It’s crazy, it’s radical, it’s wild, it’s raw, it’s eccentric, it’s indulgent, it’s fun, it’s frenzied, it’s frantic, it’s quirky and it’s exhilarating. Above all else… it’s a truly amazing golfing experience.
However, for all its spirit of adventure please don’t think this isn’t a serious golf course for one moment though. The course embodies so many things that are good about links golf; strategy and options abound.
Not only is Perranporth bursting with life it is often a reflection of life. At times you may be in the lap of the gods after you have struck your ball; not everything you get is deserved and sometimes it works the other way round. But in many ways that is the essence of links golf, the essence of life also.
Playing here certainly makes you feel alive as you manoeuvre through the dunes.
Quite often you are faced with blind tee shots over large dunes into the unknown but each and every time you find out what lies in store it does not disappoint. The 18 holes are laid out over a wonderful natural piece of rolling duneland located high above the Cornish coast. If you take a moment from the sixth green (or indeed several other points on the course) to appreciate the panorama you will appreciate how brilliant it is and how creatively the course has been laid out. James Braid can take the credit for doing that back in 1927 when I can imagine his eyes lighting up at the prospect.
There are several changes in elevation during the course of the round. You often play from exposed tees, located on top of dunes, or from dune-lined fairways up to greens in the gods. You will also need great touch because not only are the greens quick but you will be faced with all sorts of shots around the greens. The lost art of shotmaking is well and truly alive at Perranporth.
After an unusual opening hole, where there is a real premium on accuracy with your approach, the second hole is as good, if not better, than the fabulous view from the tee overlooking the golden sands and sparkling water of Perran Bay. The par five of 525 yards, and aptly named Whym Wham (This Way and That), has a sweeping and climbing fairway inviting a fade towards the crest of a hill which leaves the first time visitor in suspense of what lies ahead. That question isn’t answered immediately at the brow of the incline, because a huge sand dune hides much of what lies further beyond, but you can tell the hole now turns to the left. It would take a hundred plays before you figure out the best route to the green but however you get there you won’t be disappointed with the double punchbowl green. Undoubtedly this is one of the greatest, as well as the most fun and suspenseful, par fives in golf.
The blistering start continues at the third where you drive down to a brilliantly rumpled fairway before hitting up to a high and two-tiered table top green where controlling your ball-flight is crucial. And the pace doesn’t let up at the masterful par three fourth either where the partially hidden green is located on an angle at the foot of another massive dune. This glorious par three favours a running right-to-left approach although the brave (or foolish) can take dead aim at the flag.
After a scintillating start Perranporth’s bubble simply doesn’t burst, in fact it hardly deflates throughout the entire round. Just when you think it can't get any better... it does.
The fifth is a brilliant and bunkerless par five with a large ridge to hurdle on the fairway and a wonderfully subtle green, which slopes away to the right, and invites a running approach. The sixth may be the shortest on the card but it is one of the trickiest. In calm conditions no more than a flick with your wedge is required but the raised green is hard to find and trouble lurks on all sides.
The drive at the blind seventh may be a little perplexing for those playing it for the first time but the approach is magnificent with a fairway that ebbs and flows all the way to a sunken green.
Holes eight through twelve offer more variety than many courses do in their tally of 18. However, they are merely a prelude to what is arguably the most fun 600 yard stretch of golf in the country. Holes 12 and 13 are similar in nature – both short par fours of around 300 yards with blind drives over a mass of duneland to amazing fairways – but each has its own distinct character and neither a bunker. In truth you don’t really know where you are going off the tee but that’s half the fun and it’s great to find out once you have scaled the dunes that hide the fairway. The former is played to a high green shielded on the right by a huge dune whereas the latter encourages a ground shot to a three-tiered green where the middle portion is raised above the other two.
These incredible holes are backed up by the superb 14th which is perhaps the fairest of all the holes on the course but has arguably the most difficult approach, again to a green high above the fairway.
The beauty of Perranporth is not only the excitement of a new challenge at every hole but the walks from each green to the next tee are full of mystery. Each hole doesn’t reveal itself until the moment you walk onto the tee and even then it doesn’t show its full colours. You very rarely have any idea of what is coming next but it’s great to find out. In fact the only blot on the landscape was the bland 15th, however, the course bounces straight back in tremendous fashion with the perfectly formed par three 16th at which point the previous hole becomes quickly forgotten.
The final flurry is no let down either. Yet another blind drive must be conquered at the 17th before you play to a wickedly sloping green (left-to-right and front-to-back) and the 18th has real strategy in the way you must find the plateau green complex at this 282 yard downhill par four.
The course reminded me very much of the second course at Ballybunion; the Cashen. I once heard that described as ‘links golf on drugs’ and that perfectly sums up Perranporth too.
Although it is regularly ranked as one of the top 100 courses in England after my first ever visit to this North Cornwall links I am shocked and stunned that Perranporth isn’t located higher by the ranking fraternity. Much higher.
What holds it back from being considered as one of the UK’s finest links courses is perhaps its lack of length (just under 6,300 yards and a par 72 – there's no 440 yard ‘championship’ par fours found here) but most importantly when we played the course we were blessed with a wind predominantly out of the west. In this prevailing wind the course played absolutely perfectly – almost as good a course as I’ve played. However, if it were to flip around 180 degrees and blow from the east I can only imagine what havoc it may cause, especially in very firm and fast conditions. The eighth, 12th, 13th and 18th (the longest which has a length of 317 yards) would easily be driveable for many if not most golfers and stopping the ball on the elevated greens at other holes would be neigh on impossible.
Perranporth may not be for everyone but if you don’t instantly love this course I feel you are yet to see the light. Memories of my first round here are ones that will stay with me for a lifetime.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
A family holiday brought me to Whitby Golf Club. After stuffing myself with fish & chips, losing most of my money on the penny slots and catching umpteen crabs in the harbour it was time for a round of golf!
Planning a round of golf in late October can be a dicey affair, especially in my home county of Yorkshire where the vast majority of courses are built on heavy soil or clay, so it was very refreshing to discover when venturing down south how well East Berkshire played at this time of year.