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.
Date: September 29, 2017