St Mellion: Nicklaus recalls how it started

Cornish course was Jack's first UK design - 25 years ago

Andy Hiseman
Wed, 19 Jun 2013

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus recalls the construction of his first ever signature course in the UK - at St Mellion in Cornwall.

The course - now part of St Mellion International Resort - celebrates its 25th anniversary this year having been officially opened in July 1988 with an exhibition match between Nicklaus and Tom Watson against Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle. It had been finished and growing when Nicklaus won his final major at Augusta in April 1986 and staged its first Tour event in 1987 - the British Ladies Open won by Alison Nicholas.

In this exclusive interview Nicklaus recalls the problems involved, what he accomplished and how he rates it among his favourites.

What do you feel you accomplished at St Mellion?
JACK NICKLAUS: First, it helps to understand some of the history of the St. Mellion project. Originally, I turned down the Bond brothers, Herman and Martin, when they asked me to design the golf course.
I did so because of the challenge of the property. They wanted me to put a golf course on the sides of this hill and I asked if we could find a little bit better piece of property more conducive to building a golf course. They said no because of the existing golf course the location of the clubhouse and everything else. So I reluctantly turned them down.
Then they came back and said 'please, Jack, do this golf course. It just makes sense for us. We just can’t do anything else.' I said, 'Okay but understand it’s going to be a unique golf course where we have build the course into the side of a mountain with a stair-step approach to fit in the holes.'  

When work started in 1983, it was the largest civil contract in Britain that year because of the amount of earth we had to move to make it work.