A first visit to the beautiful moorland of Yelverton and a return to the immaculate parkland of St Mellion
Yelverton is a delightful moorland course, designed by Herbert Fowler, who used the old mine workings as natural hazards to challenge golfers of all standards. It has outstanding views across Dartmoor and over Cornwall and is a very natural course, with Dartmoor ponies and cattle sharing the fairways. “Yelverton is one of the finest courses in the West of England,” wrote Peter Alliss in The Good Golf Guide, a 1986 book in which the former Ryder Cup player and veteran commentator chronicled the 200 best courses in the British Isles. “This is heathland golf of a high standard over a course similar to Walton Heath but without trees and some 600 feet above sea level. Situated on the edge of Dartmoor, the members would give you an argument if you claimed more beautiful views were to be found anywhere else.” Draped across the southern slopes of Dartmoor, there are panoramic views of seven Dartmoor Tors from the sublime fairways.
The course starts with a challenging long par three, which is set on the western side of the Plymouth to Tavistock main road and adjacent to the club’s impressive practice ground. A tough par four follows at the 2nd where a ravine has to be carried from the tee and then hillocks and bunkers must be negotiated en route to a narrow entrance in front of the green. An easier run of holes follows before the going gets much tougher at the long, uphill par four 7th where a large gathering bunker on the left waits to catch a drive left and gorse threatens on the right.
The par five 8th is the longest hole on the card where you’ll encounter the Devonport Leat which was constructed in the 18th century to channel drinking water from Dartmoor to Plymouth. Golfers cross the disused Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway to get to the 9th tee. “You now encounter a piece of history,” wrote Alliss, “Drake’s leat. Sir Francis lived at nearby Buckland Monachorum and one of his public-spirited actions was to build a watercourse to supply Plymouth. Today it comes into play at several holes, particularly the 9th, a short four of 284 yards, where it discourages attempts to drive the green.
On the 10th, a long par four of 416 yards, you could find it with either the first or second shots.”
From the 14th tee we are faced with an unusually narrow drive where a draw is favoured whilst at the 16th, possibly the best hole on the property, we are asked to fade our drive before facing a wonderful approach to a slightly depressed green.
Tin mining has created dramatic features where collapsed tunnels have created some remarkable hazards which are frequently encountered. The ravines, gorse bushes, bracken and a bomb crater are all very real hazards indeed but perhaps the most daunting hazard silently waits to catch short approach shots to the home green. A bunker lurks at the bottom of this deep and foreboding ravine which must be avoided or your card may disintegrate at the final hurdle.
The Nicklaus Signature Golf Course opened for play in 1988 and is amongst the finest golf courses in South West England and certainly one of the most famous. The course was also the first European course personally designed by Jack Nicklaus. The course opened to rave reviews with Nicklaus himself being quoted ” I knew it was going to be good but not this good”. It was certainly good enough to host the B & H International Open for six years from 1990 until 1995 with Olazabal, Langer and Ballesteros amongst the winners.
Located in the Tamar Valley, on what was once rolling farmland, the course has 18 outstanding holes and measures just over 6,200 yards so even for the higher handicapper or shorter hitter is a pleasure to play.
Generally, the American-style course is manicured to perfection with plenty of definition between the sculptured fairways and the first/second cuts of rough; similarly with the greens and fringes. Elevated tees provide a good view of the task in hand and you will need to keep the ball in play as there are plenty of bunkers and lots of water.
There is no doubt that this is a great golf course and bears the hallmark of a designer who pays attention to detail. Many of the greens are multitiered and the hazards are strategically placed, making for intimidating tee shots.
Nicklaus even created his own version of Amen Corner with the 10th, 11th & 12th holes a real highlight. The 11th hole is an exacting par three measuring 203 yards; from a high elevation, the tee shot must carry across a river that wends its way across the front and down the left-hand side of the green. No prizes for being short here. Our favourite hole is the par-five 12th, a beautiful hole that runs through a tree line valley. A stream meanders all the way along the right and then cuts back in front of the green before continuing on its way.
The lower handicap golfer will enjoy this exciting course enormously, but if you are having an off day, you will succumb to the beast of St Mellion. The hotel which overlooks the tricky approach over water to the 18th green is the perfect place to spend some time exploring Cornwall. As well as offering 36 holes of golf it provides many superb facilities and excellent food.