survive such stretches at Porthcawl and then use the conditions to your advantage later on in the round.


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A Brief History of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club

The club was founded in 1891 with the first nine-hole course laid out on Lock's Common by Charles Gibson the following year. In 1895, the club moved to its present location with the addition of a further nine-hole course. It was then extended to 18 holes and Royal status was given to the club by King Edward VII in 1909.
 
Renowned golf course architect Harry Colt was commissioned to redesign the course and he and Tom Simpson are largely responsible for the current layout. Colt’s modifications included new bunkers and other layout changes, enhancing the course's challenge and reputation.
 
The club didn’t really establish itself after the war until 1950 and hosted its first major tournament, the Amateur Championship in 1951. It has now held seven Amateurs as well as the Walker and Curtis Cups and various. Ladies European Tour events.
 
It was here in 1995 that Gary Wolstenholme consigned a youthful Tiger Woods to a singles defeat in the Walker Cup. The canny veteran proved once and for all that Porthcawl is a course to be tackled with brain more than brawn. Alongside Harrington, among others, he and the rest of the GB&I team recorded a famous victory over the Americans.
 
The Senior Open Championship was played at Royal Porthcawl in 2014, where Bernhard Langer won by 13 strokes, and Langer again won here in 2017.
 
There is often talk about Royal Porthcawl becoming the first course in Wales to host the Open Championship but it is thought that its infrastructure remains a problem for a championship of that size.

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club Review | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

The Front Nine

From any tees apart from the championships, all four par 5s are a reasonable length and there are several par 4s around 400 yards. 

Were it not the opening hole, for example, the 1st would often present the chance of recording a birdie. As it is, most are happy to ease themselves into the round without disaster and certainly it is imperative to be warmed up before tackling the imposing 2nd and 3rd holes that run parallel to the beach.
 
After that, the next three holes climb to Porthcawl's highest point before a cuter-than-cute short hole to an impossibly narrow green. Little over 100 yards it may be, you can run up a five in a matter of seconds by finding sand from the tee.
 
In windy conditions, the true challenge of links golf is at its most apparent. Certain holes can be little more than survived and a bogey represents a worthy score indeed.
 
The 9th begins the descent back towards the sea, doglegging left around some nasty bunkering and undergrowth. 

The Back Nine

In the right conditions, the 10th can be drivable but the green is a plateau and extremely awkward to pitch and chip to. The low, running approach is the order of the day - but only if you get your angles right.
 
The 12th calls for a blind, uphill drive - hardly the most enticing of prospects - but hold your nerve and you will be rewarded with the chance of a birdie four. Then comes perhaps the most testing portion of the course, with three long par fours flanking a classic links par three that is modest in length but demands a properly struck short iron.
 
Wit the 13th and the 15th running in broadly the same direction and the 16th the opposite, regardless of wind direction you will be tested to the extreme at some stage.
 
The pick is probably the 15th, where the rolling fairway is abruptly punctuated by a nest of bunkers in the face of a hill. Then the land falls before rising again to an exposed green. Into the wind, reaching the green is a feat in itself while downwind trying to hold it with a shot coming in fast and flat is equally challenging. The 16th is similar, again featuring cross bunkers that prevent a significant advantage being claimed when playing downwind.
 
After the final par 5, which like two of the other three climbs uphill throughout, comes the highly unusual closing hole.
 
Downhill all the way and crossing the 1st fairway, even the green slopes towards the sea and it is hard to know which wind makes a closing par more attainable. It is a hole that must be thought through before you find trouble because each mistake seems to lead unavoidably to another. The final one is often a three-putt on what is a treacherous green.

Where is Royal Porthcawl located?

Royal Porthcawl is located in south Wales, and between Swansea and Cardiff, the two major cities in the country.

Cardiff Airport is the nearest major airport, just over 30 miles from Royal Porthcawl. Bristol Airport is located 75 miles away and is the nearest airport over the border in England.

What is a green fee at Royal Porthcawl?

A standard green fee is £195 with a twilight rate of £145 after 3pm on a Sunday. In winter the weekday rate is £125. The green fee will rise to £220 in 2024. 

Is Royal Porthcawl open to non-members?

Yes, visitors must present a handicap certificate in the pro shop before playing – the handicap limit is 20 for men and 30 for women.


Visit Royal Porthcawl's website here.
Go back to the NCG Top 100s Homepage.