I played pretty much all my golf at Pontypridd until I was 20
We had a great club pro who taught and encouraged me and we had some pretty good county standard players who were a little bit older than me. who really helped me develop my game.
It was a really good golf club and great place to grow up. It had a great junior section and a large membership of players from the South Wales Valleys. It was a very busy and social club. I could walk there in 25 minutes so I was there all the time.
These days, there are great courses to be found all over Wales. When I’m at home I’ll usually play at Newport Golf Club. I live five minutes away from it, my son plays there and I have lots of friends there so it’s a more relaxing place to play when I’m away from the big competitions. It’s a proper membership club.
Wales has some serious sporting pedigree
I'm also a member at Celtic Manor, though I don't play there that often. I've always had good experiences in competitions like the Welsh Open and it stands up against many of the major golf courses I've played at across the world. It's also a great destination outside of the golf, with great facilities and lots of things for non-players to do away from the three excellent courses. For the visiting golfers, the chance to play on the famous Twenty Ten Course is a big draw too.
I was there in 2010 for the Ryder Cup. The bad weather made headlines on the first few days, but they had such a good finish that it ended up being a very memorable competition. Every time Europe wins the Ryder Cup it's an event, and having it happen in Wales made it even more exciting.
If I had to pick a favourite Welsh course it would be Royal Porthcawl
Playing at the Senior Open there in 2017 was a really good experience. I’ve waited a long time to play a big tournament there. There were lots of friends and family there, and it was great to do well. It was a very successful Senior Open and the chance for the public to see pros like Monty (Colin Montgomerie), Corey Pavin, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam was excellent.
Porthcawl is a great all-round links course (a coastal golf course, which tend to be exposed to the elements). During the 2017 Senior Open we had a couple of pretty breezy days. I remember playing the front nine and thinking ‘this is proper links golf’. With strong winds you’ve got to hit good shots. It’s real, old-school links and if you don’t play well you get into a lot of trouble. There were a few players who didn’t survive the bad weather we had on the Friday.
I played the Champions Tour last year and a lot of the courses have massive fairways where you can drive as hard as you want and large greens to aim for, but Royal Porthcawl is very different. The course is tighter and the wind plays such a big role, that it can throw a lot of really good players off their game.
There are plenty of other great courses in Wales
With our miles of coastline, links golf is obviously a big selling point. I love playing Royal St David's at Harlech, which is a real test of golf. I've played there quite a few times and it's always a challenge. It's a gem of a golf course, that maybe doesn't get the recognition it deserves as it's a little off the beaten track. People often describe it as the world's hardest par 69, and I think that's pretty accurate. The rough is brutal, so you have to be really on your game.
Ashburnham and Pyle & Kenfig are really enjoyable links courses with the potential to challenge any player. There are also lesser-known places like Borth and Ynyslas, which is quite an unusual course. I'd also recommend Cardigan. It's not one of our better-known links courses, but I've played there a lot and it's well worth a visit.
If I was to make a recommendation to anybody coming to play here in Wales, I'd say it's to try out some of these less famous courses. A lot of visitors will stay at Celtic Manor and play places like Royal Porthcawl, but if you're prepared to explore a little, there are plenty of other places where you'll find some great golf.