“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”.
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.
The opening hole is a par thee, slightly downhill and 229 yards in length. The green is well guarded with bunkers and mounds and, for the first-timer, it is very difficult to judge the actual length of the shot.
The second hole is index 3 on the card and takes on the appearance more of the typical sort of blind shot to the green that one expects on Irish courses. Two large sand dunes guard the green with only a portion of it being open to view for the second shot.
The par four 11th is a very good hole, with the tee right beside the railway line. The second shot is over a ridge to a green in front of a gorse-clad hill. The 12th and 16th are the only par fives and run more or less parallel, but in opposite directions.
The 17th is a par three of 194 yards uphill. Three of the five par threes are over 190 yards so you won’t achieve a good score at West Cornwall unless you play the short holes well. Keep the ball straight and you will have more opportunity to admire the views across the cliffs.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.