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.
What an absolutely beautiful part of Cornwall to lay out eighteen holes across such a unique property – well, twelve truly exceptional holes and half a dozen others between 10 and 15 around Bray Hill that I'm not entirely convinced are worthy of such a top GB&I course.
In particular, the 13th is a bit of an uphill slog and the ultra-skinny par four fairways at 10 and 14 are close to the silly side of quirky, like those on the cliff tops at Nefyn.
Not at all my cup of tea but the outward nine that precedes these holes around St Enodoc Church and the closing three holes are nothing short of brilliant, routed like a high speed golfing roller coaster track in the sand hills high above the golden sands of Daymer Bay.
Fairways plunge up and down, twisting right and left in a wonderful routing with particular favourites at the doglegged 3rd (where a diagonal wall runs across the fairway); the fantastic short par four 6th (complete with famous "Himalaya" bunker); and the intimidating 7th (where a forward "viewing platform" allows others to get a line on your blind tee shot).
he closing trio of long par five, long par three and long par four will wreck many a scorecard (they did for me too) but what a fantastic, tough end to a round – it's almost a pleasure to admit defeat at the hands of such a great set of finishing holes.
St Enodoc really is a one-off course and one to be savoured, even if there might not be quite enough land in my eyes to give it 18 (instead of 12) outstanding holes.