St Mellion – The Nicklaus Course
Course Name: St Mellion – The Nicklaus Course
Location: St Mellion, Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6SD, UK
Date Played: June 2022
Course Type: Parkland
St Mellion – The Nicklaus Course was the first in Europe to be designed by the great man and it opened for play in 1988. I have had the pleasure of playing it 3 times now although the first 2 times were 20-25 years ago.
It hosted the Benson & Hedges International open six times, the first of these in 1990. At the time it was usually the first European Tour event in the UK each year.
It was widely regarded as one of the hardest on the European tour at the time and this wasn’t helped by playing it so early in the season!
Even with modern equipment the course still presents a strong challenge. It must rank as one of the best and most difficult courses in the county of Cornwall.
The course was built on former farmland owned by the Bond brothers. It utilized the land that hadn’t been used to build the original course at St Mellion, the Old Course, or as it’s now known the Kernow.
For the majority of your round, you feel a sense of splendid isolation as you often can’t see any other holes or golfers from the one you are playing.
At the very least it will test your accuracy off the tee as many of the holes feature steep drop-offs that will almost certainly lead to a lost ball.
Although there are a couple of steep climbs during your round I have certainly played many courses that were more physically demanding. There is an ever-present cart path which I always think spoils the look of any course and since you have to stick to the path you will probably end up walking almost as far even if you do take a cart.
I particularly enjoyed the start of the back nine. The 10th is a downhill par-4 which sweeps slightly to the right. You need to navigate your way past a tree to leave yourself a relatively short iron to the green.
This is followed by a lovely par-3 played over a water hazard surrounded by trees. Then the 12th hole is a slightly downhill par-5 with trees protecting both sides of the fairway and a water hazard to worry about down the right that runs in front of the green.
Probably the other standout whole is the fifth where you have to clear a large expanse of water before turning slightly left to be green protected by a stream and bunker. This is one of the more awkward greens with A tricky slope to negotiate depending on where your approach finishes relative to the pin.
Overall I thought the condition was very good although considering the peak time green fee is £90 you would expect no less.
The Greens were quick and fortunately true with new blemishes or surprisingly which marks. On my visit, they didn’t look a particularly healthy color but that didn’t detract from how your ball rolled.
The bunkers appeared to suffer from a problem that most golf courses do, namely, everyone rakes the sand in the direction they are exiting the bunker so you end up with little or no sand in the base of the bunker where you actually need it and loads of sand around the edges so your ball might plug. Apart from that, I would say the bunkers were in good condition.
I thought the fairways were in good nick and offered a nice surface to play from although there were quite a few divot marks showing how busy the course can get.
Because the tees tend to be shaped rather than just rectangular they are probably a little smaller than you might find on some courses and I think that means they were showing a little more wear than they might otherwise have done. Overall though they were nice and level.
This is a course that used to test the best players on the European Tour so it’s no surprise that your average handicap golfer could end up getting quite beat up.
You’ll definitely need to be hitting the ball straight off the tee whatever club you decide to use.
Although it’s certainly not massively long by modern standards, the yellow/white tees are similar to what you would see at many members’ courses up and down the UK.
The fairway bunkers are well positioned and are likely to cost you since you aren’t likely to reach the green in regulation if you pay them a visit.
The Greens are relatively subtle and don’t feature too many massive slopes! The speed will test some however as they are reasonably quick.
Off The Course
There’s a driving range and short-game practice facilities along with an indoor swing room. You can try out a golf tuition experience day with one of the on-site PGA professionals.
Outside of golf, there’s a bar and restaurant along with a health club and spa. There’s even a hair salon!
St Mellion – The Nicklaus Course: Summary
Overall I really enjoyed my third visit to the Nicklaus course. The only downside for me was the pace of play can be a little slow at times. Unfortunately, that’s to be expected these days, particularly at marquee courses.
I know some criticized Nicklaus’s earlier designs as tending to favor a fader (because he was one). I suppose you could argue that is the case here as there aren’t many holes here where a draw might be the preferred shape.
It must be regarded as one of the best 36-hole venues in the UK.
If this has whetted your appetite for a visit then check out the other courses affiliated with the Cornish county golf union.
Peak summer green fees on a weekday are £90 ($110), although there are reduced rates in the afternoon £50 ($61) and evening £40 ($49).