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.
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Date: August 17, 2021