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.
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.
St. Enodoc was truly the highlight of my trip and one of the best courses I’ve seen in 2018. I’d characterize it as a course that really has it all and ticks all the boxes that are important for me in a round at an all-world course.
The routing is extremely varied with 18 totally unique holes played over what can often be called crazy landscape. It will have you flirting with OB, using your imagination to overcome blind shots, taking you through massive fairway moguls and even taking on heroic shots like driving the ball over a massive 50ft blow out bunker.
Plain and simple the course offers up endless fun and must be one of the most creative routings in the world. It starts and ends spectacular and in my view doesn’t have a single let up throughout the round. Even the holes running down to the famous church and back are excellent and provide excitement and challenge. 11 for example is a serious par 4 and a half and has one of the tightest feeling drives I’ve faced in a while. Essentially there is far more space than it seems but the hole doglegs sharply around the course boundary and OB to the left. Long hitters can perhaps just clear the corner where the hole opens up. The rest of us have to carefully lay up or really take on the narrowest of gaps. This looks nearly impossible from the tee but only requires more thought and carefully placed shot-making.
The holes that return up the hill around the back side of the church make excellent and very interesting use of what could be a very awkward section of the course. They were transformed into excellent holes with effective usage of angles and strong green complexes. The strong drop shot par 3 15th affords arguably the best view on the course and links the player back to the section of the course with the most dynamic natural ground movement heading back inland to the clubhouse.
Recently St. Enodoc has attained a position in our World Top 100 Courses and for me the course earns every bit of this ranking, in fact I’d ideally see it moving up even more. It’s a must-play and still given its location a bit of a hidden gem for most. I really think a golfer’s education can’t be complete without experiences like this. I will certainly happily return to the Southwest of England and St. Enodoc provides the kind of all world experience that I will be day dreaming about until the next time I’m honored to make my way around its sacred fairways.
There are few experiences in golf that can arouse as many emotions as the Church Course at Saint Enodoc.
First of all, the place itself is gorgeous, overlooking Daymer Bay and its turquoise waters that, on clear days, offer a striking contrast to the green fairways.
And, apart from that, and even above the landscape, the course, especially its first holes, manage to transport the golfer to a real carousel of emotions. Thus, from the fantastic initial par 5 the way in which each hole exceeds the previous one I can only compare it with the way in which a top chef succeeds to surprise us with every dish, making all of this a unique experience.
According to my experience, reduced to two rounds on consecutive days, the 9 holes in, except for the last 3, are clearly inferior to the first 9, and, without being bad holes at all, they fail to reach the level of the previous ones.
The round starts in a stellar fashion: a par 5 on a rugged fairway, where the second shot is blind to a gully and only once you have reached this spot can you see the green. And, from there on, the succession of spectacular holes is amazing: the 3rd is a long par 4 all the way downhill towards a green protected well behind a stone fence; the 4th consists in a strategic par 4 whose short length should not deceive us, since the danger lurks in each shot (although it is also a clear opportunity to birdie if played correctly); the 6th stands out for its gigantic Himalaya bunker; and the 8th is a short but delicious par 3.
Regarding the 6th hole, I might have found the best way to play it: a hooked drive to the left of the path allowed me the simplest of the possible second shots to the green, with a perfect view of it and from a more favorable angle. From there, an iron 8 slightly leaning to the right, before the attentive look of some hikers, allowed me for an easy but celebrated 4.
As for the controversial hole 10, maybe my personal experience determines my opinion of it (an accumulated 13 strokes in 2 days), but I found it excessively penal. It´s a hole that imposes a severe penance on the slightest sin ... perhaps the proximity of the chapel of Saint Enodoc to its green has something to do with it.
From there, the tone drops somewhat in the holes 11, 12 and 13, although the views from the 14th tee come to compensate. On the other hand, I especially liked the 14th hole and its green and, from there, the end of the round returns to take us to the linksy terrain and offers some spectacular holes: the 16th, that, due to its abrupt descent, reminded me of the 8th at Dornoch; the 17th, a brutal but charming par 3 that asks for a long and accurate tee shot, or the 18th, which is definitely at the height of the course. In fact, the second shot in this hole, to a well-defended green, was one of the most memorable moments of the round.
Maybe the only aspect that did not live up to my expectations was the condition of some fairways, something below the standard for a course of this quality, but the greens were in an impeccable form.
When comparing this course with someone else I have played, Cruden Bay comes to mind, because of the feeling of adventure that both inspire me.
Definitely, I would recommend this course to any golfer eager for a different (and more than stimulating) experience.
St Enodoc- Having made a trip to play the best of Wales a few years ago....I met a member of St Enodoc along the way. He admonished me for not going to his club, St Enodoc as it was a fantastic course in comparison to those I was playing. I set out to do just that. St Enodoc was the magnet which drew me to SW England.....And unlike so many times....It lived up to the expectations and then some. It rolls along and around a massive hillside. Several holes are just unique. As in never seen before. Having played 800 courses...St Enodoc has several holes that are absolutely unique. A par 69 seems unworthy. But a hand full of the par 4's are 450 yards or so. It is a big golf course with much challenge. Fantastic views. Several take to your grave holes and a ton of fun too. Whatever you do ...when you play the Church hole...Put your drive out to the right. The little stream running along the left is unnoticed until you have found it..A true gem. Go play it.
The first shot at St. Enodoc says it all. Surrounded by huge dunes, the line is not intuitive, but a good second takes the player over a blind narrowed fairway and voila! There sits a lovely green site framed by the mouth of the Camel estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. The land here has forced the creation of some controversial holes, most notably the short par 4 4th and the long par 4 10th both featuring pinched landing areas. I found each one more than acceptable, the former providing a generous landing area if one plays the proper tees and the latter having many options on the tee shot, including a driver into the hillside rough which generally repels the ball into the fairway.
Overall, the course provides plenty of strategic options from this tee. And the variety of approach shots available and the lovely contours on the greens met with my approval as well.
A cracking opening hole sets the scene. A course that has a huge reputation and I appreciate the overall sentiment towards this course but I reckon there are just too many uninteresting holes to get it into 6 ball territory.
The outward 9 is the best as the inward 9 contains a few average holes. The first 9 is played through great dunes but the 4th let's it down a bit. The 4th a short par 4 that has big trouble both sides feels like a filler and the par 3 5th is a tough hole if you don’t hit the green. Fall 1 foot short and you roll back over the road.
The pace picks up with some magnificent holes 6-10.
I can see why not everyone loves the 10th. Possibly the most difficult hole I have ever played. Take driver and you have 10 yards to land it on the fairway. Then getting it stay on the fairway if you have hit a long draw is another matter with a creek running up against the fairway. Best to take 4 iron to the safe part of the fairway but then you have 200 yards or so in. Tough hole, probably too tough.
Some of the holes 11-15 seem to cover similar territory – sloping land and with a left to right cross wind you really need to aim well left to have any hope of holding the fairway.
Strong finishing holes were needed and delivered. All up a course that honestly does have too many average holes to be considered 6 balls. Strip these out and the remaining 13 or so holes are fantastic. The other 6 ballers I have given (P/Porth, Western Gailes, Cruden Bay, Birkdale, Dirleton) all have some average holes but not as many, nor as average. RLSA, Carnoustie, RCP, Hillside, Formby for eg all got 5 balls so it is in great company. Warren from Aust
No need to benchmark your review against other courses you've played - it seems almost apologetic - you're entitled to your opinion (and I think 5 balls is a fair review for this course).
I agree with the fact that there are a few average holes (for me there are 11, 12, & 13).
Interesting how hole 4 polarises opinion - because Sam reviewing below held a similar opinion to you. When Tom Doak featured the 4th in his confidential guide vol. 1 as an example hole, he referred to Henry Cotton being "one of the first to sings its praises as one of the great short fours in Britain"
There isn’t a course comparable to St Enodoc. It’s sui generis. I played here last Friday after being too long away. There are some courses that grow on you and St Enodoc is one.
I always loved the front nine and the closing stretch, but felt things took a downward turn at #10 and didn’t recover until #16. I don’t know whether the 10th hole is or is not a favourite of Peter Alliss – it’s undeniably a tough par four which I managed to par for the first time on Friday after landing a five wood in the middle of the fairway bottleneck and then finding the heart of the green with a five iron. It’s a dramatic hole but the drive is too penal for my liking – the fairway is less than ten paces wide where I landed my drive.
You simply have to tip your hat to John Betjemen before you turn your back on the church and hit your tee shot on #11 – “How long it flew”. Previously I thought this was a filler of a long one-shotter, but it’s a solid hole in its own right. I also enjoyed holes #12 to #14 much more than the previous occasions I’ve played here. The greensite on #14 is stellar. What’s not to like about the 15th? We witnessed a near hole-in-one effort while standing on the 10th tee. #15 is a wonderful one-shot drop hole. The 16th runs along the Camel Estuary and it’s one of best links holes I’ve ever played.
St Enodoc is currently enjoying a renaissance and for good reasons. It is by some distance the best course in England’s South West, and its position in the World Top 100 is thoroughly deserved.
It’s a course that stirs my soul. I wish I lived a little closer – I’d beg to become a member.
By some distance?!? I loved St Enodoc but, most rankings put Saunton East above it (and i agree), and personally i think Burnham is also better,
Enodoc has some of the best holes i've ever played, but it also has some very average ones - 5 is a filler, 10,11,12,13,14 are forgettable.
Saunton you just dont get that
In my opinion Sam, most rankings that place Saunton (presumably you mean the East) ahead of St Enodoc are wrong. I love both courses at Saunton, I've played the East and West many times, in fact I played them both last Saturday, but I prefer the West to the East (the West has more variation – there are at least two too many par fours on the East course). Burnham & Berrow is a very good course but not as good as St Enodoc.
Anyway, back to St Enodoc. There are no weak holes but some are better than others, which is true of every course.
You think the 5th is a filler hole? Wow now that’s a surprise to me. I echo Thomas's opinion (see review dated 29 September 2017). It’s a gorgeous par three across a valley to a greensite benched into the hillside.
You say #10 is forgettable? Only somebody playing comatose could forget the 10th. It’s possibly the most memorable long par four in the South West – and not necessarily for all the right reasons as I mentioned in my review.
The 11th is a truly difficult par three with a burn and out-of-bounds on the left and a brace of bunkers on the right. If you can keep your card intact after 10 and 11 you’re doing remarkably well.
If you’d have said 12 and 13 are forgettable then I might have agreed with you, but how many courses can you name that have eighteen memorable golf holes? The greensite at 14 is stellar and with death on the right all the way from tee to green it’s certainly not a hole I’ll forget in a hurry.
I’ve just realised I meant the 4th hole not the 5th.
10th is memorable because it’s a poor hole. That’s not a good thing.
Obviously this is the joy of rankings, but to say the west at Saunton is better than the east is crazy! Even with the changes it’s not in the same league!
I love St Enodoc and can’t wait to go back. But id take Saunton and B&B over it
Sam, not to gang up on you here but I too just played these courses last week all in the same perfect conditions and I personally find it difficult to consider Saunton East anything but greatly overshadowed by St. Enodoc. Naturally it's a fine course and has the ability to be stretched out to championship caliber but the variation and interest in holes, landscape and pure architecture is not to be compared with St. Enodoc which most certainly is deserving of it's World Top 100 status. Burnham & Berrow as well is a strong course but also falls well short of St. Enodoc's stature though I do find it much more interesting than Saunton.
Why not jump in the action ! I played St. Enodoc as well as both courses at Saunton two years ago. I have to agree with Keith. St.Enodoc is an absolute treasure. I realize that 10-14 is a controversial stretch but I found that those holes tested my nerve as well as my skill. I also agree with Keith about the West course at Saunton, which I think is very underrated. Alas this discussion is similar to a beauty pageant where all three contestants are beautiful and we trying to sort out the subjective points that make one of the contestants more beautiful than the other. I would play all three courses as often as I could if I lived in the area (which would not be a bad idea at all).
The 4th is a great strategic hole and makes good use of the corner of the property. If that’s a filler hole then no wonder this is a 6 ball course!
If you don't mind I'll stick my oar in. Having just played the links around the area my initial impressions are Saunton East is the best in the area followed by P/Porth with Saunton West, B&B and Enodoc just behind those. Within this website I read some insightful comments about golf course management preferring to get feedback from members rather than one hit wonders like myself. This is very valid but for the sake of it Saunton East gets my vote in this pageant.
I am quite suprised by Sam's comments about filler/forgettable holes. It is these very holes and more (3, 4, 6, 10 & 14) which provide St Enodoc's extraordinary character. The only hole mentioned which I think to be less than stellar is the 13th. It is obvious the club believes the hole lacks something because it has been worked on a few times. I do, however, lament the loss of the old 16th green near the property boundary. It made for a wonderful risky second if going for home. For mine, St Enodoc is comfortably the best course in the West Country and that is down to using the land as given. Although, I am very fond of Perranporth also because the land was used as given, making the results unique. Perhaps James Braid should be given more design accolades! Saunton East on the other hand is very, very good, but vanilla compared to the others. It is the sort of course where one could think he has seen the holes somewhere else. One thing is for certain, the West Country is one of the premier GB&I golf areas whether overseas travellers know it or not.
Back in May 2017 I'd arranged a romantic short Spa break in Polzeath. In a fortuitous coincidence, it was just a few kilometers from St Enodoc. What are the chances?
After a brief chat with Nick The Pro, I was stood on the first tee staring down the first fairway. Definitely the right stuff. Rumpled land, blind second shot, green falling away to the left, reveal of an ocean view. It also ticked the box as a gentle opener.
What followed in the ensuing lovely walk around the property can probably best be described as good quality, great variety, with a healthy dose of quirk. The setting adds significantly to the experience as the routing revealed the sea views several times in the round from different angles and elevations, before a full disclosure at the 16th & 17th.
I enjoyed so many of these challenging holes. They all seemed different to each other and each had some kind of memorable feature (blind second at first, raised green second, wall on third, OB on four, massive dune on six, church hole, etc) that it held my attention all the way around.
For me only the Par 3 11th and Par 4 12th saw the interest drop off, but then it ramped back up as you approached the excellent final three holes.
I'm apparently infamous for my lack of observational skills in general (so do take my course reviews with a pinch of salt), but in the case of St Enodoc, I can clearly remember every hole after playing it just once. That left quite an impression with me (if you pardon the pun).
At risk of over-rating this course by the standards of some, it was such an interesting and enjoyable round, it gets top marks from me. St Enodoc is like The Clash's London Calling album: a swirling melting pot of variety that may be not be to everyone's taste, but for others it emerges whole from the stewing maelstrom as a genuine classic. BB
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.