- +44 (0) 1208 862200
4 miles NW of Wadebridge
Contact in advance – handicap certificate required
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 notable until James Braid refashioned the course 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 and actual virtues as well.”
In the book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming had this to say: “The course was altered in 1922 by another hand, the new 8th hole being added and construction of the 11th and 12th in place of the 11th, 12th and 13th. Later, Tom Simpson built a new 6th, which is the 5th on the modern course. Further work was necessary in 1935 because a new clubhouse had to be built to accommodate the increased number of golfers, due to motor cars. Braid was invited to construct a new 17th in place of the 18th and reversed the 1st to make a new 18th. The holes were then renumbered.”
St Enodoc is certainly a quixotic and rather hilly links course, set amidst towering sand dunes clad with tufts of wild sea grasses.
The fairways undulate and ripple just as if the sea had ebbed only moments ago. We have to confess – 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 the experience stirs the soul.
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.
I would like to start my review with one statement. St Enodoc golf club is my favourite course that I’ve ever played. Is it the best? No. Portrush and Turnberry are the ‘best’ courses that I’ve ever played, but without any hesitation this is my favourite.
To start I’d like to challenge anyone who believes that the club is stuffy or stuck up. Nothing could be more untrue. We arrived on a beautiful summers day and everyone was out on the decking, enjoying some food and a drink, there were dogs of many different breeds sticking close to their owners and the clubhouse was modern and low-key. It’s a great members club, everyone’s up for a laugh and pricing is very reasonable. In fact, for a mid-August round on a world top 100 we paid £95 which included range balls as well.
So, onto the course. The one word that springs to mind is character, it’s oozing of the stuff! Every hole is unique, quirky, challenging and, most importantly, very fun to play. It’s the only course I’ve played where I can remember each hole vividly in order without having to really think about it. Portrush, for example, is a great course set in the dunes but after 8 holes I can’t remember which hole is which and in what order they come in. Unfortunately, this is the same with every other links course I’ve played to date- great holes and setting but just a bit forgettable at times. But not St Enodoc.
The first is an amazing opener, the land it lies on takes your breath away- so undulating with towering dunes overshadowing both sides of the 1st and 18th fairway. When I say undulating, I don’t mean ripples, I’m talking about a full rollercoaster of a fairway. You walk up and down and over the dunes that have been cut down to form fairways. There are no bunkers on this hole, just the natural defence of the classic links style humps and hollows that you have to precisely navigate over.
As you stand on the 2nd tee, your only reaction is “wow”. The beautiful estuary that is visible from nearly every hole combined with the moon -like landscape that you stand on makes you naturally reach for your camera or just stare in admiration. The second is long, tough and beautifully framed by the dunes - a cracking par 4!
The third forces you to drive over the most undulating fairway I’ve ever seen and then onto the playing surface that doglegs around some of the ‘Himalaya’ dunes (yes, they really are as big as they sound!) the second shot takes on a wall, a road and onto the very small green. As I said, just full of character!!
Many people have written about the 4th so I’ll keep it brief but what a great example of a risk and reward hole, just fantastic and a real thinker of a hole!
The par 3’s here are all of a very high standard, the 5th forces you to carry over a large ravine and water hazard (very rare for a links course) and onto a well guarded green.
I won’t say much about the 6th, all you need to do is google the hole to understand what the whole course is about in general. It’s mental, quirky and once again oozes the character of this course.
The next few holes continue to use the natural terrain to their advantage which I really praise about this course. If there’s a dune, play over it - don’t start thinking they would just bulldozer it down for your personal taste!
My only critique about this course is the 8th hole. Just a personal opinion but the bunkers feel forced for some reason. Placing all those pot bunkers around the green just looses a bit of character, it doesn't stick with the natural feel of the course - just one or two deep pot bunkers would’ve done the trick!
10 is possible the greatest golf hole I’ve ever played. Not much else needs to be said. It’s just amazing. I guess it’s the fact that they would never build a hole like this nowadays and also the fact that no other course in the world would try something as unique as what James Braid did with this hole. Place a hundred bunkers around the fairway, put a lake in front of the green or even make the green as undulating as possible - nothing you can do will beat the difficulty and greatness of the 10th at St Enodoc.
You then enter a different sector of the course which could be seen as a breather. Many don’t like the fact that the course moves away from the dunes and onto a more ‘parkland landscape’. I’d disagree. For me, it just adds to the uniqueness of the place and saves any hole from becoming too similar.
I please urge anyone who plays the 12th to play from the back tees. You are literally playing from the beach with sunbathers and holiday - makers all around you. Yes it’s a little strange for the first time player but I promise you that it’s like no tee box you’ve ever played from before.
The 12th is a classic links hole with great bunkering and an upturned plate of a green. This is the only hole that I’d call a ‘classic’ links golf hole.
Are the 13th and 14th boring? No. Are they as dramatic as the previous holes you’ve played? Also no. Does that make them underwhelming? Possibly but only if you don’t appreciate the beautiful design of these holes. The views are what make them special; not only do you look over the whole course but the estuary and beaches that boarder the course. Simply breathtaking.
The final stretch is also the best I’ve ever played. Two stunning par 3’s (one over water from a highly elevated green and the other a 200yrd uphill brute surrounded huge dunes) the par 5 16th is once again just beautiful. Tumbling fairways, pot bunkers scattered around the green and the ocean only a lob wedge from the fairway! The 18th is simply put the perfect finisher for this course and also the best closing hole I’ve ever played. Play from the white/back tees to get the elevated tee shot and the best view on the course. The hole rises through the dunes and to the clubhouse. The bunkers around this green are brutal and can really ruin your score if you end up in one. If you’ve managed to keep your round together by the time you’ve reached the 18th, I really wouldn’t start relaxing - if you’ve ever thought of playing golf on the moon, here’s your closest alternative and it brings every challenge of the hole course into one final hole.
Overall, as you can probably tell, I am in love with this place. I’ve played ‘the best in the world’ but nothing has made me so emotionally attached to a golf course after 1 round than St Enodoc has. My only real complaint would be the bunkers; I just prefer the revetted style of bunker and really look forward to them when going to any links course. I’ve been blessed with these when going to Turnberry and Royal Liverpool so I guess I would just love to see more of them at St Enodoc. They do have them, but just not on every bunker so hopefully this will be changed in the future to further push the links experience.
I will say it once again and probably say it forever, this is my favourite golf course in the world and I plead to any golfer who likes quirky courses to make the trip to Cornwall and play this course.
Played this on 15 Sep having spent the previous day walking round the various public footpaths crossing the course to whet my appetite. From what I could see on a clear sunny day, expectations were high.
Playing mid afternoon, £10 for a range token, course guide and ball marker seemed pretty reasonable, and I was sent on my way by a friendly starter who offered some sage advice about the relatively small greens... Don't miss them!
I played off the whites which only added a couple of hundred yards but a number of better, more challenging tee shots on 4, 5, 7 and 11.
After an average starting hole, a couple of strong par 4s follow with testing approaches (one raised, one downhill). The fourth is an excellent uphill short par 4 requiring a tee shot over OOB to work the best angle to pitch. Narrowing as you get closer, with a destructive slope left and a stone wall marking OOB on right, driver is definitely a risky play.
The rest of the front nine contain some good but not overly memorable holes, the exception being the 6th requiring a blind approach over the enormous Himalaya bunker to a green cut into the hill. 10 is a fantastic challenge, SI1 with a penalty area and OOB running all the way down the left. It doglegs left and requires two similar length shots of around 225 yards if you're to make the green with the church looming large (along with a host of walkers) to the right of the green. 11 is a great long par 3 played towards the sea before you turn round and head back by playing an attractive looking drive up a slight hill on the right to left dogleg 12th. But this is where I think the course loses it's way for a few holes. 13 and 14 are fairly bland uphill holes played across a left to right slope on land above the 10th and making you wish you were playing that again. 15 although a good looking mid length par 3 from an elevated tee is very similar to the 5th. In fact, the two holes are played in the same direction and almost next to each other.
The round is saved by a strong finish with 16, 17 and 18. All long and challenging par 5, 3 and 4 respectively, played through and framed by large dunes. The view of the estuary (to your right) as you play 16 is as good a coastal view I've seen playing links golf in the UK.
Worth also pointing out that the greens were disappointing - slow (verging on turgid) and somewhat bumpier than expectations based on playing links golf on other premium courses (but also for the £95 green fee). For early September, no signs of recent green's work and several days of having a light wind (so not needing to be slow) I'd describe them as average club standard at best. Even just accepting I may have visited on an off day with the greens, half a dozen average or lesser holes highlighted by the quality of the others for me, prevents a higher rating. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent course with great views but not quite in the same league as places like Dornoch and Royal St George's.
Played this course 20.08.20 in 50 MPH wind. It’s interesting because the whole of the Rock, Padstow, Polzeath/North Cornwall area is heaving with tourists over this COVID period because travelling abroad is a no go with the 2 week quarantine that is required on return after visiting most touristy countries. I was expecting the course to be packed with 5 hour rounds the order of the day. But surprisingly course was fairly quiet I was able to play in less than 4 hours which may not be the case with some other holiday resort areas.
The actual golf course itself is like a cross between Lahinch and North Berwick, 2 of my favourite courses on Earth. This may now be my favourite course on Earth! It’s out of this world! Exhilarating! The views are as good as you can get, the turf despite the hot dry summer is perfect. The variety of the design is so interesting. Many courses are struggling with growth but St. Enodoc is perfect, Probably due to their massive reservoir being able to keep the course irrigated. The greens were understandably slow due to the windy weather but pure. The 13th and 14th are a bit quirky up hill holes playing directly into the wind but they fit in perfectly with the character of the place and are interesting. I can’t say enough about this place. I found my Valhalla! It’s perfect!
Wow, wow and thrice wow. St Enodoc is a fantastic golf links. If ever a sporting arena deserves to be romanticised in poetry it does. And, indeed, is. John Betjeman, who is buried in the church in its grounds, extolled its many virtues in verse. I would not pretend to have his mastery of language so would run out of superlatives to describe the experience.
My game has been in the doldrums lately and I feared a repeat of recent woes when I lost a ball on the par-five first and missed a comfortable putt for a couple of points on the second.
But it was in true St Enodoc style that love began to flicker on the third. My tee-shot bounded over tarmac path and required a putter out of a hedge with my second, to get me back on the course. Sounds unpromising, doesn't it? But I clipped a nine iron up and over the wall which runs across the hole and knocked in the subsequent putt for quite the most surreal par of my life.
That was the beginning of a trail of excitement which included the mind-blowing 6th with its huge dune, known as the Himalayas and the nerve-wracking 7th with a shot into the unknown but on which both Mrs W and I recorded pars.
The 10th is an astonishing golf hole, demanding a tee-shot over water, brush and queues of walkers heading down to the beach as well as the green at the side of the aforementioned church.
I could go on and on. I loved the very difficult par 3 17th because I took a driver and landed the ball within 10 feet of the hole.
It may be that a course becomes more beautiful if a golfer is playing it well - I needed my 12-handicapper's A-game to score 30 points but I think I would have loved it anyway.
Yes, you will never get a flat lie on a fairway, thanks to its notorious humps and yes, if your drives are errant, you may not find your ball... but golf isn't an easy game and certainly not on one of the world's top courses which St Enodoc apparently is.
I walked off beaming, so it's in my top one so far.
St Enodoc is a rollercoaster of a golf course, with constant elevation and direction changes. The fairways are like moguls, which only adds to the fun.
Holes 3, 4, 6, 10 and 16 are especially good. The only problem I have with the course is holes 11, 12, 13 and 14 are underwhelming, and sit on parkland land rather than links land. These 4 holes really disappoint and is the reason i wouldn't put St Enodoc in the World Top 10. It is also ranked 10th in England which I thing is a push, as I wouldn't place is above Royal Cinque Ports, Silloth, Hoylake, Rye, The Berkshire, and others.
Despite this criticism, the course is still fantastic and a must play if in the South-West. Make sure you play Perranporth whilst down there too, which is a real hidden gem.
Such an exciting and stunning links course. Certainly a lot of quirkiness but that’s only a good thing for me.
Hole 1 is a great opening par 5 with fantastic views of the Camel estuary from the green. Up the hill for a long second hole before falling down the hill (and jumping over the wall) for the third. As has been said before, a brilliant start and there is no let up after that.
Avoid the huge bunker on the 6th and then enjoy the cracking blind drive on 7. Hold on for dear life at 10 (and maybe hit a provisional or two) before getting a bit of respite after that. 11-14 is often noted as being a weak patch of holes but I think that’s unfair. As noted in the write-up above, these holes being slightly un links-like just adds to the variety that this great course offers.
The final three holes are as strong as any links holes I have played with a great par 5 along the estuary, a long par 3 through the dunes and a tough par 4 playing back towards the clubhouse from a great elevated tee in the dunes.
This is a great course and I could never get bored of it. Brilliant course conditioning, great green complexes and overall, it is just great fun and one of my favourite places. After your round, pop across the estuary on the boat service and enjoy the delights of Padstow!
Nice review, and it's a tonic for me to read courses of all the places I'd love to be in right now...I'm reminded of the fun we had tacking back to the clubhouse with the match in the balance and not allowing ourselves to really think how great the round had been until we shook hands on the 18th. Since Keith introduced half ball ratings there are a few 6 balls that I would downrate ; St Enodoc isn't one of them. (request to future voyagers, please take a photo of the Centenary Captain's skit on "Seaside Golf" - hilarious. Finishes something like "Chelsea accents in the air, and bloody labradors everywhere". Thanks ! )
The first time I played the Church course at St. Enodoc was on October 23, 1996. I was the first one out as a visitor, paired with a husband and wife, who were also visitors but good partners as they had played the course before. At that point in my life, I had only played seven highly rated courses in the USA, Oakmont, Pinehurst #2, Merion East, Firestone South, Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Pasatiempo. I had moved to the UK in August 1993 and had played approximately twenty courses that have been on top 100 UK lists. At the time my golf game was erratic. I hit the ball farther but I did not always know where it was going.
The only reason I chose St. Enodoc that day was I had read a story in a UK golf magazine of the courses with the biggest bunkers and St. Enodoc was listed as having the tallest. From the view of the first tee, I suspected I was going to play something unique and special. As I walked down the first hole with its high dunes to the right, so many swales in the fairway, sizeable depressions and valleys alongside the fairway, I was reminded of some of the great links courses in Scotland such as Turnberry Ailsa and Prestwick. That first hole seemed to tumble downhill forever. As I continued the round, I realized St. Enodoc had land thrown even higher and was more wild than what I had played to date in England and Scotland. Additionally, the views were much better than those seaside courses in Scotland. Other than Pebble Beach, at that time it was the only course I had played where the views from the course were even better than the views of the course.
We played the visitor tees and I managed a score of 10 over par on the par 69 course. I liked every hole on the course as each one felt different than the one before. Each hole offered a new challenge than the ones already played whether it was due to the land or the green complex. Some of the holes seemed even whimsical to me such as the short fourth and the very difficult tenth. I marveled at the sixth with the famed Himalayas bunker so daunting and large in the side of the dune. I burned the image of the ninth hole in my mind, a par 4 from the elevated tee with undulations, humps, mounds, and rises in the fairway back dropped by a green framed by trees behind it. I considered the ninth to be one of the prettiest inland holes I had ever seen. It reminded me of sixteen at Pebble Beach, back when that hole was framed by trees before disease took most of them away.
I walked off the course that day with two thoughts. The first thought was that I did not think it was the greatest course I had played but I felt it was the most unique course I had played to that point. I really liked how the course was routed to take advantage of all of those hills, the holes rising and falling. I liked how the course was unconventional both in its terrain and overall par. Most importantly, it was the first time that I played a golf course where it dawned on me how it takes a special kind of genius to figure out a perfect routing for that amazing over-the-top variety of the terrain. James Braid was a genius.
The second thought was that I had to return someday. This was a golf course that I knew would play differently no matter how often one played it.
Nearly twenty two years later I did return on July 22, 2018, this time with three friends who had not played the course. I was eager to show them this previous “hidden gem” although like many others they had learned of its brilliance. I was a better player than I had been back in 1993 although I had lost 12% of my distance. I was curious to see whether being a more consistent player would influence my assessment of this quirky, fun, ridiculous at times but always fair golf course. I shot six strokes worse, failing this time to make a birdie and having four double bogies. I did not mind the higher scores; I got to experience more of the course such was the feeling evoked by the golf course. And I loved the Church course even more.
There are many courses in the UK/Ireland where I would love to be a member, if it made sense. In the top five is St. Enodoc. To be fair, the reasons extend beyond the Church course and include having a second golf course as well as its location. In choosing the golf club with the best two courses in England, I do not put St. Enodoc in the same league as Saunton or Sunningdale. But the Church course is so good, perhaps St. Enodoc is equal to Walton Heath, Rye or The Berkshire. It’s a good debate.
Looking at the previous reviews, there is no reason to go through a description of each hole. Jack Snell has done a wonderful job in his recent review while others have fully captured the holes they wished to highlight. M. James Ward wrote a wonderful summary of the overall experience.
I share many of their opinions of the exceptional start of the holes 1-3. I like the fourth while others find it forgettable. For me it is a high risk-reward hole with danger both left and out-of-bounds down nearly all of the right including greenside. The raised green has two bunkers fronting the left side before the land falls away steeply downhill into the high grass followed by the tee for the fifth. Going long over the hole also has a tee for the fifth. It is a very nice green complex for that site. Quite frankly, I like seeing the cows to the right on the side of the hill.
Five through nine are tremendous holes, with eight a well-crafted par 3 with all of those bunkers at the front of the green and continuing around the green.
While others criticize the tenth due to a fairway as narrow but slightly more penal than the fourteenth at The Island, I have a higher opinion of it. It is rare that a hole has two shots that are so consequential but I believe this is in keeping with the uniqueness of the Church course. The tenth is out of character to the rest of the course due to the width of the fairway, the multiple chances of finality due to a bad shot, and the green being located off to the side. Yet making a par on this hole gives one a feeling of ecstasy perhaps higher than a birdie on any other hole on the golf course. Making bogey is somewhat expected and a double here is very likely. But this is exactly the type of hole that had to be built for the contours of the land. I suppose one could argue it could be a shorter par 4 or a slightly longer par 5, both of which are possible. Making it a par 5 would convert the total par to 70 which is more traditional. Yet I like the braveness and execution required for this hole.
Eleven and twelve are fine holes, although not at the level of the previous holes.
After my first visit, the one hole I did not care for was thirteen as a short par 4 with no real view other than from the tee. I still think it is the weakest hole, but the green itself is well defended and can be penal with out-of-bounds on the left. The green is expertly shaped.
On my first visit, I also did not think highly of fourteen despite one of the most interesting looking greens one will ever see. Yet on my second visit after a perfect drive, it did me in when I did not execute the required shot because I relaxed and was complacent on the hole (after having ducked into the church to have a look at its interior). There are spots around this green that can turn a routine par into a double bogey. Whether a double should happen is unlikely unless one hits a poor drive, but I had a better appreciation for the hole’s defenses.
The finish is very good from fifteen on in. It is a very good accomplishment to play the final three holes in level par as they are all difficult. As good as the first hole is, the sixteenth is an even better par 5. Seventeen is likely the most difficult par 3 on the course, long and uphill and somewhat tucked into the hills surrounding it. Eighteen is a fine finishing hole.
I read other’s comments about which course is the best in Devon/Cornwall. For me it is easily the Church course at St. Enodoc. Given the number of outstanding golf courses built in the last twenty-five years, I do not think it is a top 40 course in the world, but I certainly see it below 85.
Two of my friends who played that second round also rate golf courses. Because of the beautiful day we had, bright sunshine, short trousers, amazing views with so many boats in the bay and harbor, we talked about St. Enodoc for days as we went to other golf courses. All of us agreed about how splendid the views are and how wonderful an experience is a round of golf at St. Enodoc. We had just finished playing Saunton (both courses for two of us) and Burnham & Berrow. All of us agreed St. Enodoc was the one we rated the highest. We also agreed it is still under-rated at least by Americans. Finally, we agreed it is one of the best experiences in golf.
I suppose it would be best to start this review by stating that I have not played many truly top courses. St. Enodoc, St. George's Hill and Woodhall Spa are my only World Top 100, along with Notts Hollinwell and Vilamoura Old & Victoria courses, which are also ranked highly regionally.
But what I can say is that I whole-heartedly believe St. Enodoc is a truly remarkable place. A cut above anywhere else I've been and I find it very hard to imagine that golf can get much better than this anywhere else in the world.
First of all, it's the only course I've ever played where I could vividly remember every hole, days, even weeks later. Each one is unique. Each one poses different questions and presents a different challenge. Each one is worth at least a couple of sentences. So on that note…
The first is great opening hole and a really fun par 5, which is just as well because you will have to wait until the 16th to play another. High sand dunes line the right hand side of one of the most undulating fairways you’ll ever walk upon. The approach is played blind up over a hump about 200 yards out, which once traversed, reveals an unguarded green and the beautiful Camel Estuary with the dramatic cliffs of Stepper Point in the distance.
The second is a strong par 4 with a tee shot played between the sand dunes and up towards an elevated green. A steep false front and large, deep bunker on the right hand side will punish any approach played without conviction.
The third is one of those holes that you only find on old links courses. By that I mean, nobody would design anything like it today. From an elevated tee you play a long iron down a wide fairway towards a wall and public footpath. The hole dog legs left as you play a mid to long iron over the wall towards a narrow green with out of bounds lurking to the right.
Four is classic risk-reward driveable par 4. The brave player may attempt to hit a sweeping draw to find the narrow putting surface in one. But anything other than a perfect shot will result in the ball finding a deep bunker, gorse bushes, out of bounds or some other form of nastiness. The safer play is a fairway wood to the top of the hill followed by a simple pitch down the angled green. But where’s the fun in that?
The fifth is the first par 3 and is no walk in the park, especially from the back tees. Played over a ravine towards a well-guarded green, anything short will roll some 50 yards down a slope leaving a devilish pitch back up. It’s all too easy to make a 5 on number 5.
And now the most iconic hole on the course. Number 6 with the infamous Himalaya bunker. A towering pit of sand that, when viewed from the end of the fairway, seems to stretch miles into the sky. If you do manage to keep your nerve, a crisply struck short iron over the mountain hazard will be generously rewarded as everything slopes in towards the punchbowl green. But if you do find yourself in you-know-where, playing out backwards may not be silly as it sounds.
Played from the yellow tees, number seven presents an uncomfortably blind drive over the back of the Himalaya sand dunes. But played from the reds, whites or blues, you find a much more pleasing prospect. A spectacular view across the course towards to sea and a downhill drive into a wide, though well bunkered fairway. The approach is simple enough but avoiding the bunker short right is a must.
The eighth is a fine par 3. Short but with a green sounded 8 pot bunkers. Getting up and down out of one of those will feel as good as making birdie.
Number nine is probably the most generous driving hole on the course as the fairway spills over onto the 16th coming up the other way. A large green attractively framed by tall scots pine trees should be an easy target to find. But a bunker and a stream lie to the right.
Ten is another of those holes that you simply would not design today. Why? Because it’s inherently, yet brilliantly unfair. For all but the very longest of hitters to have a chance of reaching the green in regulation, the drive must find a strip of fairway no more than 3 yards wide. Anything left will find a stream, anything right will find a bank, which will likely propel the ball left… towards the stream. If by some miracle you do find this hallowed ground, you’ll be tasked with hitting a perfect draw with a long iron around the corner of the trees towards a hidden green. Over turn it and your ball will never be found. For once a weak bail out to the right isn’t such a bad play. In fact, aiming for the chapel 30 yards right of the green and fancying your chances of getting up and down, may well be much more likely to yield a par. Ten is horrible. Ten is brilliant.
From the back tees, Eleven is longest par 3 on the course. As it invariably plays into the wind blasting in from the ocean beyond, it feels very long even from the yellow or white pots. Left or long finds a stream, right finds one of 2 pot bunkers.
Number Twelve is memorable in that it’s the least memorable on the course. A pleasant enough 2-shotter that would probably be regarded as a strong par 4 on a lesser links, provides little if not a breather between the drama of the holes it lies between.
Thirteen is a strong, uphill par 4 that inspired the most famous (the only?) golf poem. Instead of reading what I have to say, read John Betjeman’s ‘Seaside Golf’ for a review of this tough hole.
The Fourteenth is a really fun, quirky test. A tricky drive over a chasm towards an angled fairway with gorse lying in wait on its left hand side. It’s wise to play to the left side of the green as it’s literally perched on top of a wall on its right hand side. If your ball just drops off the edge, your only option will be to play back down the fairway.
Fifteen is probably the most beautiful on the course. A lovely downhill par 3 played over another chasm and a lake towards a small green surrounded by gorse and bunkers. The panorama of the cliffs and estuary beyond is truly enchanting, especially as the sun start to set. Despite playing 30 yards downhill, the hole often plays every inch it of its yardage as it nearly always plays into the wind.
Finally we reach the second and final par 5 on the course. A booming drive on number sixteen may manage to get over the large hump in the fairway. If so, as the ball is propelled down the other side, you may have a chance of reaching the green in two. The green, nestled in amongst sand-dunes and bunkers, is an attractive but dangerous target.
If you were hoping for a gentle finish to the round you’ll be disappointed, as seventeen and eighteen are two of the toughest on the course. Seventeen is a long, up-hill par 3 with a deep bunker short right that gobbles up any weak, slicy long iron.
Eighteen is as strong a closing par 4 as you’ll find anywhere in the world. The rumpled fairway will leave anything other than a flat lie as you fire a mid to long iron approach up the hill towards the green. Finish your round with 2 pars and any howlers earlier on will vanish from memory.
In summary I believe St. Enodoc to be a truly unique and memorable golfing experience. It thoroughly deserves its place in the World Top 100, but more than that, I think what’s worth remembering is that that list is full of exclusive and maddeningly expensive courses. A round at St. Enodoc, a course as impeccably maintained as any links, is going to set you back no more than £100, even at a weekend in summer. With that in mind, I’d bet anything that you can’t find a better value golfing experience than this one.
I know Machrihanish often gets accolades for the best opening hole in golf, but it’s pretty tough to beat the opening hole at St. Enodoc, a par five of 528 yards, where you tee off into a wildly undulating fairway with a big set of sand dunes guarding the right side of the hole. Sounds okay so far, but once you hit your second (blind) shot over the striped pole and walk up the hill to see the green, it is a jaw dropper. You can see the massive rocky landforms in this part of Cornwall tumbling down to the beautiful blue sea. Around the hills are the gorgeous English countryside, perfectly manicured, and where the land meets the sea, there are a series of perfect wide sand beaches. A stunning opener! The course then weaves through beautiful sheep-dotted countryside playing up, down and around rolling hills. The signature hole is the 6th, a par four of 428 yards with a blind drive. It is said to contain the biggest sand bunker in Europe, and I'm not arguing the point. If you can avoid the bunker, you still have a blind shot to a punchbowl style green set in a little alcove area. It is a very, very good golf hole. The golf course is a unique one and has a collection of standout holes (one, two, four, six and ten) that give the course a cult following among those learned in golf course architecture. The course combines dramatic water views with beautiful dunes linksland right through the finish. The course is better than some of the courses in the top 100 I have played and it's a bit of a wonder to me why the course doesn't get more accolades (outside of those on this website).
Such a high ranking and so many good reviews for St Enedoc suggested I had missed something first time round in 2012. So a return and as soon as you arrive you feel a sense of anticipation with delightful clubhouse, good practice facilities and the view from the first tee.
Thought the first four holes were excellent with two quality links holes followed by two quirky par 4's. Even playing the first hole you are aware you are playing somewhere special as you can see the spectacular views of the estuary and sea beyond. The 1st, a par 5 straight into the wind, was a driver (just reached the fairway) and two woods. Hole 2 is a strong par 4 and this is followed by a difficult downhill par 4 with a serious cross wind and crosswall traversing the hole. The 4th is a fabulously quirky short par 4 with OB down the right handside.
I also thought the last four holes provided a tremendous finish (as good as any finish I have played); the short downhill 15th was only 168 yards (great view of this hole from 10th tee), but over a sort of ravine and heavily bunkered and straight into a strong wind (driver was the club for me !). Hole 16 is a quality par 5 with the estuary view all down the right hand side, then a 200 yard plus par 3 and then finished off at 18 with a tough pure links par 4.
In between the first four and last four holes (which I thought were the highlights) I also liked holes 10-12; the much talked about 10 is a real tough par 4 at 457 yards but it is a fabulous driving hole. I also thought the 206 yard 11th was a good hole partly because it was tough into the wind but also because of the sea views from the tee adjacent the famous church. You then step onto the 12th tee looking over the bay (what a location !); a pretty fair golf hole as well as you need to avoid overclubbing with the wind behind as the fairway bunkers await on the right hand side. As per my first visit I found holes 13 and 14 around the top of the church a bit of a let-down although in fairness the green complex at 14 is uniquely interesting. Holes 5-9 on the front nine were also holes I did not gell with. The famous 'Himalayas' bunker on hole 6 looked great until my decent drive ended up in a an impossible (ball above feet lie) about 2 yards off the left hand side of the fairway in some mounds, and from there par became impossible. Hole 7 was fairly nondescript but just brutal into a 4 club wind. The short 8th was equally tough, infact it felt unfairly so; heavily bunkered across the front and with strong wind behind hitting the green seemed impossible. Hole 9 was another tough par 4 with the severe crosswind.
In conclusion we thoroughly enjoyed St.Enedoc, and playing off the white tees this time it was a much better course than I could remember. Some quality links holes, some quirky holes, some fabulously entertaining holes, great driving holes, excellent course conditioning (despite the recent rain), a brutally tough par 69 (especially in the weather conditions), all in a glorious setting with stunning estuary views. Not as fair as Royal Porthcawl or Saunton and with a few weaker holes, but with similar splendour and eccentricity as Pennard (but better conditioning than here). Just a stunning location which automatically makes the trip worthwhile and I can't wait to return.