Rock, Wadebridge, Cornwall


Church Course, 6,557-Yards

Par-69 / Course rating: 72

Architect: James Braid, 1907-36

I’ve always believed quality golf starts squarely with superior land. In any assessment of a course it is the terrain from which any course emanates from. In my mind, no less than 60% of any course rating is based on how good the terrain is. Rarely will you find a course with dead flat land being rated a top tier course — a notable exception The Old Course at St. Andrews. Any visit to southwest England must include some serious time at St. Enodoc Golf Club.

The club is blessed with 36 holes but one’s time must be particularly focused on the renowned Church Course. Rest assured – you will need to say your prayers before playing the course because you will find numerous instances when the Almighty had best steer you through the range of top tier shots you’ll be required to play time after time.

The Church Course is a links but its location is set along Daymer Bay and is not immediately adjacent to the sea itself. There are striking views of the nearby Atlantic Ocean in the far distance as well as the community of Padstow which lies across the bay.

The quality of the golf starts immediately at the first. Playing under 530 yards would seem to provide a quick opportunity for birdie. The hole has high dunes on the right and features a rumpled fairway akin to an old man’s face. There’s sufficient rough on the left side for those who shy away from the right. Best of all, the hole has a narrow passage way roughly 150 yards from the green. The key is getting into position for a short pitch but be ever mindful of the false front that repels the weakest of plays. What appeared initially as a birdie hole can easily mean a fast bogey for the careless golfer.

1st Hole with backdrop of Camel Estuary

The uphill long par-4 2nd that follows is a stout hole. At first glance it may appear heading down the right side is the best bet — that position only leaves a blind approach to a green nearly all tucked out of view. Going down the left side opens up the approach but pulling a shot can mean menacing rough awaits. What many can’t appreciate in their first round is a devilish hidden greenside bunker lurking on the far right corner of the green. The approach play must be well executed — with falloffs on the different sides of the green.

The 3rd is a brilliant counterpoint to the 2nd. Playing downhill with a blind tee shot the 440-yard par-4 requires total confidence in the line of attack taken. There is an internal road which cuts in diagonally — favoring the left side is preferred but a pulled shot will mean an even more exacting approach.

After two long par-4’s the 4th is a seductive short par-4 — out-of-bounds hugs the right side and while the bold play can reap rewards the certainty of punishment for a wayward play will have you think otherwise and opt for a fairway metal or hybrid. The green is narrow and the same OB which protrudes on the tee shot is equally a force to the right side of the green. Just a grand hole for the multitude of decisions it mandates the player to decide.

At the par-4 6th you encounter one of the truly majestic holes in golf. The drive turns left and it’s best to favor the left side but be mindful of the land pulling shots even more to that side. On one’s approach you see a gigantic dune — called Himalaya — a sand bunker cut into its 40-foot face and one which mist be avoided at all costs. The green is hidden behind and set in a wonderful bowl setting. The target is small and far from easy to hit in the regulation stroke.

Par 4. Hole 6.

The remaining holes on the outward nine are a good mix but not in the same league with the first six played.

The back nine starts with a hole equally fascinating and bewildering. The fairway is as narrow as Marilyn Monroe’s waist and anything hit left will be forever doomed. A steep hillside confronts the golfer on the right and landing in that area doesn’t automatically mean one’s ball will kick down to the fairway. The smart play is to hit for no more than 250 yards so that you can likely get an angle to the green hidden over a hill tucked more to the left than you might initially imagine. My only issue is that the player must throttle down to the point of a forced lay-up because the opportunity to do more is simply not a realistic option. Great golf holes do not mandate players having to play the hole in a one-way manner. The most unique bonus feature of the 10th comes with the beautiful St. Enodoc church — just off to the right of the green. Be sure to pay a visit — even late prayers when playing golf can sometimes be answered!

The uphill par-4 13th at just under 400 yards is one of St. Enodoc’s best holes. Generally, played into the prevailing wind the hole requires a solid tee shot — avoiding — two fairway bunkers well-positioned on the right side. The green is also slightly elevated above the fairway so gauging one’s approach distance adds an elements of concern. The greatness of the hole is that it is not cluttered with all sorts of distractions — it falls squarely on the player to execute at the highest level.

The Church Course ends in grand fashion – a superlative troika consisting of a par-5, par-3 and par-4 combination. The 16th is 560 yards and often is played into the prevailing wind. The land rises to a plateau that provides a slew of different stances and lies. The strongest of players can clear the plateau but there’s no reprieve without successive quality shots made. The green provides another elevated target so even a short pitch shot is tested.

The par-3 17th is listed at 206 yards but there will be times when far more club will be pulled from one’s bag. The green is protected by a solitary deep bunker on the right and like the preceding hole – the putting surface is elevated just enough to prevent the half-hearted play from succeeding.

St. Enodoc Golf

Par 3. Hole 17.

Topping things off is the final hole — clearly one of the finest one will find in this part of England. At 469 yards the tee shot is central in order to have any opportunity for success. The fairway is quite wide but there’s a bottleneck point the longer one attempts to go. The green is blessed with subtle contours and again is slightly elevated.

The richness of St. Enodoc speaks volumes to the misnomer that any course with a par less than 70 is likely to be seen as a lightweight. That is clearly rubbish — St. Enodoc provides a scintillating setting for the talented golfer able to play the fullest range of shots. But there’s also enough playability so all players can get in on the fun.

Unlike so many other courses which have highly irrigated and fertilized rough that can be completely 100% green and often deep — the rough areas at The Church Course feature a range of situations — some tilting to the advantage for the fortuitous player — other times causing a major point of frustration. Golf, like life, means being able to handle the unpredictable bounces of the golf ball.

So much of modern design has been geared towards pushing total yardage to ridiculous outcomes. Little real emphasis on escalating character — facing shots and holes in which a combination of power, control and finesse are woven interchangeably together. At The Church Course you play a layout that’s under 6,600 yards but pound for pound oozes memorability and a rush to head immediately over to the 1st tee when the round concludes.

Not all of the holes are top tier but even in the lulls that happen The Church Course provides a clear embrace that “fun” golf — not laborious slog type holes — is something so many other courses would be wise to follow.

Your prayers will not always be answered when playing The Church Course but you will be blessed in making sure you’re in the right pew in savoring a memorable time when playing here.