The 7th at Pennard
I was really looking forward to playing Pennard. I’ve always embraced some of the more controversial golf course designs and have never been troubled by blind shots or holes that are difficult to play due to some quirky features. I kind of embrace them. As long as the green site justifies the blind tee shot or the design accommodates the complications involved I’m quite happy to deal with a hole that requires discovery or an element of faith in my play. My top 10 courses include Royal County Down, Prestwick and North Berwick which all have unconventional holes.
Pennard is a golf course that makes me wonder if there can be too much quirk. There were a number of great holes like the 7th and 16th which featured some quirky features, that worked wonderfully because the holes were interesting to play, but also there was an opportunity to manage the more unusual features of the holes. But at Pennard, so many holes went beyond being quirky and in the case of a hole like the 17th simply cross the line into bad design.
The setting for Pennard is spectacular and you must play this course just to see the incredible views and golfing terrain. This is one of the most interesting links sites that I have seen.
The problem is with the routing and architecture. There are too many blind tee shots, too many safety issues, too many places where the grade falls the opposite way of the dogleg, too many steep slopes that run any shot into trouble, too many holes where there is no place to play to. I look at a course like Porthcawl that has all of those features, but the holes were enough well designed to accommodate them. The course is also so well routed that the rest of the holes provide some balance to the round. I think you can have quirk, but it can’t all be quirky, because at a certain point it moves from charming to disappointing. With a great architect Pennard would have been a much better course.