Pennard Golf Club Pt. II
by Sean Arble
5th hole, 165 yards, PENMAEN: A village on the slopes of Cefyn Bryn with a magical view of Three Cliffs Bay. This hole was built by Steel in 1991 at the same time the 4th was altered. The members thought the green was too severe with the wind at their backs. Consequently, in 1995 the green was reshaped and reprofiled to more easily accommodate aerial shots.
Heading in nearly the same direction (west) as the second, this short hole is greatly affected by wind coming up the Pill, especially as the tee is elevated. The front bunkering makes the tee shot very difficult to a forward hole location. It is best to ignore the pin and aim for the centre of this back-to-front sloping green.
6th hole, 400 yards, ADMIRAL: This hole honours Admiral Sir Algernon Lyons, the well known husband of the first President of Pennard Golf Club, Lady Louisa Lyons. In 1965 CK Cotton moved the green to its current (and brilliant) position a few yards further left and up the hill from Braid’s original 1908 layout.
For many, Pennard begins in earnest when standing on the sixth tee. The view straight down the Pill with Pennard Castle to the left is alluring. When the golfer does turn his attention to the tee shot at hand he will discover it requires a strong strike up the left in the hope that the ball will spill to the centre of the fairway. That is not to say a bolder player cannot aim right and turn the ball straight toward the hole, but few are brave enough to aim toward trouble. A clear view of the flag is gained if the player manages to pull off one of his best drives of the day. The approach continues the steady climb to a green nestled in a raised bowl. This green differs from other punch bowl greens in that it seems to repel rather than gather balls. This is mainly due to a ridge running left to right about five yards short of the green. Anything less than a bold shot will take the path of least resistance and turn right leaving a delicate pitch over the ridge. Suffice it to say that an approach which carries the green will usually end up at the rear and in the lap of the gods. Admiral is often greatly under-valued, perhaps because of the following hole.
7th hole, 351 yards, CASTLE: So far as I can determine, this is a Braid original. The routing and tee are from the 1908 course and the green was rebuilt in 1931. Because the castle is the most enduring symbol of the club, a few words about its origins are in order. The following is paraphrased from P.M. Grant’s 100 Years On The Cliff: The Complete History of Pennard Golf Club.
It is thought that Pennard Castle was built during the reign of Edward 1st, who was known as “Longshanks” and “Hammer of the Scots,” in a continuing effort to subdue the Welsh sometime after 1272. Oliver Cromwell is the last named Lord that held the manor and castle of Pennard. In 1650 Cromwell commissioned a survey of all his lands which reported “There remains but part of the ruins and so unrepaired that there scarcely remaineth one whole wall. ”
The club became the owners of Pennard Castle in 1920. Admiral Sir Algernon Lyons invested most of his money in Germany and lost it before the start of World War I. Upon his death in 1911 the Kilvrough Estate was left to the Admiral’s eldest son, Thomas Humphrey Lyons to avoid death duties. However, the influenza outbreak of 1918 took his life and, ironically, the estate had to be broken up to pay death duties. Eventually, the club paid Ã‚£1500 for the land, a bargain born of opportunity if ever there was, and the castle is now listed as a Scheduled Ancient Ruin. For many years the National Trust attempted to purchase the 95 acres of land surrounding the course which included the castle. In 1988 a deal was apparently struck only for negotiations to fall through.
The sand which surrounds the castle used to spread much further around the Pennard Burrows. As such, rabbits were a frightful problem and in 1910 the club agreed to increase the rent payment to Lady Lyons from Ã‚£10 to Ã‚£50 per annum if she would rid the burrows of rabbits. After World War I, the professional, Gus Faulkner, father of Max Faulkner, the 1951 Open champion, was given permission to shoot rabbits before 10:00am. Presumably, the members slept late! Despite the four decades of war with the rabbits, the onset of myxomatosis in the 1950s was the eventual reason for their demise. Only after the removal of the rabbits did the character of the course begin the change from a sandy waste to what it is today.
If the 16th isn’t cited as the favourite of most, then Castle usually is. “The line of flight between the sparse ruins of a thirteenth-century church on the left and the more imposing ruins of twelfth-century Pennard Castle on the right presents one of the unforgettable prospects of golf, our drive winging away over a deep chasm to come to rest in a turbulent patch of fairway, with the Bristol Channel shimmering pewter in the distance.” is how James Finegan described the view from the tee. The centreline bunkers perhaps 50 yards short of the green make the approach one not soon forgotten. The green is equally tremendous and epitomizes the concept of defending a course around the greens. It is sited just beyond the crest of a dune then slips sharply away from the fairway. The expectation of a three is not unjustified when the hole is cut in the lower bowl. Four is always a good score when the hole is located on the upper left shelf.
8th hole, 357 yards, CHURCH: St. Mary’s was built around the same time of the castle and is thought to have suffered the same sandy fate, sometime in the early part of the 16th century. Another Braid original, the entire hole probably dates from the 1912 routing.
Church doubles back on the seventh, doglegs slightly left and travels a bit uphill to a tricky green. Both front corners are protected by a bunker, each making hole placements behind these hazards especially troublesome.
9th hole, 445 yards, SOUTHGATE: The village where Pennard G.C. is located. A Braid gem designed in 1920.
The ninth is the last and without doubt the most difficult of an excellent string of two shotters which began at the sixth tee. Like the eighth, Southgate turns left, but with one added element, the land falls right all the way up to the green which is perched on top of a dune well above the fairway floor. The “reverse dogleg” concept works well here because there is enough room to miss right. In fact, it is best to be on the outside of the turn. For those that try to shorten the dogleg, a bunker and a poor angle of attack await.
10th hole, 492 yards, THREE CLIFFS: Named for the view in the distant background. In 1965 CK Cotton decided to keep Braid’s tee (1920) and stretch this hole another 80 yards up the hill, just below the 15th. The green was widened and extended further right in 1993 at a cost of Ã‚£8000. Some thought the green was extended too far and was too costly, but the benefit of additional hole locations proved the investment to be worthwhile.
Most golfers are very unsure of which line to take even though a marker clearly shows the way. Pick the right club, hit a draw and one has every chance of turning the corner over the creek which runs under the valley floor where the fairway acts a bridge. The tee shot exemplifies the relative non-importance of yardage at Pennard. The creek is all of 315 yards from the tee, but it is often prudent to lay up. The second shot is as equally uphill as the tee shot was downhill. Bunkers guard both front edges and back left of the green making the short, uphill, semi-blind approach a trifle disconcerting.
11th hole, 180 yards, TOWER: Named for the water tower in the background. This hole is solely attributable to CK Cotton (1965).
Tower is the last of a remarkable run of six holes over some of the most rugged terrain in golf. The 11th is also the start of several holes which, in the words of Donald Steel, “are teasing rather than formidable.” We hit over the same valley as on the 10th, but in the opposite direction. The awfully narrow green is tucked into a hillside below the ninth fairway. The pinnable area is no more than 10 paces wide. The green sports a false front which a can repel a weak approach a full 50 yards back toward the creek. Severe, testing and great are apt descriptions for this hole.
12th hole, 298 yards, PENNARD PILL: Named after the deep stream valley near which the castle stands. The original 1908 Braid green is still in use. The hole used to be played as a very short par four from somewhere short and right of the current 11th green and over the 15th tee. CK Cotton built a new tee in 1965. The fairway was extended toward the Pill in 2005.
James Finegan labels this hole as “marvelous.” Rough used to stop balls from rumbling down the side of the hill and crash landing in the Pill. By widening the fairway Tom Doak’s concept of “short grass as a hazard” became a reality because there is nothing to save the slice from oblivion. Anybody attempting to drive this blind green had better pick the correct line just right of the 15th tee or risk the indignation of earning nil point on Pennard’s shortest two shotter. Of course, laying up and approaching the hole blind is always an option!
13th hole, 207 yards, COLONEL: Named after Colonel Llewellyn Morgan for providing the funds to build Braid’s green in 1908. In 1978 the dune to the front left of the green was reduced rendering the pin visible anywhere on the putting surface.
In the January 1928 issue of Golf Illustrated, Sir Ernest Holderness thought enough of Colonel to name it one of the best in Britain. Like the 11th, this is a knob to knob shot over a valley. It may be wise to aim over the waste area on the left and perhaps take an extra club rather than risk your ball tumbling down the bank to the right of the green; another area where short grass is a hazard. The recovery back up the slope requires a deft touch. Errors in judgment or execution usually result in a bogey or worse.