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Golf around Swansea just off the M4 offers up hilltop golf in the western Valleys, some links golf with a difference and the courses on the Gower Peninsula
The approach to the 2nd seemed a tad eccentric to me … until I realised I’d played to the wrong green - the 4th! After my second crack at that green, the 5th was then a magnificent hole sweeping down and gently round to the left.
But the two that followed must be among the toughest back-to-back par 4s anywhere at 456 yards uphill, then 461 yards round towards the cliff edge. A thoroughly enjoyable round set above Langland and Caswell Bays on Gower.
James Braid’s Pennard plays over the most rumpled of links landscapes high above Three Cliffs and Oxwich Bays on Gower.
Drama and history come rolled into one on the 7th, where the fairway is flanked by both a Norman castle, and the remains of an ancient church.
The back nine gradually heads towards the cliffs before turning for home on 17, a wonderful double dogleg par 5 flanked by gorse, where discretion will often prove the better part of valour.
Neath, again the handiwork of Braid, offers a different golf around Swansea theme, set high above the valley floors with some magnificent panoramas.
The vista from the 10th and 11th is truly mesmerising as you gaze down towards normal life in the valley below.
The hole you will remember most though is the 15th which plunges 80ft back down to the lower level in one fell swoop via more tee-shot hang time than you can possibly imagine.
This highly regarded links, the work of Braid’s Triumvirate pal, JH Taylor, is one of very few clubs to have hosted the PGA Championship more than once.
The downhill opening par 3 is no pushover, set worryingly close to the OOB posts on the right, but after doubling back via the 2nd, the course moves into a wonderful mid-section packed with many standout links holes.
Coming down the stretch the holes change direction constantly, with the final four heading east, west, north and south in that order.
The Nicklaus-designed course at Machynys is a links with a difference – a modern take on the seaside theme with the main adversaries lakes, large bunkers and testing greens rather than the dunes and pot bunkers of a traditional seaside course.
But this point of difference merely adds to the appeal of a course that has already passed its 10th birthday milestone.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
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