At West Cornwall, there was a trio of holes across the railway which we christened Amen Corner, and which I’m told the members know as ‘The Triangle’. There were no azaleas lining the fairways, but rather the skeletal frame of an old warehouse into which we often sent wayward drives clattering. I understand from the current secretary it’s still there today. Happy memories, actually recorded for posterity via rare video footage of a Mullion game. We hired out a camera the size of a suitcase, providing disconcerting but irrefutable evidence of a hairstyle and Pringle sweater that, with the benefit of 21st century hindsight, can only be described as tragic.
Braid lovers will be delighted that the great man left his legacy on the Cornish coast at both St Enodoc and Perranporth, the latter of which is regarded as Cornwall’s finest by a counterpart from another golf magazine. Pennard on the Gower Peninsula has been christened ‘The Links in the Sky’, but it’s probably an even more fitting epithet for Perranporth perched on true linksland above the town and its golden beach, amid towering sand hills that demand the odd blind tee-shot. One of my abiding memories is the ignominious pleasure of going 11, 2 on consecutive holes – the par-5 5th called Pell Squat or Long Hit, then the par-3 6th called Fel Stroghs or Subtle Stroke. There was nothing subtle about the wedge I hit to set up that birdie though – more of an
ill-tempered lunge with my head still reeling from the catalogue of disasters that had just befallen me on the previous hole.
Long though Cornwall’s coastline may be, there is of course land in between for those seeking shelter from the sea breeze. In the heart of the countryside at Lostwithiel on the A390 lies a hotel and course to which members of a golf club I used to work at escaped from time to time. It’s a relatively recent addition to the Cornish golfing scene dating from 1991, and offers a sensible-length course among pretty rolling countryside. There are a number of water hazards to negotiate as you make your way round, including the River Fowey which flanks a series of back-nine holes.
Just north of here near Bodmin, Lanhydrock is another 1990s parkland course that now boasts a hotel. The course appears mature beyond its years, and unusually has just eight, admittedly large, bunkers. That’s not to say the test is easy with a number of holes threading their way through avenues of trees, and the occasional water hazard, most notably on the 1st and pretty par-3 6th – the signature hole played with a mid-to-long iron over water to a two-tiered green.
No Cornish round-up would be complete without mention of Trevose at Constantine Bay near Padstow, and St Enodoc at Rock the other side of the Camel estuary. Both have more than one course – Trevose has full-length and short nine-holers to complement its renowned Harry Colt layout; St Enodoc, the shorter Holywell course for those after a less arduous challenge than James Braid’s splendid Church course, judiciously tweaked a couple of years ago by Peter McEvoy.
I have to admit my first visit to Trevose many years ago left me a touch disappointed – it didn’t seem to live up to expectations. But whenever I’ve been back since, I can’t figure out what I missed, for it’s a wonderful place to play with a fine stretch of opening holes taking you right down to the crashing waves by the 4th green. Perhaps I’d just been in a bad mood? My wife likes to remind me that I did throw a club in anger that day – probably the last time ever, but guilty as charged as I can even remember the exact model, a cantankerous Wilson Staff Ultra 45 4-iron.
As for St Enodoc, I remember being blown away – not literally – by its string of great front nine holes and wonderful closing stretch. The 6th looks nothing on the card at 378 yards, but is everything from the tee thanks to the famous Himalaya bunker, a worthy rival to Royal St George’s 4th-hole monster in any ‘bunkers you simply mustn’t go in’ contest. The hole kinks left at driving distance then on and up to the green, with another fairway bunker awaiting anyone audacious enough to attempt the long drive that would earn a clear view of the target. The home stretch from 15 to the clubhouse is exquisite yet tough, with the par-5 16th along the Camel estuary negotiating a series of humps and swales en route to a green now 70 yards further on than when I played thanks to Mr McEvoy.
It’s three years now since I last played golf in this county, but just writing this has got me all misty-eyed with happy memories. Maybe it’s time to pencil in Cornwall as this summer’s holiday destination… if the credit crunch allows such a luxury.