Some Cornish people regard Cornwall not as a county of England, but a Celtic independent province. Not wishing to offend anybody we will simply say that Cornwall is a beautiful part of the British Isles, a place where the influence of the sea is everywhere.
The golf course at St Enodoc Golf Club is no exception. It’s located at the royal sailing town of Rock, the links overlooking the Camel Estuary and the picturesque harbour of Padstow beyond. The Church course at St Enodoc takes its name from the tiny 13th century place of worship that stands to the right of the 10th green. In the middle of the 19th century, a fierce storm completely covered the church in sand and it was eventually extricated in 1863.
Although St Enodoc Golf Club was founded in 1891, it didn’t really become a good golf course until James Braid did a proper design job on it in 1907. In his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, Bernard Darwin wrote: “Cornwall has several pleasant courses… of these, St Enodoc is a course of wonderful natural possibilities.” Braid returned to update St Enodoc in 1936 and today’s layout hasn’t changed much since.
St Enodoc is certainly a quixotic and rather hilly links course, set amidst towering sand dunes clad with tufts of wild sea grasses.
"Seaside Golf" by John Betjemen
How straight it flew, how long it flew,
And down the fairway, far along
And so I did. It lay content
Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves
The fairways undulate and ripple just as if the sea had ebbed only moments ago. We have to own up – this is one of our favourite links courses because the terrain is entirely natural. The dunes are so pronounced that you cannot help but feel humbled, the holes are varied and charming and finally, so much of the experience is memorable.
There are many great holes here at St Enodoc, but the 6th is a bit of a collector’s item, a hole of absolute uniqueness, a blind drive followed by a blind mid iron second shot which must carry over a confrontational sand dune called “Himalayas”. This stands some 100 yards out, guarding the hidden green. Let’s be honest, this is an enormous dune, worthy of its name, rising up over 75 feet high. Make sure you get your club selection right and that you strike the ball cleanly! The 10th is also an unusual hole, apparently one of Peter Alliss’ favourites. The hole follows a natural ravine and requires a solid drive from an elevated tee across a valley to a pencil thin rippling fairway below.
If your ball happens to come to rest in the churchyard after a wayward shot, keep an eye out for John Betjeman’s headstone. The Poet Laureate lies buried amidst his favourite seaside course. After a rare birdie on the 13th, he penned his famous poem “Seaside Golf”.
There is a hint of moorland and an inland flavour to some of the holes, especially those surrounding the church, but this simply provides variation. We could go on, but alas we wouldn’t want to spoil all the other lovely surprises that are in store for you here at St Enodoc.
For my own personal tastes, the Church course at St. Enodoc should sit proudly as the best golf course in the South West region. There are some fine links courses in this area; Burnham and Berrow, both courses at Saunton as well as nearby Perranporth all being excellent layouts, but none of them have the combination of variety, conditioning, design and beauty that St. Enodoc boasts.
Whilst some links courses take a while to warm up, the opening two holes at St. Enodoc are nothing short of superb; played amongst towering dunes across undulating ground with the second hole offering a brutally demanding test to a plateau green, they may even be the best holes on the course. Holes 3 and 4 are lovely holes that take you towards the farmland whilst the 5th is a beauty of a par three over a deep valley filled with vegetation. The 6th, with the infamous Himalaya bunker, gets a mixed reaction by some, but when you decide to take the safe play with your tee shot keeping the ball right to stay out of trouble, there are few second shots in golf that provide this level of pressure. Fail to make a quality strike with your approach shot and you’ll need your bucket and spade as well as several Hail Marys for your next. Played blind to an amphitheatre green, I would rate this as one of my favourite holes in golf.
The next few holes are no let-down either, the 7th with a blind drive towards the Camel Estuary is a pure links hole. The 8th, accompanied by a cross-wind, cries out for your best attempt at a genuine “keep it low and hold-it” punched links-shot, whilst the 9th is a beautiful hole with a green framed by tall trees offering an enjoyable contrast to what came before. Overall, this is a wonderfully varied opening nine holes across perfect links terrain. I’d go as far to rate the front nine at St. Enodoc amongst the best nine holes that I’ve played.
As much as I’d like to, as the course is a favourite of mine, the reason I can’t rate St. Enodoc as a 6-ball course is the next stretch of holes. The 10th, the “church hole” may be St. Enodoc’s signature hole and an exacting test, but for me seems to be squeezed into a parcel of land where no golf hole really belongs. It also lacks options off the tee, particularly in comparison with what came before. 11 and 12 that follow are the two most ordinary holes on the golf course and are a genuine disappointment. Some careful redesign of this stretch would help remove this mid-round dip in quality.
In contrast to others, I really enjoyed the 13th and 14th which play to higher ground, particularly the cliff-edge drop off design feature to the right-hand side of the 14th green. The 15th then offers a pleasant connecting hole back to the prime seaside linksland where you’re presented with the last three holes which are as good as any on the front nine. As par 3, 4, 5 combinations go, this is as good as it gets, and the view from the 18th tee is undeniably picturesque; a tee box panorama to savour before you bring your round to an end.
St. Enodoc’s Church Course is a beautiful links and yet another wonderful James Braid design, but with a little tweaking of that middle stretch by a sympathetic golf architect, the South West of England would have a World top-100 course on their hands.
I couldn't agree more with this review. St Enodoc is a better course than the East at Saunton IMO and could be a World Top 100 regular with a few sympathetic changes. The 10th is not a good hole and I'm not a great fan of the next four either. That said St Enodoc is an unforgettable course in a gorgeous setting. My favourite links in the SW by some distance.
I'm a huge fan of St Enodoc but it's those middle holes that in my opinion mean it is not quite as good as Saunton - East.
the BIG 3, Saunton, St Enodoc and Burnham will always split opinions as to which is best, but for me, Saunton pips both of them due to its sheer quality from start to finish. even Saunton's weakest hole - 11, has grown on me in recent visits.
This is the most dramatic course in GB&I and I fell in love with it on the first fairway. Nowhere in this part of the world have I experienced such rumpled tumbling terrain with holes that fit the land so perfectly. Blind tee shots and approach shots are thrown at you from the get-go with thrilling changes in elevation.
I wish I could go back in time to be a fly on the wall when James Braid was laying out this masterpiece. The first 6 holes are epic with incredible design variety where you’ll remember each hole for the rest of your life, including the world famous ‘Himalaya’ bunker on the par 4 6th hole which has been photographed the world over – including the cover photo for Tom Doak’s Confidential Guide!
Although a par 69 and relatively short on paper, it’s certainly no pushover at all. The land is violent in places and one bad bounce could ruin your scorecard. I love a challenge though, and I was gasping with anticipation to hit each shot on such a magnificent topology.
The 7th hole is the first flat respite hole that plays towards the water and gives you a chance to catch your breath. The par 3 8th is a gem before bringing you back to the undulating 9th that rolls up and down to the green. The course gets its name from the Church that is located alongside holes 10-14. Having played such a dramatic opening 9 holes, opinions become mixed as to the success of the holes that navigate around the Church grounds.
The 10th hole is a splendid downhill par 4 that hugs the property line, but the landing area sadly doesn’t make sense at all. In fact, it’s practically nonexistent and doesn’t allow for any well-struck drive to stay inbounds or find the sliver of fairway that is cut on the side of a slope pitched towards OOB. I enjoyed the par 3 11th hole that plays downhill towards the water, however the uphill 12th and 13th are a little lackluster and uninspiring when compared to the other par 4s. Variety is the spice of life and Braid didn’t have much choice when routing these holes around this part of the property.
The 14th brings you to the top of the property with fabulous views and a devilishly positioned green-site not to be underestimated as the slope of the land is strongly pitched from left to right. The pretty downhill par 3 15th is a stern test of club selection before bringing you back to the iconic final stretch. The par 5 16th hugs the coastline and tumbles its way feverishly away from you rising up and down from plateau to plateau. It’s one of the greatest risk-reward holes in golf, but very demanding off the tee.
The holes just get better and better, the 17th is a long uphill par 3 played into an amphitheater of dunes, which into the prevailing wind is a brutally tough shot! The par 4 18th plays parallel to the 1st bringing you back to the clubhouse with glorious undulation and charm.
I can honestly say I’m a huge fan of this course for its architectural exploits and certainly warrants a trip to Cornwall. No golf course is perfect, and no golf course has 18 idyllic holes. St. Enodoc (Church) emphasized to me that the architect does the best he can with the land that he is given and we as players should feel privileged to enjoy the fruits on his labour. The Church course really is streets ahead of most other links courses in England and I can’t believe it took me so long to play here! I would place this course in the Top 100 in the World. Amen.
St. Enodoc Golf Club, sitting proudly above the affluent village of Rock on the North Cornish coast, is a much revered and cherished place to play golf.
It is held in extremely high regard by a number of notable golfing personnel, institutions and publications.
Golf Digest recently rated the Church course amongst the top 100 best in the World. To put this into context only ten other courses in England made the list.
All of the major UK national magazines continually rank St. Enodoc among the higher echelons of golf courses in the British Isles. And respected golf architect Tom Doak also chose it as one of his ‘Gourmet’s Choice’ selection for his respected book, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses.
St. Enodoc has rightly received many other accolades and will no doubt continue to do so.
The course has a superb eclectic mix of holes and changes in elevation that take the golfer on an amazing, almost spiritual, journey around the impressive property. But it is greater than the sum of its parts and this is essentially what makes it such a special and unique place.
Cleverly routed by James Braid St. Enodoc enjoys a beautiful location with a varied terrain. The course is like a chameleon in that is changes its characteristics, colours if you like, throughout the entire round to blend in seamlessly with its surrounds.
The opening holes are pure links, played through fabulous duneland, before you head towards the countryside and enjoy a trio of holes with a more meadowland feel. The famous 6th hole follows where one must first hit short of, and then over, the iconic and cavernous Himalaya bunker to a secluded green set in more dunes. This hole is impressive and really sticks in the mind but there are even better ones to be found on the rolling hills of St. Enodoc.
If you are seeking a classic and traditional links experience you will only find this over six or seven holes at St. Enodoc. However, the course makes up for this in the embarrassment of riches it has amongst the other dozen holes and I can imagine the course only gets better with each playing.
To quickly sum up St. Enodoc, a little piece of golfing heaven, I will use the final words from Betjeman’s ‘Seaside Golf’ poem, “…splendour, splendour everywhere”.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played a round here in March 2017. A stunning course only let down by a bland stretch after going past the Church on the back nine. All of the holes around the coast are magnificent and the condition of the course was terrific. Some of the greens were if anything too fast and smooth considering the squally conditions we had interspersed with glorious sunshine.
Highly recommended, just ignore the very few dull holes in the middle.
A classic mix of holes. Apart from the 4th hole, the front 9 is excellent especially 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8. The infamous bunker on 6 is ridiculous but in a charming way although the hole is not a particular great golf hole. The 10th is brutal, combing length with a tough green complex and surround. The course drops off on the back 9, (11 to 15 are, in my view, only “ok”), but all in forgiven with an astonishing last 3 of which 16 is truly wonderful and can be sensibly described as world class.
For me the 4th is a bit of a classic strategic Par 4: You ideally need to drive closer to the OB on the right to have an easier second shot. How much of the corner do you want to bite off? Perhaps not that pretty because of the farmer's field, but that doesn't detract from how the hole plays.
Would be interested to know why you didn't like it as much as the rest of the front 9. Agree with the rest of the review (although can't really make my mind up about the bunker on the 6th)
I have always believed quality golf starts squarely with superior land. In any assessment of a course it is the terrain from which any course emanates from. In my mind, no less than 60% of any course rating is based on how good the terrain is. Rarely will you find a course with dead flat land being rated a top tier course -- a notable exception The Old Course at St. Andrews.
Any visit to southwest England must include some serious time at St. Enodoc Golf Club. The club is blessed with 36 holes but one's time must be particularly focused on the renowned Church Course. Rest assured - you will need to say your prayers when playing the course because you will find numerous instances when the Almighty had best steer you through the range of top tier shots you will be required to play time after time.
The Church Course is a links but its location is set along Daymer Bay and is not immediately adjacent to the sea itself. There are striking views of the nearby Atlantic Ocean in the far distance as well as the community of Padstow which lies across the bay.
The quality of the golf starts immediately at the first. Playing under 530 yards would seem to provide a quick opportunity for birdie. The hole has high dunes on the right and features a rumpled fairway akin to an old man's face. There's sufficient rough on the left side for those who shy away from the right. Best of all, the hole has a narrow passage way roughly 150 yards from the green. The key is getting into position for a short pitch but be ever mindful of the false front that repels the weakest of plays. What appeared initially as a birdie hole can easily mean a fast bogey for the careless golfer.
The uphill long par-4 2nd that follows is a stout hole. At first glance it may appear heading down the right side is the best bet -- that position only leaves a blind approach to a green nearly all tucked out of view. Going down the left side opens up the approach but pulling a shot can mean menacing rough awaits. What many can't appreciate in their first round is a devilish hidden greenside bunker lurking on the far right corner of the green. The approach play must be well executed -- with falloffs on the different sides of the green.
The 3rd is a brilliant counterpoint to the 2nd. Playing downhill with a blind tee shot the 440-yard par-4 requires total confidence in the line of attack taken. There is an internal road which cuts in diagonally -- favoring the left side is preferred but a pulled shot will mean an even more exacting approach.
After two long par-4's the 4th is a seductive short par-4 -- out-of-bounds hugs the right side and while the bold play can reap rewards the certainty of punishment for a wayward play will have you think otherwise and opt for a fairway metal or hybrid. The green is narrow and the same OB which protrudes on the tee shot is equally a force to the right side of the green. Just a grand hole for the multitude of decisions it mandates the player to decide.
At the par-4 6th you encounter one of the truly majestic holes in golf. The drive turns left and it's best to favor the left side but be mindful of the land pulling shots even more to that side. On one's approach you see a gigantic dune with a sand bunker cut into its 40-foot face. The green is hidden behind and set in a wonderful bowl setting.The target is small and far from easy to hit in the regulation stroke.
The remaining holes on the outward nine are a good mix but not in the same league with the first six played.
The back nine starts with a hole equally fascinating and bewildering. The fairway is as narrow as Marilyn Monroe's waist and anything hit left will be deader than Elvis Presley. A steep hillside confronts the golfer on the right and landing in that area doesn't automatically mean one's ball will kick down to the fairway. The smart play is to hit for no more than 250 yards so that you can likely get an angle to the green hidden over a hill tucked more to the left than you might initially imagine. My only issue is that the player must throttle down to the point of a forced lay-up because the opportunity to do more is simply not a realistic option. Great golf holes do not mandate players having to play the hole in a one-way manner. The most unique bonus feature of the 10th comes with the beautiful St. Enodoc church -- just off to the right of the green.
The uphill par-4 13th at just under 400 yards.is one of St. Enodoc's best holes. Generally, played into the prevailing wind the hole requires a solid tee shot -- avoiding -- two fairway bunkers well-positioned on the right side. The green is also slightly elevated above the fairway so gauging one's approach distance adds an elements of concern. The greatness of the hole is that it is not cluttered with all sorts of distractions -- it falls squarely on the player to execute at the highest level.
The Church Course ends in grand fashion - a superlative troika consisting of a par-5, par-3 and par-4 combination. The 16th is 560 yards and often is played into the prevailing wind. The land rises to a plateau that provides a slew of different stances and lies. The strongest of players can clear the plateau but there's no reprieve without successive quality shots made. The green provides another elevated target so even a short pitch shot is tested.
The par-3 17th is listed at 206 yards but there will be times when far more club will be pulled from one's bag. The green is protected by a solitary deep bunker on the right and like the preceding hole - the putting surface is elevated just enough to prevent the half-hearted play from succeeding.
Topping things off is the final hole -- clearly one of the finest one will find in this part of England. At 469 yards the tee shot is central in order to have any opportunity for success. The fairway is quite wide but there's a bottleneck point the longer one attempts to go. The green is blessed with subtle contours and again is slightly elevated.
The richness of St. Enodoc speaks volumes to the misnomer that any course with a par less than 70 is likely to be seen as a lightweight. That is clearly rubbish -- St. Enodoc provides a scintillating setting for the talented golfer able to play the fullest range of shots. But there's also enough playability so all players can get in on the fun. Unlike so many other courses which have highly irrigated and fertilized rough that can be completely 100% green and often deep -- the rough areas at The Church Course feature a range of situations -- some tilting to the advantage of the fortuitous players -- at other times causing a major point of frustration. Golf, like life, means being able to handle the unpredictable bounces of the coin.
So much of modern design has been geared towards pushing total yardage to ridiculous outcomes. Little real emphasis on escalating character -- facing shots and holes in which a combination of power, control and finesse are woven interchangeably together. At The Church Course you play a layout that's under 6,600 yards but pound for pound oozes memorability and a rush to head immediately over to the 1st tee when the round concludes. Not all of the holes are top tier but even in the lulls that happen The Church Course provides a clear embrace that "fun" golf -- not laborious slog type holes -- is something so many other courses would be wise to follow.
Your prayers will not always be answered when playing The Church Course but you will be blessed in making sure you're in the right pew in savoring a memorable time when playing here.
By M. James Ward - photos courtesy of David Cannon, Stuart Morley and Top 100 Golf Courses
I played this James Braid gem on a beautiful spring afternoon and what a jaw dropping, joyful experience it was; scenic, challenging, dramatic links golf personified, exuding character and originality. Immaculately kept too I might add, with outstanding greens. I look forward to returning to this beautiful corner of the country and would recommend highly. LB
This is a wonderful course, everything I look for in great golf. You need every club in the bag, if you switch off for a second you're in trouble, and that's difficult when the views are this good. The course is also routinely in perfect condition. If you play to handicap here you've had a blindingly good round. I've played it many times now and it doesn't get easier. I still have no idea how to play the par 4 10th - a bogey there is a great result.