St Mellion (Nicklaus) - Cornwall - England

St Mellion Golf & Country Club,
Saltash,
Cornwall,
PL12 6SD,
England


  • +44 (0) 1579 351 351


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 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 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 strong 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-lined valley. A stream meanders all the way along the right and then cuts back in front of the green before continuing on its way.

Ownership of the resort changed hands in 1998 and an extensive renovation of the facilities took place a decade later. Unfortunately, the new millennium credit crunch put paid to plans that would have seen the English Open staged on the Nicklaus course for an initial 5-year period, starting in 2011.

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Reviews for St Mellion (Nicklaus)

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Description: 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. Rating: 7.7 out of 10 Reviews: 41
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Alex Frolish

The Nicklaus course at St Mellion has a fearsome reputation as one of the tougher tests of golf in England. I had a preconception that tough might equal no fun, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth; this is both a rewarding and beautiful test that blends difficulty with enjoyment in a tantalising manner.

The course is folded through a wonderful piece of land on the St Mellion Estate that lends itself perfectly to this sort of golfing test. The contours are at times, extreme, but you don’t tend to have to negotiate them directly. The steep slopes border most of the fairways, particularly on the front nine, creating corridors that give a real definition and framing to many of the holes. Similarly, there are a number of holes that play through avenues of mature trees and undergrowth, and these holes are some of the most attractive on the course.

The toughness in terms of the long game comes from the sheer narrowness from tee to green, rather than being tasked with taking on too many forced carries. Being bold and accurate is rewarded but this is not a course that you should approach with too much intent to attack. From the tee, the play is always to play a club that you are confident that you will hit the fairway with. The distance it will leave and the challenge to come is a bridge to be crossed later; take one shot at a time and don’t look too far ahead.

The two sides have their own distinct characters. The front opens with a deceptively tough downhill par 4 where holding the fairway requires a solid shot shaped from left to right. It is imperative that you find the short grass as the shot to the green poses a question of sheer accuracy, that will be much more easily negotiated from the pristine surface of the fairway. The theme continues throughout the front nine with shaped holes requiring accuracy and control. The tee shot on the 3rd feels particularly tight, and the 5th is a beautiful shorter par 4 with one of the only true forced carries from the tee, played across an attractive and expansive water hazard. The distance of the carry is not so much the issue at 205 yards from the back tee, more the shape required if attempting a longer shot. You can hit a straight shot if playing less club but cleverly, that draws the far end of the lake back into play. Club selection is key here.

The 6th is a tough and fair par 4 where the danger is a clear to see and in similar vein, the 7th is a par 5 where, even at a modest length of just 501 yards from the back tee, tempering your ambition off the tee will pay dividends. My only negative on the opening nine would be that the two par 3’s are a relatively underwhelming spectacle compared to the longer holes. The 4th is a reasonable test boasting a narrow green and a moderate yardage. The 8th in comparison is one of the most attractive holes on the course, but by far the easiest. The par 3’s definitely provide most of the respite on the front side.

I thought the run 10-14 was the most engaging and testing set of holes on the course, a run to apply pressure to anyone thinking they might have the course just where they want it after the front nine. All five of these holes are highlights but in particular, the par 5 12th, played downhill through a tightly woven avenue of mature trees, grabs your full attention. 15-17 is the section that might provide some opportunity to attack if you need to do so. The 18th however is a testing par 4 finisher where I’m sure many rounds may fall at the last hurdle. The fairway feathers from left to right from the tee followed by a lengthy approach played to a green guarded aggressively by a watery gatekeeper of a lake at the front left, and a gaggle of mogul like undulations beyond the surface and to the right. It’s is a proper finishing hole, and I do love a course with a memorable ending.

I played another tough English golf course, Slaley Hall (Hunting) about two weeks after playing St Mellion, and the difference in quality was marked. Not only was the Nicklaus course supremely conditioned, but I believe it asks a much more varied and engaging set of questions with many more strategy options from tee to green. The subtlety of those questions is what elevates the course in my opinion and although the layout is tight, it is not a case of complete target golf. There are risk/reward decisions to make, bail out/ cautious strategies to employ and occasionally, the opportunity to attack the course. Would I want to play the St Mellion every week? Probably not, I’m not sure my fragile golfing confidence could take the persistent questioning. But would I relish the opportunity to test myself across this course from time to time? Absolutely! It would I’m sure, be one of the most rewarding courses to play well in the whole of the UK.

May 24, 2022
7 / 10
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Henry

I try to be as honest as I can on these reviews - honesty is the best policy! And with that in mind the welcome at the club and service in the restaurant was sub-par, or over-par whichever way you look at it. Fortunately though I was shocked at how good this golf course was! I gather from other raters the course can get very wet and unplayable but we didn’t experience this. The holes that run through the valley and the sequence of 10, 11 and 12 are a highlight. St Mellion is a superb course and one I think should be included in any trip to Cornwall.

October 17, 2021
6 / 10
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Chris Wanless

The final stop of our 5 round tour of Cornwall took us to the outskirts of the beautiful Tamar Valley and to the County’s highest rated inland course, the golf resort of St Mellion.

St Mellion was opened for play in 1988 and was the first European course personally designed by Jack Nicklaus. The course opened to rave reviews with Nicklaus himself being quoted " I knew it was going to be good but not this good". It went on to host the B & H International Open with Olazabal, Langer and Ballesteros amongst the winners. Nicklaus even created his own version of Amen Corner with the 10th, 11th & 12th holes.

There isn’t a clubhouse of such to speak about, the main hotel acts as a meeting point for golfers (both residents and non-residents alike). Unfortunately, the main pro shop had been damaged in a small fire, so a makeshift shop was operating off the hotel reception, but plans are underway to re-open the pro shop soon.

I had heard that the course is renowned for it’s tough opening stretch and those rumours are not wrong. The opening 7 holes plays into a valley and anything but accuracy from the tee will be severely punished. Narrow fairways, hungry streams, thick rough and plenty of sand all make for an extremely tough opening test. The course relents from the 8th onwards, so if you’ve managed to keep your card intact by that point, you’ve done very well.

The first truly beautiful hole is the Par 4 5th Hole. 330 yards off the whites. Tee shots are played from a platform of grass over a 155 yard lake carry. The tee shot itself framed by large trees down the left and a steep bank with Rhododendrons. A gentle dogleg to the left then shows the green well protected by streams and bunkers. A unique and picturesque hole.

The 10th is the start of Jacks version of ‘Amen Corner’ and the best run of holes on the course. The hole is played from high elevation to a green situated some 75ft below the tee whilst a stream hugs the right hand side for any sliced tee shot. The Par 3 11th Hole is a stunning one-shotter with water looming in front, bunkering guarding both sides and the steep fern covered bank to the rear. The best hole on the course for my mind is the stunning downhill Par 5 12th hole. The hole is channelled by large pines rising down both sides of the immaculate fairway, a creek runs down the right of the hole with a stream passing in front of the green framed by a huge property in the background. A truly brilliant hole.

The Par 4 18th Hole, at 455 yards off the whites is a true championship finishing hole. Even the best struck drive will still leave you a longer iron into this well protected green. The large hotel looming to your left as you have to fly the edge of the pond into a tight green. A fine end to a brilliant back 9.

St Mellion is a true test of golf. It’s tough, you are likely to lose balls, but it is well worth the visit. There is plenty of variety and some truly superb holes across the course. It’s in immaculate condition and whilst it lacks the charm that most ‘golf resorts’ do, you’d be remiss to leave this off your Cornish golfing itinerary.

For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/

August 17, 2021
7 / 10
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Robert Butlin
August 18, 2021

I do wonder why we all praise (me too at times) a golf course for which we say “you’re likely to lose a few balls”.

Chris Wanless
August 18, 2021

I think it’s acknowledging that the course is tough in places, but there’s still some fantastic holes. Reading reports of when the Pros played here in the B&H, even they found it to be a stern test.

Robert Smith

Have played the Nicklaus course many times over the years, and despite loving it find it very intimidating. It's a great test of golf, but you've got to be firing on all four to scramble a score together.

If your driving is off, you'll lose a few balls guaranteed, because if they don't go into ponds or streams, you'll lose them in the trees or rough.

The dilemma for me is walk or buggy?? The course is a monster, and if you walk you'll be knackered at the end of it. But taking a buggy is frustrating too, because the cart paths meander all over the place. You think you're just getting to your ball and a surprise u turn will see you ending up miles away from the fairway! You then end up having to take 3 or 4 clubs over to your ball not quite sure of what your lie is going to be like, or exactly what distance you're going to have. Put them down, play your shot, go back to the buggy and them remember you left 2 or 3 other clubs lying in the grass!

Standout holes for me are the 3rd, 5th, and 12th. But I hate the 12th! I always cock it up lol! It's a terrific venue, and I think everybody should play it at one time or another. Well worth the trip down.

August 13, 2021
8 / 10
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Rob Wallace

Simply a fantastic golf course that will test your game to the max! There are some truly world class holes, the 5th and 12th are possibly my favourite and the 18th is worthy of any championship finish.

There are many top class courses in England which could be debated as better but none of them are priced anywhere near St Mellion which is very refreshing.

Tip: They run a couple of competitions a year from the blue championship tees, these perhaps give a small insight into what the pros went through when they played the British Masters there....it’s incredibly difficult but in a sadistic way quite fun!!

February 26, 2021
8 / 10
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Wayne Box

The Nicklaus course is one of the very best in the SW of England and if you get the opportunity to play there, you should take it.

From the dog leg right 1st that fades away down the hill towards the green, to the STUNNING back 9 that is up there with the very best in England, in my opinion. The course continues to fall away into the valley until the 5th hole when the terrain slowly begins to re-gain ground lost earlier in the round.

Speaking of the 5th hole, it was arguably the best hole on the course with a large lake to navigate off the tee, towards a narrow landing area and more water short of the green to put off the long hitters.

11 requires a well struck shot to reach dry land on a par 3 that causes most to reach for the camera on their phones. Make a 3 here and it is a job well done.

Coming down 18 invoked memories of past B&H tournament winners and be sure to save a few good shots for the final hole as there will no doubt be spectators watching from the comfort of the facilities or the hotel rooms that overlook the hole!

Make time to play the Nicklaus course at St Mellion, you will not regret it!

October 11, 2020
8 / 10
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Niall
October 12, 2020

There's a lot to like in the summer... in the winter wellies are a prerequisite. However the Nicklaus course can't hold a candle to the SW's links courses from B&B to Saunton to RND and on to St Enodoc.

James

Tough, tough, tough! I’m a scratchy 8 handicapper and rely on hitting the ball well, finding it and sticking it on the green or near it to make a score. That’s harder here than almost anywhere else I’ve ever played. The rough is long and the fairways are tight.

The views are stunning in places and the playing surfaces are excellent. The design is clever but in my humble opinion better suited to quality professionals rather than handicap golfers.

An experience for sure but bring your ‘A’ game or it is just a bit of a slog.

September 13, 2020
5 / 10
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Neil White

"They reckon the average Stableford score around the Nick is 24," we overheard a local commenting as we took post-round refreshment at St Mellion International resort.

If the words slightly soothed me after yet another bruising 18 holes, they positively delighted Mrs W who had skipped around the course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, to score 30 points.

This was after she discovered the head had been snapped off her driver, so tightly had we packed our car for our Cornish holiday.

It would be churlish, although true, of me to suggest I could have caught a bus to some of the women's tees so advanced were they by comparison to the men's. Suffice to say I discovered hazards which weren't even on her horizon.

But golf has no time for bad losers, does it?

St Mellion's championship course is a high-quality corporate track but we felt it lacked the charm of those which don't have associated holiday packages.

Nevertheless, it is a test which is far too fearsome for my ailing game.

This is straightforwardly down to how tight it is. I found myself having to risk playing shots into banks in the vague hope that the ball would slide down on to the fairway. Going straight for the light green stuff risked bunkers, water or trees.

Water is a key feature on several holes but should be avoided by anyone playing well. I wasn't, so ballooned my drive straight into the drink on the 5th.

Mrs W probably benefited from only being armed with a three wood off the tee because it kept her on the course and, because it isn't super-long, that didn't impede her chances of scoring well.

Except on the attractive par 5 12th, where she thought she would visit the rather pretty water-fall which was part of the hazard which runs the length of the hole.

The Nicklaus course is certainly a good walk. We enjoy going around under our own steam rather than in buggies but there were plenty of slippy hills to negotiate after a brief downpour.

Nevertheless, it is a course which can be conquered as long as players plot their way around. I didn't and was defeated but witnessed Mrs W stick to script and show me how it's done.

August 02, 2020
7 / 10
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Joe Sheldrake

I was really impressed with this course and it exceeded my expectations by a long way. From a lot of the reviews, I was expecting a long slog of a course with plenty of water and not much character. I was wrong!

This course is fun, exciting and offers plenty of variation across some undulating terrain.

The first hole is a great start with a drive down the hill towards a green surrounded by trees and a tricky stream. The third was a particular favourite - a short par 4 played across the side of a hill with the ground sloping to the right (towards the trouble) and a green surrounded by bunkers.

5 was a brilliant hole with the drive played across a lake and the approach to a narrow green with water in front is terrifying.

10, 11 and 12 are all great holes where water comes in to play on all three but with solid shots, you can score well on these holes.

Holes 17 and 18 have a slightly different feel but that’s not to say they aren’t strong holes. 18 is certainly dramatic with the green in front of the clubhouse.

This course is a challenge but it’s great fun and really worth a visit. The second course here is a long way behind but there are a few good holes that make it worth the cheaper green fee.

April 27, 2020
8 / 10
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Ed Battye

The four-star St. Mellion International Resort is not short of accolades. The Nicklaus course has been voted the 'Best Golf Course' in the West of England by Today's Golfer Magazine readers and the complex recently ranked 14th in the Top 100 UK & Ireland Golf Resorts.

The Top 100 website has it placed 65th in England which is high praise considering the bulk of contenders are either world famous links or the much admired Surrey-Berkshire heathlands.

The tournament credentials of the 7,010-yard, par 72 layout are in no doubt and will absolutely provide a stern test of your golf game. Tight fairways, several water hazards, forced carries, narrow green entrances, juicy greenside rough and strategic bunkers must all be negotiated at this exceptionally well presented and defined venue. Even from the 6,284-yard forward tees your game will be asked a lot of questions at this American-style venue.

Laid out in Tamar Valley, on what must have been a difficult property for Nicklaus to sculpt the course upon, it sets off at a fast pace with a dramatic opener where the fairway plunges down before rising up to an angled green. The rollercoaster continues with a particular scary tee-shot at the third and a picturesque dog-leg par-four at the fifth.

Both one-shotters on the outward half are excellent (the two on the back-nine aren’t bad either!) but with bunkers and nothing for leaking the ball right they are equally as demanding as the longer holes.

A theme of the front nine is steep rough-clad banking on one side of the narrow fairways coupled with a lateral water hazard on the opposite side. Driving the ball straight is therefore a big asset at St. Mellion.

The back nine – which contains some equally impressive holes –opens up a little bit more as the round progresses. But first, the downhill 10th, short 11th over water and the long 12th are dubbed “Amen Corner” and you can see the similarities. Meanwhile, the closing hole is a grand way to end your round on a layout that contains 18 individually excellent holes.

The walk from the ninth green to the tenth tee (around the hotel) is a little irksome and there are a few other long walks to get to the next teeing ground but that goes with the territory at a modern championship venue such as St. Mellion. Perhaps it was the record-breaking Easter temperatures but I think next time I will take a buggy.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

June 27, 2019
7 / 10
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