Wales ’ profile as a golfing destination was given a welcome boost by the 2010 Ryder Cup and the country has an abundance of golfing riches, old and new. Among the new, one venue has grown in stature every year since its inauguration in 2005 and is increasingly recognised as a best-of-breed among the new links-style courses in the UK.
Nestled between the town of Llanelli and the nearby Wild Fowl and Wetlands Trust to the east, the Nicklaus designed course at Machynys Peninsula (or locally, Machynys Clwb Golff) enjoys a stunning position overlooking Carmarthen Bay and the Gower Peninsula. The course itself is a beautifully crafted modern, links-style design that meanders through the wetlands and has already enjoyed the hosting of eight championship tournaments, which should give you a good indication of its calibre.
Bearing various trademark Nicklaus features, the two loops of nine holes navigate around several lakes, tall reeds, and across smoothly undulating fairways. These fairways are often wide and winding, but the rough is typically penal, and the large greens are often protected by long run-offs.
With an adjacent lake, tall rough, and an awaiting bunker in full view, getting away from the tee on the first hole at first sight looks a daunting prospect. In reality, it’s a gentle opener at just over 350 yards, and this slight dog-leg right represents a welcome start to the round. The strong par three over water that follows, however, represents a sterner test, with bunkers waiting in readiness to gobble up anything short.
The deceptive par five 3rd hole stands out on the front nine, with the green almost playing as an island target for an aggressive second shot. If laying up, the best angle of approach is offered from as far left as you can safely go, but if you’re having a pop in two, the shot requires a carry across deep rough as the green is tucked around the corner. There’s no margin for error with the bold play, but it’s a very good place to consider taking the risk. Risk and reward choices are a staple of Nicklaus designs and certainly add to the fun.
Perhaps the toughest hole on the front nine is the par four 4th hole. With the fairway dissected by a stream, the perfect landing area for the tee shot has a very astutely placed bunker sat in the middle of it. The key is obviously to miss it, and assuming you do, the green is still very well protected by bunkers and those hallmark Nicklaus run-offs. If you make your par you’ll happily stride to the next tee.
Sandwiched between a gentle par four 5th and straight par three 7th, the 6th hole demonstrates why Machynys offers satisfaction for every level of golfer. For the mid/high handicap golfer, you can hit pretty much anything from the tee to a wide fairway and play the par five as a true three shotter. For the accomplished player, the drive becomes more demanding if you hope to get home in two, with bunkers and a narrowing fairway protecting the tee shot. The approach needs to be aggressive too, as while the expansive water feature punishes anything left, a bail-out to the right will feed dramatically away from the green via the steep run off. It’s a tough birdie for a good player, but it’s a playable hole for every golfer.
The tee shot on eight has similar characteristics. A shot down the right side will invariably feel like you’ve wimped out, but it’ll be safe despite leaving a longer shot in. A positive shot up the left on this sharp dog-leg will leave a much more welcome sight of the green for the approach, but there’s less margin for error on the tee shot.
The last hole on the front nine tees off from amongst the reeds. The fairway is slightly narrower than others, but the bunkers frame the ideal aiming point. There are a few dips in the fairway where the hole wanders round to the right, but despite the nearby water, the hole offers a good birdie chance.
The trio of holes that loop around the wetlands are a fine start to the back nine. Requiring a good carry from the tee, the 10th hole becomes more treacherous the further left the pin location; the short 11th hole on the other hand is dangerous no matter where the pin is positioned. With water flanking the left hand side and a bunker protecting the right, it’s a lovely little hole and a particularly pleasant spot on the course. It also gives first sight of the ‘New England’ style housing development attached to the resort, which has now reaches its final stage of 8 houses (for further information, please visit Machynys Homes).
The 12th heads back towards the clubhouse to complete this mini loop, and the drive across the water is certainly the most demanding shot on the hole.
The par five that follows has the same qualities as the 6th hole. The three shot option offering width and playability, whilst aggression from the tee demands accuracy with length.
Fourteen and fifteen are all about placement. With numerous bunkers in your eye line, and undulations in the fairway, the first of this pair is all about committing to the tee shot. The fairway is, in truth, particularly wide, but I suspect those bunkers pick up more than their fair share of tee shots. Fifteen requires concentration from the tee for different reasons. An expanse of water on the right would be far easier to shy away from if it weren’t for the fairway bunker on the left. Both holes certainly require a positive mind as much as positive play.
The signature hole is arguably the 16th. A long, climbing dog-leg left with a raised green, the hole is certainly no pushover, but it’s one that rewards your efforts with magnificent views across the bay – satisfaction guaranteed, no matter what goes on the scorecard.
After the short 17th, the par five finishing hole needs an accurate drive across the water before playing in amongst a collection of bunkers that surround the target. It’s a typical Nicklaus finale, but one that represents a great birdie opportunity for any player.
Beyond the quality and condition of the golf course, Machynys stood out for several reasons. The clubhouse is modern, sleek, and the right size to be spacious but welcoming. Both inside and from the terrace, there are superb views in every direction across the course and distant landscapes, while the Brasserie has a contemporary feel and a menu abounding with wholesome fresh dishes.
The practice facilities are also first-class. Very modern and with all the latest technology, there is a large short game area, 380 yard driving range (long enough even for the Nicolas Colsaerts of this world), and the largest indoor putting green in the UK.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Machynys though, is the price. Where many other championship golf courses will charge upwards of £80 for a green fee, you can enjoy the experience at Machynys for less than half the price. Summer green fees are just £40pp and twilight rates make it even better value.
Admittedly, this corner of Carmarthenshire will require a fair amount of travel for the majority of visitors, so the option to stay overnight might appeal. Reinforcing my point about the pricing, a one night golf break staying at a local hotel costs as little as £76 per person. It’s impossible to argue that doesn’t represent exceptional value, not to mention giving you the chance to indulge in all that the resort has to offer which includes the Monks Premier Spa & Health Club.