Great Courses of Britain & Ireland: St. Enodoc

Occupying the extreme westerly tip of the British Isles, with mood and scenery unlike that found in any other part of England, the county of Cornwall is more Celtic than Anglo-Saxon and, as any Cornishman will quickly tell you, it’s the region of Britain with the likeliest claim to being thehome of legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

The 16th Hole (Photo by Kevin Murray)

Cornwall’s extensive coastline comprises an intriguing mix of craggy windswept cliffs, pristine beaches, secluded coves, and quaint bustling harbors. One of the county’s most colorful ports is Padstow, situated on the north coast beside the wide mouth of the River Camel. As you stand on the quay and look across the estuary toward the village of Rock, your golf eye cannot help but be drawn to an impressive range of sand hills, within which there lies a quite extraordinary links.

If Prestwick, North Berwick, and Cruden Bay are among your favorite Scottish layouts, then you will be utterly enchanted by St. Enodoc, which is characterized by humpy, bumpy fairways that twist and tumble through spectacular dunes. It has pot bunkers aplenty—plus one truly gargantuan fairway cross bunker. There are tiny greens that sit on elusive plateaus, meandering streams, and, as at North Berwick, ancient stone walls that come into play. There’s even a near-1,000-year-old church within the confines of the course!

Five-time British Open Champion James Braid is St. Enodoc’s architect of record, but this is a fundamentally natural links if ever there was one. The terrain and setting are exceptionally dramatic and the golf course flows in such a way that it simply blends in and makes the most of the wonderful environment.

The hole everyone remembers on the front nine is the 6th—Himalayas. This is where you must hit over what Bernard Darwin once described as “the highest sand hill I have ever seen on a golf course.” Certainly the Himalayas bunker is every bit as wide as the Sahara or Cardinal bunkers at Prestwick, and at least as tall and deep as its namesake hazard at Royal St. George’s.

st. enodoc
The 6th Hole (Photo by Kevin Murray)

St. Enodoc’s ancient, half-sunken church stands just to the right of the 10th green. Dating from Norman times, it is one of the smallest churches in England and for many years only the top of its roof and spire were visible after the building was covered by sand blown in from the nearby beach during a mighty storm.

The famous British poet Sir John Betjeman so loved St. Enodoc that he celebrated a (presumably rare) birdie on the par-four 13th hole by recording the event in verse:

It lay content, two paces from the pin; a steady putt, and then it went, oh most securely in. The very turf rejoiced to see, the quite unprecedented three.

The riverside par-five 16th offers the last realistic prospect of a Betjeman-esque birdie, for the 17th is a fairly long par three and the final hole is an exacting two-shotter that features a superbly elevated tee, a crumpled fairway, and a fiercely defended plateau green. It is a heroic finish to a legendary links.