Wales’ Golden Golf Coast
On Wales’ south coast, midway between Cardiff and Swansea, is a stretch of land that is often – and wrongly – overlooked by golfers.
The town of Bridgend is at the heart of this region and, whilst it is not a name that leaps to the forefront of golfers’ minds, its neighbour Porthcawl should do because it is home to one of the world’s finest links course.
But there is more to Bridgend than one stunning layout.
There are cracking golf courses both inland and by the sea, plus plenty to see and do off the course.
It’s one thing for an area to be undiscovered, but quite another for it to provide such a fulfilling experience when you finally get there, as Matt Cooper found out on a recent visit.
Here’s his guide to the district –
The major venue – Royal Porthcawl GC
Wales’ first ever major championship heads to Royal Porthcawl in July this year when the Senior Open Championship will host great golfers like Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam and Miguel Angel Jimenez. The course is comfortably worthy of the honour and might even be in line to progress to the Open Championship sooner rather than later.
A wonderful layout that calls for brave drives and confident approach shots, it is never less than a thrill to play every hole. There is genuinely not one hole on the course that you would not want to play again (and again and again).
It is also blessed with a superb, cosy clubhouse bar that is perfect for a pre-match cup of tea and post-round lunch or dinner, plus there are two beautiful beaches less than 200 yards from the car park – a wonderful spot.
The championship host – Pyle & Kenfig GC
Joint venue – with Royal Porthcawl – for the 2016 Amateur Championship, P&K kicks off with nine holes on raised ground that offers fine views of the Seven Channel before the back nine winds its way through the dunes closer to the sea.
It’s nothing less than a really enjoyable place to spend three or four hours enjoying some stunning golf holes on quality links land. The back nine, in particular, is bewitching, as it sneaks between those high dunes, with the roar of the sea in the near distance.
Not to be overlooked – Maesteg GC
Further inland, and high in the valleys, is this James Braid-designed layout which presents a great shot-making challenge and amazing views of the surrounding hills. Maesteg is a really good track that many would overlook, but if you like a classic design that allows you to attack the course this is well worth adding to the schedule.
Other courses –
Southerndown GC peers down from the cliff tops, across a landscape of sand hills, to the town of Porthcawl. It might be high on those cliffs but it plays like a links. Magnificent views and a top class golf course.
Grove GC, just outside Porthcawl, is a modern layout whose standout feature is the well-designed greens.
Off the course attractions –
Nature – Merthyr Mawr dunes have some of the largest sand hills in all of Europe and offer stunning views and great walking (or jogging) territory. Merthyr Mawr village is tiny but picturesque and Candleston Castle a great place to explore. The area has been used as a location for both the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and the TV series ‘Torchwood’.
Sport – Porthcawl’s beaches and waves are some of Britain’s most popular with surfers. There are also plenty of great mountain biking trails, whilst the Bridgend Mashup celebrates urban sport.
Festivals – plenty to choose from! The Porthcawl Elvis Festival (the largest of its kind in the world)? Or what about the Porthcawl Interceltic Festival (celebrating music, song and dance), the Porthcawl International Jazz Festival, Bridgend Feastival or the Porthcawl Splashup (a three day watersport party).
The Great House in Laleston is the ideal location to discover the whole area. Popular with visiting golfers from all over the world it has a great restaurant, a small spa and the perfect, cosy bar to spend late nights discussing the day’s golf in front of a roaring fire.
The Fairways Hotel in Porthcawl is right on the seafront with wonderful views of the Bristol Channel, a short walk to town and just five minutes from the golf course.
The Senior Open Championship
The showpiece event on the European Seniors Tour will be going to Wales for the first time in 2014. Royal Porthcawl will be a superb venue and there are even rumours that an Open Championship is not too far away. That’s how good the golf course is – be ahead of the game and get there before the crowds follow.
The clinching factor for all these courses and hotels? A trip there won’t break the bank. All of them have great deals on their websites and you could put four rounds of golf and three nights accommodation together for less than £200.
It’s easily reached too, with great motorway links to all part of England and Cardiff airport nearby for visitors from abroad.
For more information about Bridgend visit Bridgend Bites.
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