Golf In Cornwall

“Once trodden, Never forgotten”

CORNWALL, ENGLAND — St Enodoc Golf Club in Rock, Cornwall boasts one of the finest and oldest links courses in the South West of England. Regularly appearing at the top of golf course rankings, the James Braid-designed championship Church Course offers undulating fairways, firm greens and a number of blind shots set against the backdrop of some of the greatest sea and estuary views of any course in the world. Its location on the high sand dunes of the North Cornwall coast overlooking the Camel Estuary, with Padstow to the west and the Atlantic coast to north, makes for ideal links golf and stunning sea panoramas from almost every hole.

The first tee, all to play for

At 6,547 yards it is not long by today’s standards yet the course record stands at 65, just 4 under par, giving golfers a good indication of how challenging the course is. It is often said that many links courses are easy if there is no wind – even St. Andrews – but this does not apply to St Enodoc.

Testament to its quality, the Church Course has hosted numerous amateur golf events, including the English Ladies Amateur Championship in 1993 and 2002 and the English Counties Championship in 1989 and 2005.

Over the years, the outstanding course at St Enodoc has lured a host of legendary Open Champions to its fairways including James Braid of course, Henry Cotton, Jim Barnes and Tom Watson which has added to the prestige of this exceptional course.

1st Fairway at Sunset

St Enodoc’s second course, the Holywell, is shorter than the Church course and is ideal for those wanting slightly less of a challenge or just a quick, three-hour round.

Both courses benefit from being situated in one of the driest parishes in Cornwall and sitting on sand ensures excellent golf over twelve months of the year. Thanks to the warm Gulf Stream climate, frost is a rarity even in the depths of winter.

The club offers excellent practice facilities complete with driving range, two putting greens and two PGA coaching professionals and recently invested heavily in a new short game practice area, a new target green on the range, a new covered bay facility.

First view of 1st green

The clubhouse provides the full range of usual amenities plus an elegant terrace for al fresco dining in the summer.

Legend has it that golf was first played on a part of the present course by a party of undergraduates in 1888 though their efforts were confined to the area round St Enodoc Church and the nearby Daymer Bay. A year later a number of local gentlemen laid out a few holes amongst the massive dunes at Rock and as their enthusiasm increased they

officially formed St. Enodoc Golf Club in 1890. From the minutes of the General Meeting, held in the open air in March 1892, there were about 20 members paying an annual subscription of 5/- to pay the rent of £6 per annum for the land.

Close up of the 1st green with Stepper Point in the background

Early records mention competitions held over 27 holes, 18 out and 9 home, though no definitive plans exist to indicate precisely the holes then played. It is known however that the first tee was situated on the high ground about 300 yards to the east of the present clubhouse and that there was one hole on the Northern side of Daymer Bay.

Around 1900, Dr Theophilus Hoskin purchased some 300 acres of land comprising the whole of the land then in use plus the adjoining Trenain Farm and Brea Cottage. In 1905, Dr. Hoskin granted a lease to the Club of “Coles Sandy Common” for £30 a year and two years later entered into an agreement to allow play on that part of Trenain Farm, which now hosts the 13th and 14th holes.

In 1907 James Braid laid out a full 18-hole course which was first altered in about 1922, notably by the construction of the present short 8th and a diversion of the original 11th, 12th and 13th holes. In 1937 the present clubhouse with new access road from Rock was opened in time for the English Ladies’ Close Championship. As a result Braid constructed the existing 17th and 18th holes, necessitated by the relocation of the clubhouse.

1st Green and estuary beyond

The tenancy granted by Dr. Hoskin in 1905 continued until 1949 when his widow decided to sell the property. The club arranged to purchase it but while negotiations were proceeding, the Duchy of Cornwall agreed to take over the whole of the land together with the clubhouse and to accept the Club as tenants under a lease.

The shorter nine-hole course, closed in 1939 due to wartime labour shortages, re-opened in 1967, using some of the holes originally designed by James Braid in 1928 and was extended to 18 holes in 1982.

The most important change in the club’s recent history occurred in 1987 with the purchase of the freehold from the Duchy of Cornwall. Since then the Clubhouse has been considerably enlarged and improved. Then in 1998, due to much greater pressure of play on the course and the effect of a spate of dry summers on the fairways, a modern computer-controlled watering system was installed, supplied from a six million-gallon reservoir constructed on land between the first and the second holes of the Church Course.

Evening light on the 1st fairway and green

The club prides itself on the encouragement it gives to junior golfers and operates a Junior Academy for the club’s junior members that has become so popular that there is now a waiting list. In addition to coaching and skills sessions, competitions are run for the juniors to encourage progress and hone their competitive edge.

In recent years several have gone on to represent the county at both junior and senior level. In 1998, Scott Godfrey won the Carris Trophy and became, as far as records show, the first St. Enodoc golfer to win a national championship of any sort. Since then he has achieved even greater success, winning the English Amateur Championship in 2001 and gaining full international honours in the England team.

The Church Course The Church Course has barely changed at all since Bernard Darwin wrote his description shortly before the Second World War.

2nd Green looking back

In 2004 however a review of the course by Peter McEvoy OBE (who says, “St Enodoc is a fabulous course, one of the finest links courses in the world”) was undertaken to bring the course up to date. Subtle changes were designed to toughen up the rolling, meandering layout while complementing its spectacular and historic North Cornwall features. This resulted in a number of new fairway bunkers and additional tees being established plus a new 13th green. In 2007 the considerably-lengthened Par 5 16th hole, now 560 yards, long was opened.

St Enodoc General Manager Tuck Clagett, said: “We didn’t want to be prisoners to length, so many of the changes are subtle and strategic, designed to give the golfer plenty to think about. “It was vital to our members – and visitors – that we retained many of the features and characteristics that have stood the test of time and made St Enodoc famous around the world. But we also had to appreciate that technological advances had blunted the teeth of some of the holes. “The 16th, for example, was a very pretty par 5 but golfers were disappointed if they came off with par. Lengthening the hole by 70 yards and introducing a dramatic new green complex has made the hole much more challenging and now given St Enodoc three tremendous finishing holes.” Today golfers still play the course as essentially laid out by James Braid – a tremendous tribute to this great golfer’s vision and skill as it has stood the test of time despite the enormous changes in clubs and balls in the last 70 years.

The 10th hole is often described as the course’s signature hole as it winds its way towards 11th Century St. Enodoc Church where Sir John Betjeman lies buried beside his favourite course. A challenging hole, it requires a good drive followed by an even better second aimed at the church porch to avoid the lateral hazard which runs the length of the hole which creeps ever closer to the left side of the green.

Approach to 3rd Green

However many view the 378-yard 6th hole as a rival signature hole. From the tee, it bends left whilst the infamous Himalaya bunker obstructs the view to the uphill green: a hidden fairway bunker may catch out longer players seeking a view of the green but laying up short and right leaves a blind shot over the cavernous Himalaya bunker.

The Holywell Course — Almost since golf was first played here there have been holes on the north side of the present clubhouse, at times part of the now Church course and at times part of a shorter nine-hole course. Some of the original holes were of Braid’s design; after additional land was acquired it was extended in 1982 with the building of the current holes 5 to 12 to make a full 18 holes. With some further modifications and the addition of some bunkers we have the current layout of 9 par 3s and 9 par 4s for a total length of 4082 yards.

View towards 4th Green

Many of the holes would do justice to any golf course and holes 14, 15 and 16 are its “Amen Corner”. Hole 14 is a 345-yard, uphill par 4 with a road diagonally crossing the fairway at its most inconvenient point where it also doglegs right which leaves the player with a steep, uphill second to an almost invisible green.

By comparison, at least at the 15th you can see the entire very small, upturned saucer Donald Ross-style green some 176 yards downhill from the tee. This hole is completely at the mercy of the wind from whichever direction it may be blowing and there is every chance that a ball landing on the green will be shed off again. One past Captain, the late Brian Gale, always maintained that it is the hardest hole in the 36.

At 109 yards the 16th is the shortest hole of all and to compensate it has a tiny green, the detail of which is hidden from view – you see the flag and nothing else. Anyone who stands on the 17th tee having parred the previous 3 holes can feel very pleased.

5th green viewed from the Blue Tee

This course is also maintained to a very high standard and while it may be less demanding on stamina, it still provides a real test of skill for golfers of any handicap. It is ideal for the young who are just starting to play; it is excellent for older golfers who want an occasional round without the climbing and scrambling that is necessary on the Church Course. It is also enjoyable for the good golfer who wants a relaxing round, perhaps on a summer evening.

Why is it called the Holywell course? To the left of the 12 hole is the “Jesus Well” the history of which is somewhat clouded. One theory is that St Enodoc may have baptised his converts here at the site of a small settlement.

The Club Today — Over the years the membership has grown steadily and now numbers approximately 1,400, six hundred of whom are resident in the Duchy.  over the past four years the course has benefited hugely from refurbishments, including the laying of new greens & tees. The Location Circa four hours from London, Cornwall is renowned as a holiday resort with plenty of things to do besides playing golf.

The Himalaya 6th from the start of the fairway

The Camel Estuary provides many activities; walking round the National Trust coastal footpath to the North and the South provides spectacular scenery. From here you can visit the Norman St Enodoc Church by the 10th green of the Church course. It was only uncovered from being buried in the sand dunes in Victorian times and it is the final resting place of the poet Sir John Betjeman who had a house in Trebetherick for many years.

Waterskiing and sailing are also popular in the nearby town of Rock, where Prince William has often been seen holidaying.

Padstow, on the opposite side of the estuary to St Enodoc, can easily be reached by ferry from Rock. From here, bicycles can be hired to ride along the old railway line up river to Wadebridge on the Camel Trail. Both towns have a good selection of boutique shops with Padstow’s success in recent years attributed largely to the success of Rick Stein and his famous seafood restaurants and cafes.

The picturesque harbour at Padstow The Eden Project Further afield the biggest single attraction is the Eden Project (about a 40-minute car trip to the south coast) which showcases 100,000 plants from around the world in two giant transparent domes, each recreating different climate conditions. Other well-known gardens include the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Trebah whilst on the South coast the new Maritime Museum in Falmouth is worth a visit.

6th Green from on top of the Himalaya bunker

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