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.
Date: August 21, 2020