It will come as no surprise to note that the Nicklaus golf course at St Mellion Golf & Country Club is the course that Jack built, his first European course design. This is the place to come if you really want to test your game. The recently refurbished (2009) onsite Hotel and Country Club complex has great facilities and is geared up for visitors.
The Nicklaus course opened for play in 1988. The great man was clearly happy with his creation and said: “I knew it was going to be good, but not this good - it's everything I had hoped for and more... St Mellion is potentially the finest golf course in Europe”. The course was good enough to host the Benson & Hedges International Open for six years from 1990 until 1995 with Olazábal, Langer and Ballesteros amongst the winners.
St Mellion is located in the Tamar Valley, on what was once rolling farmland. Bodmin Moor is not too far away but you need look no further – the beast is the Nicklaus course.
Generally, the course is in excellent, American-style manicured condition, with plenty of definition between the sculptured fairways and the first/second cuts of rough; similarly with the greens and fringes. Elevated tees provide a good view of the task in hand. Keep the ball in play, there’s plenty of bunkers and loads of water.
There is no doubt that this is a great golf course and bears the hallmark of a designer who pays attention to detail. Many of the greens are multi-tiered and the hazards are strategically placed, making for intimidating tee shots. The fairways used to get waterlogged but extensive drainage work has resolved that problem.
There are no easy holes at St Mellion but there are many memorable ones, each with its own individuality. The 11th hole is an exacting par three measuring 203 yards; from a high elevation, the tee shot must carry across a river that wends its way across the front and down the left hand side of the green. No prizes for being short here. Our favourite hole is the par five 12th, running through a tree line valley. A stream meanders all the way along the right and then cuts back in front of the green before continuing on its way.
The lower handicap golfer will enjoy this exciting course enormously, but if you are having an off day, you will succumb to the beast of St Mellion. It will be interesting to see how the best European pros fare at St Mellion when the English Open returns to the European Tour schedule and is staged on the Nicklaus from 2011 for five consecutive years.
I've played St Mellion a couple of times and feel that it has gone from over rated to under rated due to its American resort style nature and the fact that you really should use a buggy, normally a massive negative for me.
Make no mistake, as the other reviews say this is a super tough golf course where you can easily lose a bag full of balls but still walk off smiling.
Some blind shots, forced carries over water and chasms, danger at every side, big slopey greens, random humps (thanks Jack!) and plenty of length. Have played as a pair and as a society, and both times all enjoyed the course immensely. The beauty comes maybe from its location more than the design, but it's a fantastic value course when either staying at the course or hiring a house in the grounds as a group. Highly recommended, particularly as a stay and play stop over on the way to the many outstanding courses further West.