Celtic Manor Golf Resort
There are three American-style courses at the luxurious Celtic Manor Resort: Roman Road, The Montgomerie and the Twenty Ten Course (host site of the 2010 Ryder Cup). Roman Road is named for a centuries old highway that the Roman military used to travel from England to Wales. It opened in 1995, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and it measures 6,743 yards from the championship tees. In 2006, Roman Road was the site of the Wales Open. In 2010, The Twenty Ten Course (formerly called Wentwood Hills) was the site of the Ryder Cup matches. It opened in 1999 and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. From the championship tees, it is a very long layout. It measures over 7,400 yards and features two par fives of over 600 yards. The Montgomerie course recently opened and will add yet another terrific course to the resort. All the courses at Celtic Manor offer sensational views of the countryside, Severn Estuary, and the mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Marriot St. Pierre Golf Resort
There are two courses at this lovely facility in south Wales: the Old and the Mathern. The Old is a parkland-style layout that was designed by Ken Cotton and J.F.F. Penink in 1962. The Curtis Cup matches were played on the Old in 1980, and in 1996 it was the site of the Solheim Cup matches. The Old measures 6,925 yards from the championship tees, and was ranked #7 in Wales by Golf Digest. St. Pierre’s Mathern Course is also a very pretty parkland layout but much shorter. The Mathern’s back-tee length of only 5,748 yards, however, makes it a great place to warm up before taking on the Old course. Mathern opened in 1975 and was designed by Bill Cox.
Pennard Golf Club
The 8th best course in Wales — according to Golf Digest — is the one at Pennard Golf Club. Because it is located on the rugged Gower Peninsula some 200 feet above sea level, Pennard is often called the “links in the sky.” The course overlooks beautiful Three Cliffs Bay and the views of the coastline are some of the most spectacular in Wales. Golf is reported to have been played at Pennard since 1896. The original 18 holes were designed by five-time British Open champion James Braid and later revised by Ken Cotton. Somewhat oddly, there’s only one par five on the front nine but three par fives on the back. The closing nine also includes three par threes. Due to its elevation, Pennard is exposed to the wind and can play much longer than its back-tee length of 6,289 yards.
Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club
Known locally as “P & K”, the layout at Pyle and Kenfig was designed by H.S. Colt in 1922. The original back nine was lost during World War II, however, so a new nine was later built within nearby dunes land. Located only a mile or so from the famous links at Royal Porthcawl, P & K is thought by many to be nearly as testing. While the opening holes are very good, it’s the back nine here that makes this course so special. They wind their way through towering dunes, offer sensational views of the Bristol Channel, Gower Peninsula and Welsh Mountains, and finish with three very strong par fours. Golf Digest placed Pyle and Kenfig in the No. 6 spot.
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club
The No. 1 course in Wales, according to Golf Digest, is Royal Porthcawl. Since it was founded in 1891, the club has hosted a number of major events. It has held the Curtis Cup and Walker Cup matches, and been the site of the British Amateur six times and the Welsh Amateur 13 times. Unlike many classic links set hard by the sea, Royal Porthcawl is completely devoid of dunes. Swansea Bay is in sight from every hole, and the wind off the water can be fierce. The beach, by the way, is in play to the left on the first three holes. Also unusual is the fact that the drive on the first is played across the 18th fairway. Royal Porthcawl only measures 6,697 yards from the championship tees, but it’s a stern test for even better players.
Southerndown Golf Club
This layout is often described as a downland links, “downland” in this case oddly meaning an elevated area. The club was founded in 1905 and the course was originally designed by 1883 British Open champion Willie Fernie. Over the years it’s been revised by such notable architects as Willie Park Jr., Herbert Fowler, H.S. Colt and Donald Steel. Due to its location high above the Ogmore River Valley, Southerndown provides stirring views of the countryside and Bristol Channel. This lovely links is a bit on the short side at just 6,449 yards from the championship tees, but it’s not without defenses. The bunkers are deep, there’s bedeviling bracken fern and clumps of thick gorse everywhere and, of course, it’s almost always windy. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you have to work your way around a few sheep.
St. Enodoc Golf Club
The Church Course at St. Enodoc is a jewel of links golf in the South West as the James Braid design is set on the cliff tops overlooking the Camel estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. No two of the undulating holes are the same and the course features the famous Himalaya bunker, reputedly the tallest in Europe. The tenth hole winds down to the Norman St. Enodoc Church. At 6547 yards, it is a solid test for any golfer. With amazing sea views throughout the layout, it is without a doubt one of the prettiest links layout in the world.
Tenby Golf Club
Founded in 1888, Tenby is the oldest golf club in Wales. Historical documents, however, clearly show that golf was being played here at least ten years earlier. Originally just a 9-hole course that was built along South Beach (its designer is unknown), Tenby was expanded to 18 holes in 1907. Typical of a traditional links layout, Tenby’s fairways play firm and fast and most of them are bordered either by tall native grasses or thick clumps of gorse. Due to its location near the shore (which provides golfers with great views of nearby Caldey Island and the Irish Sea), the wind can make this little layout play much longer than its back-tee length of 6,337 yards. Tenby may be short but it’s tough, reflective of Golf Digest ranking it the 4th best course in Wales.