Wales & SW England: Golf’s Road Less Travelled (Part 5)
Roughly an hour’s drive from Porthcawl, beyond the seaside city of Swansea, lies the small village of Mumbles, which is home to magical Pennard Golf Links. In many ways, Pennard would be the antithesis of Royal Porthcawl. And surprisingly, in this case, that’s not a bad thing. It is a must-play for all links enthusiasts. We arrived early for our round and spent the extra time mingling in the clubhouse bar overlooking the 1st tee and 18th green with what has to be the friendliest membership in all of Wales. Fortunately for Hutchie and Lucky Lew, the pre-arranged caddy did not post so they were afforded use of the brand spanking new buggy on the premises. Good thing too, because the tumbling terrain of Pennard is not for sissies. Or the infirm.
The well-conditioned links begin tamely compared to what comes later, but don’t take that to mean easy. It takes a little while to become used to the electric wire surrounding the greens and the livestock that it keeps off the putting surfaces – cows, sheep and sometimes wild horses. But all of that is window dressing that only adds to the magic as you play this fabulous course. Picking a favorite hole here is like favoring one of your children but if pressed, mine was probably the par 5 4th which is sort of a double dogleg playing along then across a little valley, then back uphill to the green. You almost can’t fathom so many cool holes all being in one course. You will skirt castle ruins on one then go cliffside on another. Pennard’s marketing handle is The Links in the Sky. Quite right! Taken as a whole this was the most memorable of our golfing days in Wales.
After taking the following day off to meet with Lucky’s family and scatter his Mom’s ashes in her lovely mountainside hometown of Pontypridd, we left Wales and drove across the Bristol Channel and into SW England. En route to our second “home base”, we stopped at Burnham-on-Sea to play another terrific links – Burnham and Berrow. Our biggest problem was that Lucky Lew’s back issue was rapidly deteriorating and there was no buggy available. He decided to hang out in the clubhouse while we played. Hutchie decided to rent a trolley and try going afoot with Billy and I.
This links gets serious right away with dunes lining each side of the first hole. Of all the course we would play on this trip, this one had the toughest set up. Fairways were narrow and the fescue was thick and deep. We all made a couple excursions into it. A first rate layout in excellent shape, the thing that sticks in my memory the most is the strength of its group of par 3s. The other thing that happened was that Hutchie’s feet started acting up again. He had to take a break so he cut across the loop after 6 holes and skipped the middle section of the course. We picked him up about an hour later on the inward nine, somewhat loopy from pain medication. The situation was nearly like the old golf joke - hit the ball, drag Hutchie. Personally, it was here at Burnham and Berrow that my game started to round into good form, probably because this course demands that you hit so many quality shots.
After a nice meal in the clubhouse we squeezed our wounded into the minivan (by this time Lucky Lew is yelping every time he has to bend at the waist) and travelled southwesterly to the English riverside town of Bideford. Lucky and Hutchie were anxiously anticipating to a restful evening in The Mount - our B&B. When we arrived and our host opened the front door, all we could see was a long flight of stairs. It felt like a punch in the gut because our rooms were all at the top. Of course they were.
(Next up: Saunton & Royal North Devon)
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