TRAVELLING GOLFERS the world over are constantly seeking that ‘Wow!’ factor when it comes to playing new courses and St Enodoc provides plenty of them. From the very first tee this majestic old course opens up with a roar like the start of a Beethoven symphony.
Golf has been played on this ruggedly beautiful stretch of north Cornish coastline since 1888 although it was not until 1907 that James Braid created 18 holes. And, with relatively few alterations and diversions, the course remains very much his magical creation to this day.
At the time of writing the clubhouse is being renovated but still offers a wonderful view of the 18th green, far more preferable than overlooking the first tee which puts much unnecessary pressure on the less gifted golfer.
The clubhouse work means that John Betjeman’s poem, ‘Seaside Golf’ and the equally splendid spoof penned by Sir Robin Butler, later Lord Brockwell and Secretary of State to the Cabinet from 1988 until 1998, are not on public display although copies are available.
Betjeman was a member at St Enodoc with a house close to the 12th hole and is buried in the eponymous church to the right of the signature 10th, a wonderful and testing long par four that dog-legs from a huge sand dune 220 yards out, across a water hazard onto a sloping green. In the pro’s-tips in the course yardage chart it says simply, ‘Five is a very good score here.’
Betjeman’s opening verse of his birdie on the 360 yard, par four 13th reads:
‘How straight it flew, how long it flew,
It clear’d the rutty track
And soaring, disappeared from view
Beyond the bunker’s back –
A glorious, sailing, bounding drive
That made me glad I was alive.
Sir Robin’s parody was read at a club dinner, and starts:
How low it flew, how left it flew,
It hit the dry-stone wall
And plunging, disappeared from view
A shining brand new ball –
I’d hit the damned thing on the head
It made me wish that I were dead.
Whilst St Enodoc is an extremely tough track, especially when the wind blows hard, there is every bit as much excitement and drama to be found here that delighted Betjeman. Sweeping around the dunes in a great figure of eight there is not a weak hole on the course and no two the same.
A round requires hitting blind tee shots over towering 75’ high dunes, known as the Himalayas, and firing approaches onto true, hard greens with surrounding pot bunkers all keeping treacherous vigil. And thrown in, just for an additional challenge, are pines and mature deciduous trees rarely found on a traditional links.
Accuracy is crucial as there are huge opportunities to lose balls with many holes simply daring players to take them on. Players will almost certainly be required to hit every club in the bag even before making the final climb up 18 and back to the clubhouse. And what a finish it is! A magnificent 469 par four hole that plays as a par five for the ladies.
With out of bounds all down the right and heavy rough to the left, ‘Straight’ is not so much good as essential. A par here, and finishing with the same ball that you started with, are causes for huge celebration when arriving back at the bar. But most celebration should be reserved for having played undoubtedly the finest golf course in Cornwall and, indeed, one of the best to be found anywhere in the world.