St. Enodoc Golf Club
Rock, Cornwall, England
United Kingdom

Ninth hole, 395 yards; Central features are much more interesting than features that tag along haplessly to the side. St. Enodoc proves that time and time again. Mind you, a central hazard need not be a bunker and Braid’s designs generally eschew such features. Here, a lumpy dune line bisects the fairway 100 yards from the green. Drive too close, and the 13 foot landform obstructs a view of the green.

Central mounds and handsome trees are the defining characteristics of the 9th.

Tenth hole, 455 yards; So starts the Loop, six holes play clockwise around the slate-roofed St. Enodoc Church before the fifteenth green returns the golfer to within 60 yards of the tenth tee. Given the plethora of outstanding holes both before and after this stretch, the author would find it surprising if this was someone’s favorite run of holes. Nonetheless, the combination of awkward and unconventional holes make it the course’s most difficult stretch and if someone disparages the Loop, the author would like to know how he played it to better judge the source of any venom. While the loop may contain the least attractive holes (twelve and thirteen), players still relish playing this group of holes because of the variety of terrain and incredible views in every direction (including of the church). Sean Arble penned one of his exemplary profiles on St. Enodoc, which can be read here. He notes regarding the notorious tenth:

What better place to have a controversial hole than one which often requires a wait due to the public footpath. I find it most interesting to listen to the debate on the tee. There is rarely consensus as to integrity of the hole or how to best tackle its challenges. I will defend the old girl if one is harsh in judgment and as St Enodoc’s sole surviving original hole the 10th is surely an old girl. The more I play it, the more I am convinced it deserves a spot on the St Enodoc shelf of exceptional holes. Is the 10th unfair as many seem to charge? To be frank, I don’t think the answer to that question has any bearing on the merits of this hole or any other, but I will say the 10th is a hole that will not soon be forgotten.

To the author, the tenth fairway looks like rapids sloshing from side to side against the walls of a canyon.

What guts it took for the locals to squeeze a fairway between a burn left and towering dunes right, knowing they would have to tackle it with hickories and a gutta-percha ball! For the modern player, the fairway width drops in half 230 yards off the tee, so mindlessly reaching for the driver on the tee is not a given.

Down in the canyon the sense of St. Enodoc Church is stronger than where the heck the hole is!

Eventually, the target emerges into view. Again, the land is so feature rich that no bunkers were required and the 10th represents the course’s third and final bunkerless hole.

As seen from behind, the angle of the green is most receptive to a drawn approach shot that perhaps lands as far as 20 yards from the green before scooting downhill and onto the putting surface.

Eleventh hole, 230 yards; There are big one shotters that are hard (e.g. Carnoustie sixteen) and big one shotters that are hard and pretty (e.g. Ballybunion fifteen). This hole falls in the latter camp and to be clear it is shockingly difficult. A burn and out of bounds are a mere eight paces off the green’s left edge and behind. As a test of skill and courage, it reminds the author of the old Dowie hole at Royal Liverpool: flirt with the out of bounds and be rewarded; bail right and be confounded by a pair of bunkers. Again, let’s give the firm of Fowler & Simpson their due as Braid’s tee was closer to today’s twelfth tee. Simpson in particular a-d-o-r-e-d both Hoylake and the terror of out of bounds, so no surprise to find that element here. This hole combined with the tenth creates a formidable one-two punch that provides the course with more bite than many courses that blandly measure 10% longer.

The 11th combines beauty in the form of Daymer Bay and peril in the form of …

… this burn that snakes left and behind the green with evil intent.

Fourteenth hole, 380 yards; A slippery hole to play consistently well, fourteen tip-toes along the high portion of the property so that whatever wind is about is most forcibly felt here. Death is right where the tenth fairway sits some 130 feet below but the canted left to right fairway allows the golfer to aim well away from the abyss. Nonetheless, the approach will likely be played with the ball below one’s feet and that makes the three foot stone wall along the right base of the green complex even more diabolical.

The green is neither wide nor deep but is starkly defined along the right by an abrupt stone wall.

Fifteenth hole, 170 yards; The golfer’s pride might not be as fully intact as it was fifty minutes earlier on the nearby tenth tee but the view across the valley and beach access road has an undeniably restorative effect. Braid’s greens are typically oval, almost circular and this green highlights how the shoulders of his greenside bunkers can make their presence felt well into the putting surface.

From the elevated tee, controlling the ball flight in any sort of wind is a challenge.

Sixteenth hole, 560 yards; The author doesn’t know if Pete Dye was ever here but it sure feels like it. St. Enodoc features a reachable three shotter, a tough one shotter and a strong two shotter as its finishing kick à la Dye’s most famous designs like The Ocean Course at Kiawah, Whistling Straits and TPC Stadium. While the club’s decision to move the green on top of the dune in 2006 versus Braid’s position at its base wasn’t necessary, it was brave. There was clearly ‘execution risk’ in that the work could look disparate from the rest of the course but the club felt that ‘par’ should have integrity. After a decade of play, it is fair to say that this green now feels like it belongs.

The fairway zags right and steps down 260 yards from the green.

As seen from high left looking back, the 16th fairway twists and turns and the golfer is challenged to remain in position on the course’s longest hole.

Seventeenth hole, 205 yards; Standing on the tee, the golfer can be excused for asking himself how this 6,557 yard course has made him hit so many blasted long clubs into greens! The penultimate hole actually looks a tinge harder than it plays as the green is in a soft depression and balls gather onto the putting surface from its sides. Still, a par is very tidy golf.

Such a bowled out green site can only be built on sandy soil. Braid amended this hole from a two shotter to a one shotter in 1937 when the clubhouse was moved to its current location.

Eighteenth hole, 470 yards; Many of the game’s finest finishing holes have one common denominator: they are 1/2 par holes. Some are on the easy side (North Berwick, The Old Course, Castle Stuart, Pebble Beach) but others are difficult (Winged Foot West, Merion, Oakmont, Royal Lytham & St. Annes). We all know into which camp the Home hole at St. Enodoc falls! Hitting from a humpy-bumpy stance, controlling the flight of one’s ball and covering a great distance through the wind is the quintessential question that links golf poses better than any other form of golf. The true golfer as opposed to the range jockey who cherishes his level stances will respond to that query by recognizing St. Enodoc’s Home hole as a fitting conclusion to one of the game’s most intriguing examinations. Not only does the hole add an exclamation mark to the round but the 360 degree view from the white tee of the course, estuary and sea is one of those glorious spots where you are freshly reminded just how fortunate you are and how good life is.

Man’s handiwork can never compete with such natural landforms and the view from the 18th tee reinforces the fact that St. Enodoc occupies one of the game’s most sumptuous properties. Thankfully, the club acquired this area just before Braid was invited to consult. Once here, Braid knew how to maximize the potential and his last modifications to this hole occurred thirty years (!) after his initial work.

This target is all the more difficult to find given that one’s stance is bound to be a bit dodgy. The clubhouse offers everything required to sooth the player’s bruised ego.

Hard to imagine anyone not being duly impressed by the overall environment. Certainly, Cornwall continues to capture the fancy of the world through recent television offerings like Poldark and Doc Martin that show off its irregular coastline. Yet golfers come for the golf and it is the greens at St. Enodoc and the myriad of questions posed by them and their surrounds that elevate the course to a golfing ideal. Some are at grade, others are across ravines, some are on knobs, a couple are on steeper plateaus, one seems in a dune, another is on a wall, one is heavily bunkered and many more than that have no bunkers. Cumulatively, the eighteen targets appeal as much as any set in links golf (admittedly, an audacious statement but the author has huge bias to well placed green sites that render bunkers superfluous and St. Enodoc enjoys five (!) such bunkerless green complexes). Some will disagree but nonetheless, the author puts this set as comparable in overall quality to the likes of those at The Old Course, Ballybunion, North Berwick, Prestwick, Deal and Macrihanish.

Whether a green features a false side and is placed over a ravine like at the 5th …

… or whether it is situated on a gentle rise and features potato chip waves like the 12th, the greens at St. Enodoc allow all classes of golfers to have fun while still keeping them on their toes.

Visitors play from the yellow tees which measure around 6,110 yards against a tight par of 69 and the golfer will be astounded how he hits every club in his bag. In fact, the overwhelming thought after having played such thrilling golf, so quickly is why do so many other courses take so much longer to play while offering so much less? The author is reminded of a dinner he recently attended where a gentleman remarked to another, ‘I have never heard someone use so many words to express such tiny thoughts.’ Using St. Enodoc as a benchmark, the golfer ponders something similar: why do bloated modern courses offer so little compared to Braid’s timeless effort?

St. Enodoc stands as a master class in design.

The End