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Carlyon Bay Feature Review

By: Robert Treanor | Thu 02 Jan 2020

Carlyon Bay is regularly cited as one of the top courses in Cornwall and has received excellent feedback from Golfshake independent member reviews. The Highly Recommended club occupies a spectacular clifftop location which Golfshake Ambassador Rob Treanor went to experience.

Carlyon Bay boasts a luxurious hotel with impressive facilities based on the south Cornwall Coast. As well as tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a wonderful spa, the venue has an academy course for sharpening the short game, as well as the spectacular eighteen hole Championship course.

Carlyon Bay Golf

Pre-Round Thoughts

Golf is at the very centre of Carlyon Bay’s offering. The dedicated clubhouse occupies a vantage point at the top of the landscape from where the breathtaking first few holes can be seen. The club is very welcoming for guests, indeed all rooms at the hotel include a round of golf as part of overnight stays. With a luxury spa as well as an academy course complementing the 18 hole course, this venue is an ideal destination for a family break.

The drop to sea level of around 80 feet makes this a truly spectacular location for a golf course. The eye is drawn across to the beautiful coastal views over the edge of the dramatic cliffs which have undoubtedly claimed a ball or two over the years. This is the kind of dramatic venue which generates a compelling sense of excitement and anticipation before the round.

Front 9

1st Hole Carlyon Bay

The course kicks off with a welcoming downhill opening drive, accompanied by the cliff edge which runs the length of the hole for company. The approach is also played downhill to an hourglass shaped green, though distance can be tricky to gauge given the elevation change and the fact the approach may be played blind from low ground. This lovely opening hole kicks off a sequence of dramatic holes which make the most of the spectacular location.

The 4th is a temptingly short par five at 504 yards which begins with a tee shot to a generous fairway. Taking aim at the green is made more intimidating by the railway line which runs just a few yards to the left of the green and the bunkers protecting the right. The apron will help guide anything straight towards the green which is one of the more challenging on the course. A range of undulations and borrows await the final couple of strokes on this otherwise very scoreable hole.

The front nine finishes with a very testing hole with a variety of challenges to navigate. The drive appears simple enough, though the quarry area which lies just out of sight waiting to gobble up balls which would otherwise be in the ideal position at the top of the landscape. Best to play further right, though the fairway slopes wickedly from left to right pushing balls down the hill, away from the target. There are two greens which can be used for this hole, both of which have severe drop offs, making the approach as challenging as it looks. Anything wayward in either distance or direction will make for a very awkward recovery. A stern challenge indeed, particularly if the wind is blowing hard!

Back 9

8th Tee Carlyon Bay

The back nine starts with the most pleasing tee shot on the course, an immensely satisfying downhill drive with views over the coastline and bay beyond. Caution is required though as anything heading right risks drifting off the top of the cliff to meet a watery grave. The 490 yard par 5 is reachable in two given the hole plays downhill all the way. A two tiered green with a slim profile awaits at the bottom of the landscape, meaning finding it from distance is a challenge. This beautiful hole is a blast to play and offers a great scoring opportunity.

The remainder of the course plays inland away from the cliff edge as golfers reach the furthest point from the clubhouse. The beautiful 14th has recently been remodelled and has some wonderful planted beds which make it extremely attractive on the eye. This short par 4 will be reachable for some though the trouble surrounding the green can be avoided with a more cautious strategy for a stress free par.

The tone of the course continues to evolve, with the last few holes threading through some beautifully mature fir trees. The 16th is a real highlight which is bordered by the tall trees on either side of the fairway meaning the tee shot rewards precision. Playing 399 yards, the camber from right to left on the fairway will encourage balls to miss the green on the left hand side, though anything slightly right tends to collect down onto the large, two tiered green.

A unique golfer’s pedestrian crossing will bring any passing cars to a halt before passing through the tight archway underneath the railway bridge after the 17th. The round finishes with a very attractive par three on which the green is framed on all sides by the trees of an attractive woodblock.

Post Round Thoughts

Carlyon Bay is a classy, timeless venue which boasts a beautiful golf course which is tremendously fun to play. Aside from the spectacular scenery, there are some very interesting quirks to discover including various disused mine shafts (to avoid!) and a special golfer’s pedestrian crossing to pass under the railway bridge between the 17th green and 18th tee. The scenery morphs from clifftops to mature pine-lined fairways towards the latter end of the round keeping things fresh.

The venue has a lot to offer as a destination so it would be criminal to put the bags straight in the car without enjoying the views either from the clubhouse or in the majestic though slightly more formal bar of the main hotel.


Clifftop golf is always special and Carlyon Bay has some superb vistas which will live long in the memory. The variety offered by the holes on the back nine make this diverse course interesting to the very end, particularly if the wind blows! A tremendously enjoyable course to play, like the holidays taken at the hotel, Carlyon Bay is a place to unwind, relax and enjoy a round in a truly stunning location.

Top Tips

  • Whilst there is no bad time to play the course, sunrise and sunset are particularly spectacular. • The course is generally laid out in front of you, though beware the mine shaft on the 9th by landing short or aiming right.
  • Relax, enjoy and stay awhile at this classy venue!

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