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|08 June 2009|
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ST MELLION INTERNATIONAL RESORT
In 1974, brothers Martin and Hermon Bond resolved to diversify away from farming (pig-breeding and potato-growing), to build a Championship golf course in the heart of the South West.
Their first golf course at St Mellion, the Old Course, opened in 1976, and a year later the Bonds opened the original St Mellion Hotel.
In 1978 St Mellion hosted its first major international event, the PGA Cup match between GB&I and USA club professionals (GB&I won), and in 1979 the Bond brothers achieved their initial goal, when The European Tour paid its first visit to St Mellion, holding the Benson & Hedges International there. The winner was Maurice Bembridge, with a score of 272 (-8). Ken Brown finished runner-up.
The Tournament Players Championship of Europe was subsequently held
at St Mellion in 1983 (winner: Bernhard Langer) and 1984 (winner: Jaime
Gonzalez). The tournament was then known as the St Mellion Timeshare
It would become Nicklaus’ first signature golf course design in the UK.
The Bonds proved their intent with a £50,000 cheque as a token of goodwill, and subsequently bought another 200 acres of land to give Nicklaus sufficient room and scope to build his masterpiece.
Jack first visited St Mellion, to see the lie of the land, in late 1982 (some say early 1983). Later in 1983 he paid his second visit, playing with Martin and Hermon Bond, and their other brother Jim, in the pro am before the 1983 TPC event (although Nicklaus did not play in the tournament itself).
Nicklaus personally visited the site half a dozen times during the process. The quality of the Nicklaus course at St Mellion enabled him to develop many other successful course designs in the UK and Europe - but St Mellion was his 'first born'.
Construction on the Nicklaus Course, as it was then named, began in 1983, after the TPC, and 1.5 million cubic yards of Cornish landscape were rearranged over the next five years. By the time he won his sixth and final Masters title, at Augusta National in 1986, Jack Nicklaus’ signature creation in Cornwall was already built, and was growing in, in readiness for its first major professional golf event - the British Ladies Open Championship in 1987.
The Nicklaus Course was formally inaugurated on Sunday 10th July 1988, with a star-studded fourball match which saw Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson take on Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle. Faldo and Lyle won, in torrential rain.
The early years of the Nicklaus Course saw a succession of Tour events, including:
• 1987: British Ladies’ Open Championship (winner: Alison Nicholas)
• 1990 Benson & Hedges International Open (winner: Jose Maria Olazabal)
• 1991 Benson & Hedges International Open (winner: Bernhard Langer)
• 1992 Benson & Hedges International Open (winner: Peter Senior)
• 1993 Benson & Hedges International Open (winner: Paul Broadhurst)
• 1994 Benson & Hedges International Open (winner: Seve Ballesteros)
• 1995 Benson & Hedges International Open (winner: Peter O’Malley)
St Mellion has hosted many key national and regional amateur golf events too. In 1999, Paul Casey defeated Simon Dyson on the Nicklaus to become English Amateur Champion.
And as recently as 2007, immediately before refurbishment work began, St Mellion’s Nicklaus Course was still hosting major golf events. In that year, the European Seniors Tour held the Midas English Seniors Open at St Mellion, with Scotland’s Bill Longmuir the eventual winner.
St Mellion International then entered a development period every bit as dramatic as its early years, when successful Australian businessman Jeff Chapman – Chairman of the Bennelong Group of companies, an investment and funds management business with commercial and philanthropic operations in Australia, the Middle East, and in Great Britain with Crown Golf – personally funded a £20m inward investment programme at the Resort, which had become a key focal point in Crown Golf’s long term success strategy since its purchase in December 2004 as part of the group’s acquisition of the American Golf group of UK golf clubs.
Chapman, an accomplished sportsman and a former Aussie Rules footballer with Melbourne in the VFL, had a vision to bring Tour golf back to the South West of England, echoing the dream shared by the Bond brothers thirty five years earlier. The investment enabled Crown Golf to fulfil the full potential of the resort, both on and off the course, confirming its status as one of Europe’s finest golf destinations, and transforming it into a fitting flagship facility for the group.
In 2008, after an early preview of the refurbishment work, Golf World magazine (UK) voted St Mellion’s Nicklaus Course into its coveted Britain’s Top 100 Golf Courses list.
Fully refurbished and reopened in summer 2009, the Nicklaus Signature Course will gain many new admirers – and win back some old ones – in the next two years, before The European Tour returns in 2011 to stage The English Open on Jack’s Cornish masterpiece.
ABOUT THE NICKLAUS SIGNATURE COURSE
• Although the opening drive is – untypically for Nicklaus – a blind shot, Jack’s ‘signature’ is all over the golf course – high tees with good views of the fairways, water hazards, and the requirement to position the ball accurately on the fairway to score well.
• The Nicklaus Course (as originally named) took advantage of the classically rugged, secluded Cornish landscape, with no two consecutive holes following the same direction. Golfers play along valley floors between tall trees and up gorse-covered hills.
• The 11th, a picturesque par three, has echoes of both the 12th and the 16th at Augusta National, and holes 10-13 are often referred to as Britain’s ‘Amen Corner’. The 18th hole features one of the greatest final shots in European golf, to a green which nestles hard by a lake, surrounded by amphitheatre style mounding.
• Readers of FORE! Golf magazine voted it the hardest golf course in England
JACK NICKLAUS QUOTES
“ I knew it was going to be good, but not this good – it’s everything I had hoped for, and more… St Mellion is potentially the finest golf course in Europe.”
“ St Mellion will always have a special place in my heart – for what we were finally able to achieve, for the brave people behind it who became such good friends, and because it was my first “across the pond”.”
CONSTRUCTION WORKS 2008-09
• In early 2008, before demolition of the old hotel could take place, St Mellion management arranged for a pipistrelle bat population to be re-housed in bat boxes sited in trees on the bats’ flight path. The bats had been roosting in the roof space of the old hotel
• Crown Golf has spent approximately £2.5 million on upgrading and reconfiguring The Nicklaus Signature Course and The Kernow Course at St Mellion
• Key course work includes major improvements to bunkering, new tees, some enlarged greens, a complete new cart path network, and a new fairway irrigation system which will dramatically improve drainage
• Nicklaus Course Design Senior Architect, Tom Pearson, visited St Mellion during the refurbishment, and reported back to Jack Nicklaus personally. Nicklaus took a keen interest in the redevelopment work.
• 1,000 metres new drainage
• Main building contractor: Midas
• The new four star standard 80-bedroom hotel is the centrepiece of a resort which also contains a 176-seat Brasserie, an 80-cover fine dining restaurant, a new golf bar, and a refurbished golf clubhouse including a brand new golf retail store and golf reception area.
• The gym has expanded by one third in size, and leisure and spa facilities have been improved throughout
• A new driving range and golf academy opens at St Mellion International Resort in July 2009
Stephen Lewis, Chief Executive
Officer, Crown Golf
|Stephen Towers, Resort Director,
St Mellion International Resort
Tel: +44 (0)1579 351351
Andy Hiseman, Hiseman