This Nicklaus designed 7,121-yard layout has already hosted eight championships, including a couple of R&A events and four Ryder Cup Wales LET Championships of Europe. My visit here was for the Welsh Mid-Amateur Strokeplay Championship and it was a fitting choice of venue.
There’s a lot of good things going on here and overall I came away impressed with the course and any negatives were certainly outweighed by the many positives. At just over a decade old the imitation-links is settling down well and will only continue to improve as it reaches its teenage years.
This modern design has the de rigeur par 72 with four shorties and a quartet of par fives. It loops back to the clubhouse after nine-holes, has multiple teeing grounds and a few long walks from green-to-tee. It doesn’t have a soul but it asks enough good questions of the golfer to at least have a personality.
The inevitable quick getaway hole is a good one with the angle of the green favouring an approach from the left where two fairway bunkers are located to give some decision making on the part of the golfer. In fact the angle of the greens coupled with the greenside bunkering, and naturally the hole location for the day, do add layers of strategy to the course but it could be so much more if there was a little bit more width on some holes and the use of the many water hazards wasn’t quite as lateral.
Water comes into play on at least a dozen holes, maybe more if you’re having a bad day, but you are never once asked to carry it heroically; bite of as much as you dare. And I think this is a real shame. There is just the excellent short 11th where you may need to decide how much of the water you carry and that’s only if the pin is located on the left of the green. Many of the water hazards run down the side of the holes, so straight driving is a necessity, and add to this some brutal rough – at times waist-high - that flanks a number of the fairways and there really are some no-go areas. Maybe it isn’t a surprise that the SSS is 76 (four over par) from the back tees.
But don’t let the semi-penal nature of the course put you off because there are some wonderful holes and Machynys provides an excellent, varied and enjoyable test of golf.
The fourth is the best on the property by a Welsh country mile. A central fairway bunker at around 200-yards from the regular tee gives you the choice to play left or right of it, lay-up short or try and carry it. If you choose the latter you must make sure your ball then stops short of the meandering stream no more than 40 yards further along. Bigger hitters may try to carry the bunker AND stream but that’s a risky option and they are playing a different game to me. The best angle to the green is from the right whilst the safest tee shot is probably to fire down the left but unless the flag is on the right of the green this will most likely leave a long shot to a green from an awkward angle that is wider than it is deep and protected by a couple of bunkers towards the front left. A shot from here is likely to be drawn towards the right where a steep run-off with tightly mown grass awaits. It really is a magnificent hole from start to finish.
There’s a great variety of holes at Machynys and very few feel the same despite playing over similar terrain. The holes I preferred were the ones where the rough was much thinner and wispier so that if a player was to miss the fairway they were penalised but not overly so. The wriggling par-five third, the demanding 12th, the terrific 14th and the superb 16th were four holes that stood out for me and as you’d expect from a course of this standard there is nothing approaching a poor hole. Some holes offer up the chance of a birdie whilst on others you are pleased if you escape unscathed.
As mentioned earlier the positioning of the greenside bunkers is very good in realtion to the green shapes and, particularly on the par fives, really makes you think were you want to be in order to attack the flag.
The centrally located trap short of the 12th green is also worthy of mention and I was fortunate enough to get to play to hole tucked up right behind it on one of the days; if you take on this pin then you must be right on the money with your approach.
The condition of the greens was superb on my visit with the putting surfaces running at a nice pace and exceptionally true. The course doesn't really play anything like a links in fairness - the grasses are different and the aerial game dominates; not once during my three rounds did I consider a bump and run approach although there are a few green surrounds where a putter will be your likely weapon of choice.
The entire set-up with its modern clubhouse, bar, brasserie, spa and excellent practice facilities make it a superb venue for a multi-day tournament but at the same time if one is spending any length of time on the south coast of Wales, perhaps playing some of the more notorious links, I would certainly suggest building in a round at Machynys.
The second course at Trevose very rarely crops in conversation but during a family holiday to the Cornish Resort I made sure to play it.
The third course at Trevose, aptly named the "Short Course" is just 1,360 yards.