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No longer "second course," St. Mellion's rechristened Kernow stands out in Cornwall, England

Clive AgranBy Clive Agran,
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St. Mellion's Kernow Course - Hole 11
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St. Mellion's Kernow course features a "bunkered" tree on the left-hand side of the 11th fairway. (Clive Agran/WorldGolf.com)

After undergoing a redesign and a rebranding, St. Mellion's Kernow course is ready to make a name for itself and to come out of its sister Nicklaus course's shadow.

CORNWALL, England - Top golf tournaments have been a feature at the St. Mellion resort since it first opened its fairways back in 1976.

The PGA Cup, a prestigious biennial match between the very best club pros on either side of the Atlantic, was the first big golf event to be held at St. Mellion. That was in 1978, and, I'm obliged to reveal, Great Britain and Ireland won.

Over the next 10 years, the original golf course at St. Mellion hosted a number of quality tournaments including the Benson and Hedges International Open, the British Ladies Open Championship and the Tournament Players Championship (twice), and crowned great champions such as Bernhard Langer.

When the resort's Nicklaus course opened to much fanfare in 1988, it stole much of the limelight from its neighbor, which is a shame because what became known as the Old Course is still a great challenge and remains enormously popular with the members.

Now, thanks to a comprehensive facelift, St. Mellion's Old Course, which is about to be rechristened the Kernow (Cornish for Cornwall), will finally emerge from the shadows and, instead of simply being the "other" golf course at St. Mellion, should receive more of the recognition it richly deserves.

St. Mellion's Kernow course: A redesign well done

The extensive refurbishment work has dramatically altered a number of holes, re-positioned bunkers, marginally lengthened the 6,000-yard parkland course, improved its condition through the installation of an irrigation system and rendered it significantly more challenging.

That said, both Kernow's fairways and greens are of generous proportions, and, consequently, the golf course doesn't do intimidation but sweeps gently around the hills, softly through the trees and quietly along the valley.

"It's been comprehensively modernized and is now a golf course we can be proud of," said David Moon, the director of golf who has been at St. Mellion for over 15 years. "It's also the perfect complement to the Nicklaus course."

Designed by J. Hamilton Stutt, who sadly died last year at age 83, the Kernow course was built along "American" lines with a clubhouse supposedly to match. Its most enthusiastic supporters claim that there is more than a hint of Augusta National about it and even suggest that 10, 11 and 12 comprise its curiously Cornish version of Amen Corner.

Not only is the 10th very picturesque with a pond guarding the raised green, but it's also a major temptation as it's only 240 yards from the elevated tee.

By contrast, the 11th is all uphill with a quirky tree sitting comfortably in the dead center of a bunker just left of the fairway. Not only is this bunker about 200 yards from the tee, but it's also inconveniently located at the bottom of a down-slope and consequently witnesses a great deal of action and doubtless hears a great deal of cursing.

Quite why deep water should be more terrifying to a golfer on the tee than shallow water is probably best left to a psychologist to explain, but the 12th is a scary par 3.

What makes it even scarier is the fact that the surface of the water is a good distance below ground level, and so there is a steep and impenetrable bank surrounding the pond that somehow adds to the drama. Anyway, the relief felt when the ball thumps into the green is almost audible.

St. Mellion's Kernow golf course: The verdict

This is a lovely golf course that anywhere else would be regarded as a beauty. Sitting alongside the mighty Nicklaus creation, however, it will always suffer by comparison.

Although incredibly popular with the members, visitors will regard it as an ideal track to warm up before taking on its neighbor. And there will be those either worried about the state of their swing or their dwindling stock of balls who will choose the Kernow as a gentle alternative.

For more, see www.st-mellion.co.uk.

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St. Mellion's Kernow Course - Hole 12
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Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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