“Golf was started at Lelant by a cleric, the Rev. R.F. Tyacke, who probably learned his golf at Westward Ho!” Wrote Henry Cotton in his guide to Golf in the British Isles. “He saw that there was some fine golfing country at Lelant and, aided by some local enthusiasts, he quickly got a nine-hole course constructed.” The Reverend’s activities happened way back in 1889 and therefore this makes West Cornwall Golf Club the oldest club in Cornwall.
This wonderfully natural course is set on the edge of St Ives Bay and its elevated location provides for some magical views across the bay to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. At 5,884 yards (par 69 for men), West Cornwall is certainly not a championship layout, but the club is certainly capable of nurturing champions. This is where “Long Jim” Barnes cut his golfing teeth, one of the few golfers to have clinched Open Championship victory on both sides of the pond.
As stated in Frank Pennink’s Choice of Golf Courses: “Lelant begins with a rather fierce short hole, with a road on the right, and it is well over a furlong – hinting that to break 70 is far from simple achievement. The next is one of the best – bending slightly right, with sandhills on that flank; the line is along the left, with the second shot to a raised green with a narrow entry.”
“Golfers will not easily tire of playing this course… even a tiger will not find it easy to achieve a record score here.” Henry Cotton’s words are absolutely true and at this point we'd only add that Lelant offers golfing fun with a capital “F”.
A links course that was fun to play, though some of the fairways (ie 4th & 8th) were a bit hairy. I was lucky I pushed my tee shot on 8 as I had a long wait for the green to clear (you have to wait for the group in front to clear the 9th tee before your approach to the 8th green) and in that time several tee shots from people on the 4th rolled past me, which would have been dangerous if I had not pushed my shot and been near the course boundary.
Other than that though I had a fun time out on the links. My only suggestion is they should have a few more bells on the other side of some of the blind tee shots.
The views are lovely, and the greens were in great condition. Several have different levels and the greens provide a real challenge.
Overall I think a good course for a day out if in the area is fair.
West Cornwall was the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course, hands down. I’d been reading mixed reviews about the course before playing it and therefore had pretty low expectations going on. Oh boy were they wrong! Maybe it’s the quirkiness they don’t like? The blind tee shots, the huge sand dunes, the rumpled fairways that seem to be from another planet and the tightness of the course at times. But for me, these combined features came together to produce a great golf course with excellent holes.
Every hole (except maybe the first par 3 on ‘the triangle’) is strong it’s it’s own way and completely different to the last or any on the course. The back nine is world class in my opinion with the best views on any golf course I’ve ever played and the trains rattling past every 20 or so minutes just adds to the whole classic links experience that you get on this course. And don’t let the yardage fool you. This is a hard golf course. Just like any links, when the wind picks up and those fairways start kicking your ball into hollows that you never thought existed when staring off the tee, yardage might not be your biggest worry!
I can’t promise you’ll like this course. If you don’t like quirkiness, blind shots and holes that would never have been built in this day and age but are wickedly beautiful and difficult, you won’t like this course. But if you want to be thrilled from start to finish by a rollercoaster of links terrain, then head down to West Cornwall. Hands down the best £40 I’ve ever spent!
P.S. if you are staying In Carbis Bay or St.Ives, get the train to the course. The views are amazing and you go straight through the course, giving you a quick tease of what’s to come...
The concept of a quirky, bumpy links course with a churchyard, coastal railway and blind shots, all situated on the cliffside overlooking Gwithian Sands is a description that for me, sounds idyllic. Sadly, playing the course on a busy day meant my experience of the course was massively spoilt as quite frankly, it’s the least safe place I’ve ever played golf.
West Cornwall itself is a classic lay-of-the-land golf course. Greens and tees were located where, over a century ago, the architect felt they were most suited, yet I’m unconvinced that there was ever enough space here for a full eighteen. There are some positives to appreciate at Lelant which other reviewers before me have enjoyed; the 2nd for example is a lovely hole with its entry point to the green between two grand dunes, and the 11th too, another hole where the green is approached over sand dunes was a personal favourite, although the proximity of the dunes to the green on both holes is maybe a touch severe for the higher handicap golfer. The view from the 12th tee box is another highlight, a climb to the tee that will open up the lungs but the views out to Hayle and the adjacent long sandy beach provide a wonderful panorama.
Now onto why I struggled with the course. What happens between holes 3 and 10 is just sheer madness. After nearly hitting someone on the 4th tee when I was teeing off blind on the 3rd and my playing partner nearly doing likewise to someone playing along the blind yet shared 4th and 8th fairways, I admittedly lost my head with the course. “The Triangle” then presents a separate, lower elevated section of the course whereby holes 5, 6 and 7 that form this part of the course are set by the banks of the Hayle Estuary. 5 and 7 cross one another to form fairly mediocre par threes whilst the 6th has one of the oddest tee shots with maybe the longest and thinnest tee boxes I’ve ever played from where a mid-iron tee shot is the only safe play such is the close proximity of these tightly intertwined holes. The one redeeming feature of this three-hole loop is the tremendous infinity style green and approach to the 6th that’s protected by a recently built Sahara-like bunker.
Hard hats are needed again as you rise back out of The Triangle and come back down the same congested stretch where you played earlier. All a little crowded and confusing for my liking where the 9th tee is very much in danger for those driving from the 8th. Ducking and diving, being consciously aware of flying golf balls and shouts of “fore” again ultimately blighted my enjoyment on what should have been an idyllic Summer afternoon. Once you’re over the tee shot on 10, you can admittedly start to relax although safety netting has been required around the 13th tee to allow for this. The back nine opens up a little although doesn’t carry the same interesting lumpy ground as the front half. Other than the quality 11th and views on offer from the 12th tee box, the coffin bunkers around the green on 10 are a strong feature and 14 again brings in those dunes next to the 2nd green. The closing stretch is reasonable but not as noteworthy as the madness that’s come before, but by this time my mind was made up on the course and I probably wasn’t able to enjoy some of these later holes to their fullest. I have to also point out that having played the course this last July, we found crow damage on a couple of the greens and I also found the sand in the bunkers to be overly refined and soft, it looks like it’s recently been replaced and not reflective of what I’d expect in links style bunkers but maybe it will settle over time.
I know a course is only blind once and there’s an argument that I’d enjoy the course more so on a second visit, but my overriding opinion was that this is a great piece of land with too many poorly laid out holes, particularly for the modern game where average players, myself included, can hit the ball 100 yards offline. I’ll conclude by saying that there is some good stuff at West Cornwall, and others may get much more enjoyment from playing it than I did, but I’d recommend heading out for a late evening round when the sun is low and the course is light on traffic rather than taking up a tee time in the middle of the afternoon amongst a congested tee sheet.
This course is Quirkiness personified! It is not a championship course by any stretch of the imagination but it is a fun, exciting links course with some of the best views anywhere. Carbis Bay on a sunny day is incredible.
I know a course isn’t just about the scenery and luckily, the course here is worth playing for it’s own merits. There are plenty of blind drives, dunes to traverse, crumpled fairways and well maintained greens. There is also a railway line running along the perimeter of the course (I always used to try and sneak a glimpse of the course when getting the train to St. Ives).
Some standout holes are the long par 4 2nd which requires a drive and an approach through the dunes. 4 is a great hole (albeit, I agree with previous reviews that the blind drive onto a shared fairway doesn’t feel the safest of holes) and 11 is my favourite on the course with a tough approach through to a green nestled in the dunes. The drive from 12 (an elevated tee at the far end of the property) is really breathtaking and there are some solid holes to finish.
Don’t expect to play a top-100 course but this is a great fun, old fashioned links course played in a beautiful setting.
With 36 planned for my second day of the trip and not completely being sound of mind and body I let myself be talked into yet another 54-hole day just so I could take the opportunity to show up very early and play West Cornwall Golf Club.
What an unexpected thrill that even after one of the craziest days of golf, 54 holes walking with 3.5 hours of driving thrown in I was ever so grateful to experience.
West Cornwall is old school quirk. I do want to preface this with the fact the club gracious invited me to race around starting at 7 am well before they opened. This basically allowed me to avoid any issues in terms of how the routing is set up that I would have had to contend with had it been a busy day. I will touch on this later.
Uniquely the course starts with a solid 1 shotter requiring a mid to low iron playing into a slight early morning cool breeze. The green is semi blind and well-guarded. Very interesting start. Quickly you find yourself on a tee box next to a cemetery and old church, the hazy fog laying out the early morning dew formed the perfect eerie setting. The next hole played out between two massive dunes and steeply up to a green severely sloping back to front nestled between them. The next hole, offered up a crazy blind shot to be aimed just left of the church. Naturally only blind the first go-round but exhilarating nonetheless. Just over the hill a drop off down to a fairway sloping severely right to left down the hills it works its way across. However, here is the tricky and rather dangerous part. This is a shared fairway with the 8th hole which plays parallel and given the blindness and tendency to want to play to the left away from the church on a busy day playing the 8thfor the first time, could be a real scare. I’d be interested to know how many people have been injured here. This is an example of something that might have been done in the old days that insurance would never allow today. In any case it must work somehow. Both holes are great but I wouldn’t want to be walking up the 8th fairway when I was teeing off on 3.
After the 4th green you walk down a little road to a lower section of the course that affords wonderful views of the bay and the sea as well as the town of West Cornwall which is lovely. The holes are really interesting and quirky as well. 5 is another blind shot. 6 works its way down to the water playing form a tee box right next to the train tracks. A solid drive risking OB on the left which is also semi blind affords a short iron or even a little flop into a beautiful but small green with the bay as a back drop. The next tee box being right on the water and plays to the uphill par 3 7th.
Having walked back up the hill to the 8th you face a crazy undulated rolling fairway that plays steeply uphill. My approach from here was blind though quite short. The 9th plays back up to a high point with a raised green.
10 takes you out via a blind drive over a massive dune to the other side of the course. Literally the two 9’s are separated by this massive dune ridge.
The back 9 works its way through with a very different character than the front up and down a big hill affording more wonderful views and some nice muscle burn from climbing the hill on one side and the separating dune on the other.
The closing hole requires you to walk back across a road into a really tight little area to access the back tee. This hole alone is extremely unique and worthy of a visit. Playing down the hill the closing hole is one of the best and most appropriate you could wish for on this lovely, unexpected gem.
West Cornwall is quirky, quaint, unexpected and a pure joy if you like those kinds of classic Golden Age Courses. My advice would be to play either early or late on a day that’s not crowded, take your time and enjoy the walk.
A fun packed course that will test your game. Built around some solid dunes this is an excellent little course. Some very interesting holes throughout the course and as noted below maybe let down by the “triangle”. The bone dry conditions meant one has to carefully manage the ball onto the green which is not always easy.
Some good elevation changes and nice views add to the pleasant outing. At times the course is very tight and the slopes of the fairways mean you are often hitting from another fairway. To play it on a crowded, windy day could be havoc. A testing walk up and down the slopes but all up a course that needs to be played more than once. Warren from Aust
Established in 1889 West Cornwall Golf Club at Lelant is the oldest in the peninsula county, it is also one of the finest.
The course benefits from a splendid location close to the Hayle Estuary with superb views out to St. Ives Bay but also serves up an exciting and true test of golf.
Like all links courses the strength and direction of the wind will dictate how the course plays, which itself is made up of many parts. Throughout the round you will experience a variety of different types of holes and sections to the layout.
The first few holes boast rippling fairways, with the exception of the second where huge sand dunes are the main feature and frame the green nicely.
The backdrop to the opening hole, an excellent par three where perception of length is distorted thanks to splendid undulations and an imposing bunker short of the green, is the church of St Uny. After the more rugged second hole you return to velvety, quivering fairways at the third and fourth; neither long holes but beautifully created and pristinely presented. The fourth is perhaps the best as is skirts the corner of the churchyard from the tee and allows plenty of options for playing your second shot to a sloping green located beyond a falling and bubbling approach.
Holes five to seven are isolated from the rest of the linksland and despite being closer to the water are less links-like in nature. This part of the course, on the other side of a railway line that runs along one edge of the course, contains two par three’s both pushing 200 yards. These demanding short holes sandwich a curving and downhill par four close to the boundary of the course. The tee shot at the sixth is undoubtedly the highlight of this charming trio of holes.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Near lovely St Ives, the drive to get to West Cornwall ("Lelant") golf course is slightly unprepossessing.
However, after the slightly strange downhill par 3 first the charm becomes very clear, with some great links holes and views with the possibilities of the small parcel of land maximised..
Even the "triangle" up by the church and railway (reminded of Tenby) provides one of my most abiding mental golfing images, of the links turf "washing up" the graveyard wall.
I would agree with Lelant's placing in the Cornish list, and with its general value and friendliness Cornish golf is a hidden gem all on its own.
Other enjoyable places to play not listed on the site are Lostwithiel and Carlyon Bay.
I played Lelant last Thursday with Rachelle on one of the wettest days of the year (the wind was also blowing at 20 mph). Unfortunately it was so wet we called it a day on the 11th and skipped across to the 17th and headed back down the home hole to the inviting clubhouse.
Exciting changes are brewing for West Cornwall Golf Club. Some new land to the northwest of the property may become available and plans have already been drafted to create some new holes, reshape some of the existing holes and lose three holes (5,6 and 7) in the “triangle”. I studied the plans with Hon Secretary and at first glance the changes look very sensible. The round starts strongly with four engaging and very memorable links holes (the par four 2nd could easily be from Ballybunion with its plateau green set between two giant dunes).
I’m glad the club moved the 1st tee forward, as the original back tees stretched this opening par three to well over 200 yards with buildings to the left and the road to the right with houses beyond, it would definitely be a nerve-jangling opener from back there. The 3rd and 4th play across some wonderfully undulating ground that pitches and rolls in a similar vein to the Old course at Ballyliffin. Two of the three “triangle” holes are one-shotters and have little to commend, although the par four 6th is a great hole which will be surely be missed if the plans do get off the drawing board.
The holes around the turn reminded me of some of the quirky elements from Prestwick, North Berwick and Cruden Bay with blind drives and greens benched into the dunes. Due to the weather, the course was quiet and so the tight routing did not cause problems – a different matter I’m sure on a busy sunny day. Despite its short yardage West Cornwall is not an easy course on which to score and its quirk and glorious seaside views are undoubtedly its strength. I’m unclear as to who originally designed the course but I doubt much has changed since it began and I’m unsurprised that the club has developed so many good golfers, with none better than Jim Barnes. My hope is that any redevelopment maintains and perhaps even builds upon the fun and excitement that Lelant offers. It’s up near to the top of my personal “quirky course” list, which I feel is the essence of seaside golf. Keith Baxter
This is an update to my above review for Lelant. I played here last Tuesday in significantly better weather conditions and played all eighteen holes this time, having previously skipped #12 through #16 due to torrential rain and gale force winds. 12-16 are actually solid holes – I did West Cornwall an injustice by only awarding the course a 4-ball rating.
It seems to me that course raters and commentators generally do not hold Lelant in the same high esteem as I do. There are three one shot holes that have no redeeming features (#5, #7 and #17) but the rest of the course, I think, is strong. Yes, the layout is wedged into a relatively modest acreage, but so are other courses that garner plaudits (Worlington is a prime example).
Generally, courses in the English West Country unfairly get short shrift and I really don’t know why. If Lelant, Bude or Newquay were located on the opposite side of the Pond they would all be cherished and lauded. Few golfers (me included sometimes) bother to search out these “lesser” courses due to there being bigger fish to fry. Big mistake.
West Cornwall was presented in immaculate condition in late March and the club could not be more welcoming or reasonably priced. If you’ve not played here before you should… schedule Lelant alongside Perranporth, Bude and Newquay and you’ll experience four unheralded Golden Age links courses that won’t break the bank.