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A Cornish escape
Posted on
April 15, 2024
Richard Pennell in ,
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

After a wet and miserable winter, an escape cord needed pulling, but instead of heading for Portugal or South Africa like everyone else seems to, somehow something closer to home was beckoning. Cornwall has long been a favourite place - chasing the sun west down through Devon’s moors a taste of the wild landscapes to come. But somehow I’d never played golf down there, and it was about time to put that issue to bed.

By the time we reach Perranporth it is dark, so we head for the town and - of course - fish and chips. The Tywarnhayle Inn is both gorgeous and friendly, with nearly as many local dogs as humans tonight, but though the atmosphere is lively for an off-season Thursday night, we have an early appointment on the course that stares out over this delightful town and its staggering beach. So we climb back up the hill, and edge past silhouetted greens and flapping flags to find our lodge, tucked behind a dune ridge in the middle of Perranporth’s links.

These cabins are perfect - all the creature comforts we require, and you feel like you are right in the action here - on retreat, almost. A crisp morning arrives, the blanket of twinkling stars bleached by the sunrise across the bay, and as our coffee brews, we can hear the wind start to build outside. By the time we stand on Perranporth’s opening tee-box, there’s no mistaking that this will be links golf at its best, with firm turf and the weather centre-stage, but that is why we are here, and it is both refreshing and inspiring.

The course is a thrilling ride - a clifftop adventure through a rugged landscape, and we marvel at this collection of holes. Along with the few blind shots, which are delightful, there are all sorts of puzzles out here waiting to be solved, but the course is fair and fine, and many of the shots mouth-watering. The back nine covers the higher portion of this spectacular plot, and in between strokes we gaze down at the golden sands, still quiet ahead of the main tourist season.

Perranporth; image courtesy of Dogleg Media: https://www.instagram.com/dogleg_media/

By the time we shake hands, we’ve had four seasons in one morning, but the main feeling is of delight - delight that such fine golf as this is still unexplored for me. I long to return, and to base myself in this cabin and get down to a serious study of this course one day. We take on board refreshments, and head for the next stop on this whistle-stop tour - St Enodoc.

Somehow we hold an idea of what a place will be like from what we’ve heard, but I am always keen to try and form my own impression. I knew St Enodoc is loved by many, and that it has some quirk, but beyond reading that poem of one of its great supporters - Sir John Betjeman - I’d done little research. But somehow in between the lines of “Seaside Golf” we find some sense of a heroic landscape, and so it proved. The Church Course is perhaps James Braid’s finest legacy to the modern game; a masterpiece of a routing across an extraordinary property. By the 3rd, I am intoxicated - by the conditioning, by the brilliance of the holes, by the views all around. I have a camera in the bag but if I were to stop at every sight I wanted to never lose, we’d still be out there, for it is that rare blend of firm links turf amid a timeless, natural landscape.

Cornwall - Betjeman’s resting place
Betjeman’s resting place; image courtesy of Dogleg Media: https://www.instagram.com/dogleg_media/

The stretch between the 10th and 14th is subdued by comparison, but we need this breather, for the opening nine and the final holes are as good as this game’s playgrounds get. As that loop skirts around the Church after which this course is named, we are too busy loving the golf to go and see Betjeman’s resting place, but I like to think he isn’t there at all, beneath some old gravestone, but instead standing on a green here as the rhythm of the “lark song” is accompanied by his ball rattling in the cup for “that quite unprecedented three”. Words cannot really do this place justice, but his come mighty close. “Splendour, splendour everywhere”, indeed.

The drive to Trevose is silent as we process the majesty of the Church Course, but soon the final leg of this trip is upon us, and the welcome in the famous Constantine restaurant is warm. We are ravenous - the sea air does that to me - and though the menu is broad and creative, it is fish and chips again, for we can smell the coast from here. The bar is buzzing - several groups here for annual pilgrimages - and we retire to the delightful Trehuel apartment as laughter rings through this old clubhouse.

For almost a hundred years, Trevose has been very much a destination for friends to come and reconnect; the Harry Colt course a rugged test, complemented by first class accommodation. We’ll start early the next morning, so our time here is limited, but the best way to describe Trehuel is that it feels like home already. I sleep like a log, and my alarm seems like a siren from another world, but golf is again on the cards, and through the full-length windows of the lounge a silhouette is cast of another wonderful test. On the opening tee, my trousers are glued to my legs, and a three club wind only subsides for a moment or two in the cover of the dune that protects the mighty 4th, a fabulous dogleg around Constantine Bay.

Starting out at Trevose; image courtesy of Dogleg Media: https://www.instagram.com/dogleg_media/

White breakers come roaring into Booby’s Bay, and we head back inland, striding through this sandy paradise like early morning pioneers, battling the elements all the way. By the time we putt out on the last, all trace of the delightful breakfast we inhaled is gone, so we attack brunch with the same commitment with which Colt’s Trevose’s links challenged us. The heavens open as we gaze out across the links, and beyond the headland, shafts of sunlight break through the clouds and a rainbow emerges, seemingly plunging into the contours of that delightful 4th green.

And somehow that seems to sum up our wonderful little tour of this Cornish paradise. It seems a long way to come for golf, but when you get here, it’s like you find the pot of gold that resides at the end of that rainbow. Cornwall is a great place to be; layer on top golf of this pedigree, and it is hard to imagine what could beat it. It is a wrench to leave and head east, but that feeling is softened by the knowledge that I’ll return. Just as soon as I can…


Read more on the three delightful courses featured here via Richard’s blog, pitchmarks:

Perranporth - “No Nonsense”

“Ah, St Enodoc”


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About Richard Pennell

Richard Pennell has been a greenkeeper and club manager, who started writing during lockdown as he could no longer bear not to. He can be found either dreaming of Green Jackets or looking for a small, white ball in the heather.

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