Golf in Cornwall - Taste of the Seaside
Having bisected the fairway at
the first hole for about the millionth time in his life, Peter Gammon approached his ball, once again, with an air of optimism.
It may be an exaggeration to say he had a spring in his step, but he still had a twinkle in his eye as he
reached for the 6-iron.
As he addressed the ball, his concentration was distracted by the appearance of a stranger on the shoreline.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" cried Gammon.
"What the hell do you think it looks like?" replied the man with a sturdy pair of boots and a rucksack on his back.
"Good grief man," spluttered Gammon, "you are walking across the first fairway of a golf course."
"Rubbish, I'm following a footpath."
"Where, in the name of Marco Polo, is the footpath? This is a private golf course and you're trespassing. If you don't get off the fairway immediately, I'll have you escorted off."
"It's a free country. You're interfering with my right of way. I'm going to report you to the Ramblers' Association. You don't own the place."
"As a matter of fact I do, and you're right in my firing line."
There is a price to be paid for occupying such a beautifully wrapped parcel of land and if it's the startling intervention of the odd walker then so be it. Gammon is the proprietor of the Trevose Golf & Country club, arguably the creme de la creme of the Cornish high tees.
When Harry Colt visited Trevose, he must have rubbed his hands together with glee. Colt, whose portfolio is unsurpassed - Muirfield, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Wentworth, Sunningdale, Stoke Poges, Pine Valley, etc - was choosy. If he didn't like a prospective site, he would charge the owner considerably in excess of his normal fee in the hope that the job would be offered to somebody else. That wasn't the case with Trevose.
You don't need to be Inspector Wycliff to realise that the beauty of this course lies in its location, near Trevose Head in North Cornwall, overlooking Constantine Bay, Booby's Bay and the Atlantic When the Iron Lady was Prime Minister and her husband Denis was the iron man (usually a 7-iron for his third shot), they took a house at Trevose and it meant the appearance on the links, not of a rambler, but young fit-looking men with black balaclava's. Gammon didn't argue with the SAS.
The Blairs, of course, prefer Tuscany to Trevose. but then Tony is not familiar with the royal and ancient game. Nevertheless, the area is not celebrity-free.
Padstow, a picture-postcard fishing village three miles from Trevose, has been transformed because a local ex-bouncer hit on the novel idea of cooking fish. Padstein they call it now. The net return from Britain's fishing industry may be declining, but business for the television chef is booming. When we booked a table at his Padstow restaurant, months in advance of our visit, we were offered just one slot 10.30 on a Monday night. He's packing them in like sardines. As a compromise we bought a few Thai fish cakes, a cod ball and a jar of Rick Stein's green chilli relish from his delicatessen, where the queue for his fish pasties stretched (with some irony) all the way to the harbour.
A great white shark was recently spotted off die coast of Padstow and it would not be at all surprising if tins of Stein's shark fin soup surfaced on die market. Indeed, the sighting of Jaws created almost as much interest as the eclipse, drawing yet more visitors to the area. Trevose Golf & Country Club, though, needs no such phenomena in order to attract custom.
Morning or evening, the first tee always seems to be occupied, although you won't be restricted to a slot of 10.30 on a Monday night. However, a word of warning. Since being given a rude awakening by an Australian golfer who informed him that his golf game had the pace of bank holiday traffic, Gammon has taken up the cause with a vengeance. The proprietor now regards any round in excess of three hours as a capital offence, and there are signs and rangers on the course reminding slow coaches to get their act together.
In the dry summer months the course is saturated by water from a holy well, which also satisfies the thirst of a 3,100 yard, nine-hole course which was opened by Peter Alliss in 1993 (his son, Gary, is the professional at Trevose), and a par-three layout of 1,360 yards. The latter, in particular, is ideal for high-handicap players who may not have the time, the inclination or the game to tackle Colt's more challenging design.
The championship course can be stretched to 6,608 yards off the blue tees. It's not long by modern standards, the rough is deliberately kept in check to ensure that not too many balls are lost, and play is kept moving. The wind, of course, is a key factor, and nobody has bettered a score of 66 against the par of 72.
Golf widows, or widowers, for that matter, need not feel isolated. Trevose provides on-site accommodation in chalets, family bungalows or flats. The people who stay at the complex are, by and large, recidivists, returning year after year. Not all of them are hooked on golf. Some are content with the beaches or the coastal walks.
And pets are welcome, which is not always the case. Our biggest regret was in not taking Ribbentrop, our trusty Weimaraner who has been trained in the art of ball collecting. Particularly at any hole with a dogleg.
Cornwall's Top Ten Golf Courses
1. St ENODOC
For regular visitors to the Duchy, St Enodoc is epitome of the traditional seaside links. The championship 18 - originally designed by James Braid and subsequently made famous by the poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman - is known as the Church Course, and indeed Betjeman is buried in the tiny granite church tucked away behind the 10th green. St Enodoc is the reason many people travel to this pocket of coves and beaches in the first place. At a little over 6,200 yards, with holes set splendidly amid the tumbling sand hills, most offering views out across the Camel estuary, this is holiday golf at its exhilarating best. The setting at the yachting village of Rock is unique, the surrounding area often referred to as 'Little London' for all the holiday homes and bolt-holes of weekenders who seasonally swell the local population. A boat across the estuary to Rick Stein's now famous Seafood Restaurant rounds off a perfect day.
A terrific example of links golf, pure and simple. From the welcoming clubhouse the course stretches invitingly towards the sea, a relatively open expanse of links land which boasts some truly classic holes. The par-five 4th, which is played via a right-to-left dogleg to a green pitched literally yards from the surf at Constantine Bay (see opening picture), is particularly dramatic. Played in the seaside breeze, Trevose is a ball-striker's delight, with a number of demanding par fours, notably, the 7th, the 10th and the 12th, all of which which would grace any Open Championship course. A nine-hole 'short-course' and a par-three challenge add further attraction, along with the self-contained accommodation on-site. All of which adds up to make Trevose Golf & Country Club one of Cornwall's most popular family destinations.
3. St MELLION
By some margin the toughest course in Cornwall, if not the southwest of England, the Nicklaus Course at St Mellion is a true championship test of golf. Murder even without a wind, virtually impossible when it blows - which it does. Frequently. This Jack Nicklaus design evokes mixed emotions in those who play it. At the official opening back in 1983, featuring Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Bernard Langer, nobody broke 80. A former and formidable host to the Benson & Hedges tournament, St Mellion is now Cornwall's premier inland golf and leisure facility, boasting a fully equipped sports club, health spa, four-star hotel and self-contained chalet accommodation.
An original James Braid creation, with echoes of the King's Course at Gleneagles, upon which Braid is said to have modelled many holes, Perranporth is the Ballybunion of Cornwall. With at least eight holes featuring blind shots, either off the tee or to the green - and not a level lie anywhere on the course - Perranporth makes Prestwick look positively normal. If ever a course was ripe for development into something extra special, this is it; the raw quality of this cliff top experience will have you coming back for more. If there's a better way to spend £20 on a golfing holiday, let me know.
To savour the unique splendour of links golf is the chief reason to travel to Cornwall in the first place, but to complement the pleasures of the seaside (and to escape the buffeting coastal winds), the county also boasts a number of fine inland courses, among which Tehidy Park ranks highly. Occupying the grounds of what was once a private family estate, Tehidy is one of the most popular of all Cornish clubs and the course promises to keep on getting better (and tighter) with the planting of hundreds of new trees and maturing lakes which now dominate the closing holes. The par-four 15th is perhaps the toughest two-shorter in Cornwall, while the par-three 17th demands a carry of some 170 yards across the aforementioned water to reach the safety of the green.
6. WEST CORNWALL
Cornwall's oldest golf club, West Cornwall, shares with Perranporth that quirky nature of traditional and unspoilt links golf, characterised by fast rolling fairways, glassy greens and panoramic views across the Hayle estuary to St Ives and across the sands to Godrevey. Any description of the course must make mention of the first, a terrorising par-three of over 220 yards to a green that backs on to a graveyard. Negotiate this rather ominous baptism and your journey is notable for a number of testing short holes (there are five par-threes), and a brace of holes from the 8th that run alongside the Lelant to St Ives railway. 'Long' Jim Barnes, a winner of the Open Championship, learned his golf here in the early 1900s. In fact, Lelant is garnering something of a reputation as a course that produces champions. This year, 19-year-old Philip Rowe became the first Cornishman to represent Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup matches, and did so magnificently, winning three points from the three games he played.
Since it opened in 1990, Lanhydrock Golf Club has quickly established a reputation for the quality of a layout that wends its way through some of the county's prettiest wood land, and the impeccable condition in which the course is invariably presented obviously adds to the enjoyment. This is by no means a long course, but it is one that demands accuracy off the tee and a sure touch around the greens. The signature hole is the 6th, a cracking par-three across water. For those with an inclination towards such outings, nearby Lanhydrock House is one of Cornwall's premier attractions.
At the heart of one of Cornwall's busiest holiday centres, Newquay is a short but fun course above famous Fistral Bay, one of the country's finest surfing beaches. And while the course does not feature the same dramatic dunescape that characterises a Perranporth or a St Enodoc, it does boast a number of good holes, some terrific links turf and a view of the ocean from every single hole. With green fees at around £25 for a day, it also offers terrific value for money.
9. BUDE & NORTH CORNWALL
The charming seaside links at Bude shares
with St Andrews the distinction of being literally within the town centre. The course has
been modified and improved in recent years,
but it retains the charm of a traditional links.
After a relatively gentle start, the course
begins to turn the screw at the 6th, where the
problem is hitting a raised and deeply
bunkered green, and that is followed by a
semi-blind approach over sandhills to the
7th. The back nine features the best holes on
the course, criss-crossing mature open
linksland to a number of severely undulating, firm glassy greens.
Situated on the side of a sugarloaf hill over
looking the historic town, Launceston
appears in the same bracket as Tehidy and Lanhydrock as a thoroughly agreeable parkland golf course that is generally to be found in fine condition year-round. It offers a mix of relatively open holes while others flirt with trees on the hillside. The tempting 18th is a reachable par-five that offers the long-hitter a final chance of glory beneath the welcoming clubhouse.
Golf Today Course Directory - Cornwall