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The Jack Nicklaus-designed St Mellion Championship layout remains one of the finest tournament-calibre courses this country has to offer, while, after much investment, the hotel and spa facilities make this Cornish retreat well worth investigating, writes Carly Frost

One of my lasting childhood memories was going to watch my first European Tour event at St. Mellion, just across the Tamar, near Saltash, in Cornwall. I was 13 years old and had only recently started playing golf but I already had the bug, and 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 so enthralled the crowds. He was to defeat another of golf’s legends, Nick Faldo that year [1994], and it was a real thrill to see them up close and in action.

Fast forward nearly twenty years and times have very much changed on the European Tour. Visits to the UK are, sadly, few and far between but the grandeur and stature that the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course (the first of its kind in Europe) first had still has that same appeal.

While the tournament golfers may be long gone, the conditioning of the layout and the standard of golf it provides remain the preserve of the lucky members and visitors. ‘The course that Jack built’ is not only one of the finest championship courses built in the last 50 years or so but the centrepiece of a true resort experience that is not always easy to find.

The beauty of the course is in the setting. It has literally been carved out of a blessed stretch of Cornish countryside and offers a variety of holes, from those set in the lush 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 linkscourse feel. Every single hole is unique and exciting, from the uncompromising left-to-right opening par four (that favours a soft fade), to the nerve-tingling drama of the 11th, played from a raised tee over water to a shallow kidney- shaped green, one of four outstanding short holes. On my April visit the condition was first-class – and that’s despite a winter of almost unrelenting rain.

The once dated hotel at St Mellion has been replaced with a swanky new four-star structure. It has been sympathetically designed to blend into the landscape, as have luxurious lodges dotted about the property, perfect for golfing groups. Inside, the hotel has a bright, modern feel, welcoming staff and swish bedrooms which, if you pay a little extra, have lovely balconies with views over the 18th green.

A hearty cooked breakfast buffet, light lunch and relaxed dinner is served in the Bewdern Brasserie with a pub-style menu offering a wide selection of meals to suit every pallet. For an extra treat, a meal in the resort’s fine dining restaurant, An Boesti, is a must. Here you will find food every bit as good as you’ll find in a top London a snip of the price.

On my visit you could enjoy a sumptuous three-course dinner for a very modest £32. The menu is simply delicious, the head chef sourcing his produce from local suppliers. An Boesti’s front of house manager is a fantastic young man called Gareth, who charms guests with his polite and friendly manner. He is also very knowledgeable when it comes to 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, 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.

When St Mellion first opened its doors in the 1970’s it was hailed as a triumph – and rightly so. The resort owners will no doubt admit that with the loss of a tour date they lost their way for a few years, but I can honestly say that with the new hotel and firstclass facilities on offer it is back to its very best. @ho knows, perhaps another Tour event will be on the cards in the future. But in the meantime, let’s keep it among ourselves – St Mellion is back, and awaiting your arrival.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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