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St Enodoc: Historic Links on the Cornish Coast

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Along England’s Cornish coast lies the charming St Enodoc Golf Club. Founded in 1890 and routed across the rugged seaside terrain by James Braid, St Enodoc has captivated golfers for over a century with its quirky layout, breathtaking vistas, and timeless sense of place.

From its humble beginnings as a few holes scratched out by local enthusiasts to its classic routing, St Enodoc has blossomed into one of England’s most revered and influential links courses.

Home to some of the largest dunes and hillocks in British golf, the full scope of the course’s character is not initially evident. Upon reaching the upward peak of the first fairway, looking down at the green, the spectacular landscape of Camel Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean comes into view.

In this post, we’ll explore the rich history, unique design, and characteristics of St Enodoc’s prestigious “Church” course. We’ll highlight the course’s notable holes and suggest further reading and videos to help bring the course to life.

If you enjoy these course writeups, consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter to receive updates on new posts, partners, and discount codes. For more information, check out the other courses featured in our Legendary Links series, which will soon be published in a book, “Links Around the World.”

st enodoc view

Origins of St Enodoc

Golf was first played at St Enodoc by a group of undergraduates in 1888 in the area surrounding St Enodoc church. Local men laid out a few holes through the sand dunes the following year, formally establishing the St Enodoc Golf Club in 1890, with around 20 members. The dues consisted of an annual subscription fee of 5 shillings to rent the land for £6 per year.

In 1900, Dr Theophilus Hoskin purchased 300 acres of land, including the golf course site. In 1905, he granted the club a lease for £30 per year, allowing further course expansion. The agreement with Dr. Hoskin continued until 1949, when his widow sold the land. The Duchy of Cornwall bought the property, including the clubhouse, and accepted the Club as tenants. In 1987, the club purchased the land from the Duchy and made modern improvements to the course and amenities while keeping Braid’s design intact.

The adjacent “Holywell” course began as a shorter 9-hole layout. After purchasing additional land in 1982, the course was expanded to a full 18, now consisting of 9 par-3s and 9 par-4s playing around 4,000 yards. The course takes its name from the “Holy Well” to the left of the 12th hole, where it is thought that St Enodoc may have performed baptisms.

st enodoc origins

Layout

Early club records refer to 27-hole competitions, but none show where the holes were routed. What is known is that the first tee was on higher land, about 300 yards to the east of the present Clubhouse, and there was one hole on the northern side of Daymer Bay.

James Braid laid out the first full 18-hole course in 1907. It was first upgraded in 1922 with modifications to the 8th, 11th, 12th, and 13th holes. The course’s layout was completed in 1937 after the clubhouse was moved, and the current 17th and 18th holes were completed. The Church Course has hardly changed, despite upgrades in 2004 and 2007. Golfers today still play the course essentially as laid out by Braid.

Bernard Darwin was surprised by the size of the hills and dunes at St Enodoc, commenting that the course had been described as “natural and amusing,” but he was largely unprepared for the size and scope of the hilly terrain. The Himalaya bunker at the 6th is notably large, once being referred to as the largest sandhill that golf is played over.

st enodoc layout

Did You Know?

The story and identity of Saint Enodoc is somewhat elusive. Enodoc, sometimes known as Wenedoc, came to Cornwall from south Wales and established a hermitage by the mouth of the Camel. It is not clear whether Enodoc was a male or female, but it is known that s/he died around 520 AD.

The “Church” course at St Enodoc is so-named because it is home to one of the smallest churches in England. The ancient St Enodoc church dates back to the times of William the Conquerer and the Normans and measures just 24×12 feet. For years, it was buried under constantly shifting sand dunes blown in from the nearby beach so that only the church’s roof and spire were visible above the sand. This led to its nicknames of “Sinking Neddy” and “Sinkininny Church” among locals. The church was excavated and restored in 1864, but it remains a quaint little building tucked amongst the towering dunes.

The church’s presence alongside the 10th green adds a charming and unique feature to the course. The famous British poet laureate Sir John Betjeman was so enamored with the church and course that he bought a home nearby. He now rests in a grave right next to the beloved church.

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The “Church” Course

The course plays to an unusual par of 69, a trait it shares with Scotland’s Crail Golfing Society (Balcomie Links). At 6,557 yards, it’s significantly longer than Crail, having been lengthened 400 yards over the past quarter century. The course contains five one-shot holes and only two par-5s. Despite its relative lack of length, the course record is only four under par 65, originally set in 1989. While the terrain contributes to the course’s defenses, there are also holes where club selection becomes confusing based on your perception of the wind, which can be misleading.

After the scenic par-5 first, navigating the elevated green at the 2nd and quirky downhill par-4 3rd with a road to cross and adjacent wall will keep you on your toes. The short 4th is a great two-shot hole with multiple challenges. A stone wall and out-of-bounds run down the right side, which, of course, coincides with the ideal route. A long hitter can go for the green, making this a terrific risk/reward par-4.

St Endodocs’ Himalayas complex begins on the par-4 6th, with the signature sand dune complicating the approach. Finding the fairway is a must to have any chance at hitting the green in regulation. The 7th features a blind tee shot while the 8th, a later addition to Braid’s routing, is a great short hole. The outward nine closes with a tricky par-4 where the wind plays tricks and causes most to come up short.

The outward half starts adjacent to the church and plays back to the clubhouse. The scenic 12th plays to a punchbowl green that will expel shots left or right of the center, while the uphill 13th plays to a sloping fairway to a well-protected, elevated green. St Enodoc’s second and final par-5 comes at the long 16th. A spectacular view of the water highlights a true three-shot hole with a multi-tiered green. The final, lengthy par-3 plays into the sandhills to a friendly green guarded in front by bunkers. The home hole is a stout par-4 with out-of-bound right and a well-protected green.

Visit St Enodoc online at https://www.st-enodoc.co.uk

st enodoc church crse

PuttView Golf Books

PuttView Books are detailed yardage and green maps designed to help golfers save strokes, especially under tournament conditions. They offer precise visual representations of courses, including topographic slope percentages, fairway arrows for slopes over 4%, and a dual view of greens accurate to the millimeter. The books are printed on high-quality waterproof paper, sized to fit traditional yardage book covers, and are USGA legal. 

Customers praise PuttView Books for their stunning detail, stylish presentation, and the confidence they instill in decision-making on the course. With 30,000 courses represented, your home course is bound to be available, as is St Enodoc!

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Further Reading

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Classic Golf Links
by Donald Steel

Summary: Classic Golf Links of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland by Donald Steele is a guidebook featuring 75 spectacular links golf courses in the British Isles, covering their history, design, and challenges. The book includes scorecards, hole maps, photos, and playing tips for each course, providing key information for golf travelers while celebrating these revered seaside tests.  With writing by Donald Steel and photos by Brian Morgan, Classic Golf Links is considered an essential reference for experiencing the best of links golf.

This book is a must for anyone with an affinity for links golf. I bought this book years ago and still return to it often. The pictures are amazing and they alone will make you fall in love with these courses.

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Golf Courses of the British Isles
by Bernard Darwin

Summary: “Golf Courses of the British Isles” by Bernard Darwin is a classic text that explores and celebrates the unique beauty and challenges of golf courses throughout the British Isles. Darwin, a revered golf writer and grandson of Charles Darwin, provides insightful commentary on the architecture, history, and character of iconic courses, blending personal anecdotes with expert analysis. His vivid descriptions transport readers to the very greens and fairways of famous venues, highlighting their natural beauty and the intricacies of their design. The book, illustrated with evocative drawings by Harry Rountree, remains a timeless tribute to the game of golf and is considered a must-read for enthusiasts of the sport and its storied landscapes.

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Anatomy of a Golf Course
by Tom Doak

Summary: The book explains the thought process and strategies used by golf course architects in designing courses, including factors like hole length, placement of hazards, and routing. It aims to help golfers understand why certain design choices are made so they can better approach playing the course. Written by acclaimed golf architect Tom Doak, it appeals to both knowledgeable golfers and beginners interested in course design and architecture. The book also includes an appendix with examples of noteworthy golf courses that are worth studying.


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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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True Links
by  Malcolm Campbell & George Peper

Summary: True Links by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper profiles over 240 of the world’s top links golf courses across the British Isles and beyond, examining their history, design features, and status as an authentic “true links.” Organized geographically, the book offers photos, maps, scorecards and playing tips for renowned seaside tests like Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Cabot Links, Barnbougle Dunes and others that meet the authors’ criteria.  For links golf aficionados, True Links serves as an illustrated guidebook for experiencing the unique joys and challenges of the game’s most revered coastal courses.

Videos

St Enodoc
St Enodoc Flyover
St Enodoc – Great Golf Holes

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