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.
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.
The course demands excellent driving on every hole to avoid the hills and rough, and the approach shots demand precision to avoid the hills, slopes and runoffs that abound. There are many great holes on this course, and several that rank among the best in the UK and the world. I thought the short par 4 fourth was one of the best 300 yard holes I've ever played. Out of bounds dominates the right side of the fairway as it doglegs left. There is no bailout left, however as bunkers, dunes and steep rough await you there. Appropriate to such a short hole, absolute precision is required. The 6th with it's famous Himalaya bunker is well known, but the steep slope from back to front left makes keeping the ball on the green as much a challenge as negotiating the intimidating fairway bunker. These holes are the stuff of genius.
The back nine begins with the incredibly intimidating tee shot on 10 which once again demands your best to thread your ball between the burn on the left and the hills to the right. The uphill par 4's at 13 and 14 were difficult to hit as well. The fairways had just enough angle to them to make choosing the proper line very difficult. The finishing stretch of 16 through 18 involves a sequence of a very difficult par 5 at 16, a difficult par 3 to a bowl shaped green at 17, and a long downhill then uphill par 4 at 18. After you finish it's almost impossible to believe that the course is 6300 yards from the white tees and 6500 from the blues. It plays much more difficult than you could ever imagine. This may be the most difficult driving course I've ever played and there is really not an easy or bail out shot to be had. This is exhilarating golf which requires your best.
The course was in tremendous shape, and the greens were simply the best I've ever encountered on a links course. In fact the entire course was in excellent condition. The best thing I can say is that I remember each hole, in fact each shot, with extreme clarity. This course is a tribute to the genius of James Braid, and surely deserves all of it's praise and accolades. I don't think a UK golf resume is complete until you've played here. Click the link to read my Atlantic Coast Golf Links story. Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee
The 6th hole is a spectacular par four, primarily because of the hazard that is in play with the second shot. From the tee, the green is only just visible but playing the second shot, you are confronted by what is the largest bunker in the UK, ‘Himalaya,’ a huge sand dune with the face eroded away.
The 13th and 14th provide a good view of the old 11th century church and adjacent cemetery which are in the middle of the course. Looking back from the elevated 14th green, there is a magnificent view of the church, the previous four holes and the entrance of the heads looking out to the ocean.
The par five 16th is the closest to the water and one of the prettiest parts of the links. The 17th is a par three of 206 yards and requires an extremely accurate shot from the tee. The 18th is a suitable finishing hole. The fairway is particularly narrow and winds from right to left before the clubhouse.
St Enodoc is an absolute delight and is a must-play for any serious golfer. This is surely one of James Braid’s greatest creations outside of Scotland. Braid returned in 1922 and 1935 and, fortunately, very little has changed since.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.