By Golf Today Ladies Editor Carly Frost - May 2013
One of my lasting childhood memories was going to watch my first European Tour event at the St. Mellion International Resort in Cornwall. I was 13 years old and had only recently started playing golf but I already had the bug, so as a treat my Dad took me to watch Europe's top players in action. They included the late great Seve Ballesteros who played with that distinctive flair and exceptional feel for the game that thrilled crowds. He was to defeat another of golf's legends, Nick Faldo that year, and it was a real thrill to see them up close and in action.
Fast forward twenty years and times have very much changed on the European Tour and UK events are few and far between but the grandeur and stature that the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at St. Mellion (the first of its kind in Europe) first had still has that same appeal. Although the tournament golfers are long gone, the condition and standard that first established the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course here as one of the finest in Europe has not deteriorated. Such is the strength of this fantastic lay-out. Every hole is unique and exciting, right from the distinctive downhill left-to-right dog-leg first that favours a soft fade, to the more dramatic downhill par 3 11th played over water. The beauty of this course is in the setting. It has literally been carved out of an incredibly scenic stretch of Cornish countryside and offers a variety of holes, from those set in the lush green valleys, where tall pine trees and the fresh fertile landscape gives you the feeling of taking a walk through an Alpine forest, to holes perched high on top of the hills with views of the rolling fields and featuring long wispy rough grass that has more of a natural links-course feel. On my April visit the course condition was first-class and that's despite a winter of almost unrelenting rain.
The once dated hotel at St. Mellion has been demolished and recently replaced with a swanky new four-star hotel, which is now the perfect partner for Jack's course. It has been sympathetically designed with wooden cladding to blend into the landscape, as have the little lodges, perfect for golfing groups, which are discreetly dotted around the resort. Inside the hotel is bright and modern in style, with incredibly welcoming staff and swish bedrooms which, if you pay a little extra, have lovely balconies with views over the 18th hole of the Signature golf course.
A hearty cooked breakfast buffet, light lunch and relaxed dinner is served in the Bewdern Brasserie with a pub-style menu with a wide selection of meals to suit every pallet. For the more discerning guest a meal in the resort's fine dining restaurant An Boesti is a must. I've been fortunate to eat out in many top London restaurants and I can honestly say that An Boesti has the same high calibre but without the exorbitant price-tag. On my visit you could enjoy a sumptuous three-course dinner for a very modest £32. The menu is delicious and it is pleasing to see that the chef sources all of his produce from local suppliers. An Boesti's front of house is a fantastic young man called Gareth with an exceptionally polite and friendly manner. He is also very knowledgeable about the selection of wines that are kept in the resort's own cellar.
Along with modern conference rooms, a well-equipped pro shop and fantastic function rooms perfect for weddings, one of the big attractions to St. Mellion for me was the Elemis Spa. As a typical lady golfer who loves a little pampering the spa was a haven of relaxation after a day on the golf course. There are treatments galore to choose from, whether your aching golfing muscles need a full body massage, or sore feet need to be treated to an indulgent pedicure. For the more energetic, and the non-golfers, there's a large modern gym, tennis courts and a lovely big indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. There are also two separate kid's pools, perfect if you have a young family and want somewhere for them to splash around in.
Don't be misled into thinking that the golf on offer here is only for the seasoned player. There's a second course called The Kernow that is every bit the resort course in style, far easier to play, yet still benefiting from that lush country landscape. There are also extensive practice facilities so if you want to come and work on your game in the summer then this is the place.
Back when the St. Mellion first opened its doors in the 1970's it really was a ground-breaking golf resort, one of a kind in Europe. The resort owners will no doubt admit that when they lost the big tournaments they lost their way for a few years, but I can honestly say that with the new hotel and first-class facilities on offer it is back to its best. And who knows, perhaps another Tour event will be on the cards in the future. I, for one, would welcome the return.