The golf course: A history of St Mellion International Resort

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 15, 2018 13:18 Updated

The Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at the Cornish club turned 30 this summer. We look back at three decades of a venue that has hosted the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Paul Casey.

Image: Bob Atkins

St Mellion’s Nicklaus Signature Course in Cornwall is celebrating 30 years of memorable, spectacular and challenging golf. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus before he won his last Major at The Masters in 1986.

“St Mellion holds a special place in my heart,” he said recently. “It was my first design opportunity in the UK and among all of the golf courses I have designed I would rank it very high as a test of golf, as a design, and looking at the beauty of each individual hole. St Mellion is a strong test of golf, and it gives me a great deal of pride.”

Image: Bob Atkins

Best-remembered for hosting the Benson & Hedges International Open for six consecutive years in the early 90s, and in tribute to its status as a 12-time venue for Tour events and other significant golf tournaments, St Mellion will shortly host a series of events to entice both first-timers and long-time fans to play the course in full European Tour setup.

Image: Bob Atkins

Anecdotes which highlight The Nicklaus course’s legendary toughness in full Tour mode abound on the European Tour, with pros frequently shooting in the 80s and worse.

“I’m not saying it’s tight, but I walked down the 12th hole sideways,” quipped Zimbabwean Tour pro Tony Johnstone, runner-up to Peter Senior in the Benson & Hedges International Open in 1992. One year a visiting Australian Tour golfer ran out of golf balls during his round, forcing him to retire from the event, and David Feherty famously once hit his tee shot on the 16th from on top of a burger which he’d bought at a nearby concession stand.

And in 1992, on his way to a third-round 86, Jesper Parnevik played the 18th in under a minute, running all the way and finishing by bombing fully-clothed into the lake beside the final green to the delight of the crowd.

Image: Bob Atkins

“We’re the only European Tour venue for almost 150 miles, and for 30 years golfers have been making a pilgrimage to take on The Nicklaus Signature Course,” said the resort’s golf manager, David Moon. “Many of golf’s greatest players have tried to tame it, but few have succeeded from the back tees. Our pedigree is enhanced by having some of golf’s true greats such as Ballesteros, Langer and Olazabal on our honours board as former winners.

“In 1988 we held an exhibition match to open The Nicklaus course. Jack Nicklaus himself partnered Tom Watson against Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle, and the Brits won.

Image: Bob Atkins

“Luckily, Jack Nicklaus designed his course to be playable for all levels, and we have some generous forward tees.”

(From left) Martin Bond, Hermon Bond and Jack Nicklaus discuss construction of the Nicklaus Signature Course. 

St Mellion International Resort is the flagship venue of Crown Golf, Britain’s largest owner and operator of golf clubs.

Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo pose by the commemorative stone commissioned by the Bond Brothers, to mark the USA v GB match played in 1988 at the official inauguration of the Nicklaus Signature Course at St Mellion. Nick and Sandy won. Images: Martin and Hermon Bond.

For a deeper insight into how two Cornish farmers, Martin and Hermon Bond, built an internationally-celebrated golf resort, a new book by Michael Taylor and Paddy Flavin, St Mellion – The Bond Legacy is now available on Amazon.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 15, 2018 13:18 Updated
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