Wales and Southwest England: Golf's Road Less Travelled (Part 4)
After a good night’s rest we next tackled Royal Porthcawl which, if you are unfamiliar, is THE championship links in Wales. This is a magnificent test and has that Open Championship look. You can get a good viewing in 2014 when the Senior Open Championship will be played here. Course conditions were exceptional and mercifully the greens not too fast. Let me tell you why I say that.
We were still trying to get our golfing feet under us and had the challenge of playing during a severely stiff and steady wind all day. The first 3 holes play right along the sea and we had to aim at the left rough in order to keep the ball from ending the right rough. Anything with fade spin on those 3 holes had a chance of being a lost ball. To give you an idea how strong the wind was, after a solid drive on the short first hole I was left with only a pitch into the green. Took 2 extra clubs, hit it hard and still came up 20 yards short of the surface. We were dealing with about a 4-club wind! Right away the intuitive adjustment was that the rest of the day would involve many 5 iron punch shots. Thankfully, the old wind-cheater worked like a charm. Lucky Lew’s back kept him from playing this day. He tried to walk with us but even walking was tough for him and he made the wise decision to retreat to the clubhouse pub after a few holes. There are no carts allowed so Hutchie opted for a caddie while Billy and I used a trolley (pull cart) as we would every day. In my view, this course is not one with a signature hole, just a bunch of strong offerings and every one a treat to play. There are no towering sand dunes but the terrain rolls very nicely to provide all the up, down and sidehill golf you want. Royal Porthcawl is a course so good in so many ways that you should make every effort to play it twice on your trip to southern Wales. You’ll thank me for that advice.
At the end of the round, just as Lucky came back for out to watch us play the last couple of holes, Hutchie’s bad feet started acting up. He hobbled painfully though the finish and it felt like some dark curse was upon us!
The next day took us a few miles east to Southerndown, which is not exactly a true links, although it plays very firm like one. Good news for the infirm of my crew was they had buggies for rent! Sitting up on a high stretch of down-land, this is a very good test. The first and last holes are quite memorable with the first a strong par 4 going straight uphill. There were a few sheep - yes, sheep - roaming the fairway and Hutchie scored a direct hit on the buttocks of one a couple hundred yards out from the tee. We would encounter them occasionally throughout the day and the best thing about that is they eat the rough down to a level which keeps the course from being even tougher than it already is. Just watch where you step when you hit one a little crooked.
The last hole has a split-tiered fairway - left half about 8 feet higher than the right - that requires a decision and then precision. Aim to the side opposite where the pin is located on the green if you need to win that final hole. When using the clubhouse, pay attention to your footwear because no golf or athletic shoes are allowed. We enjoyed a solid meal afterwards - in our stocking feet.
(Next up: Pennard and Burnham & Berrow)
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