People in Golf - Nick Williams

Nick Williams was appointed Club Professional at St Enodoc Golf Club back in 1981 where he remains to this day. In his 40 years at one of country’s most revered golf clubs, home of one of the finest championship links in England, Nick has experienced a veritable sea change in the role of club professional. He puts his longevity at St Enodoc to quite simply ‘loving my job’ and here offers a fascinating insight into his career at the Cornish club.


You joined St Enodoc Golf Club as the pro back in 1991. Do you remember the actual date and any early impressions on your few first days?

Absolutely it was the 16th March 1981 - I couldn’t forget it! I came from St Mellion Golf Club just down the road, which at the time was a very modern country club boasting all the mod cons and then arrived here at St Enodoc, an antiquated members club run by brigadiers and generals in a completely different way to St Mellion – quite simply, it was a life changing event! The bulk of the membership was mostly retired gentlemen who played foursomes once or twice a week before disappearing into the clubhouse to play bridge in the afternoon. There were only a few keen golfers who were a good deal younger (in their mid 40s), a small number of enthusiastic youngsters – which they referred to as ‘tigers’ – and a handful of ladies who played regularly but no juniors at all. So you had just 40 or 50 members playing serious golf as opposed to now when there are around 150 playing three or four times a week.

How has your day-to-day role changed in 40 years?

Quite dramatically it has to be said! When I first came, I was in charge of how the golf course was set up properly every day for members and visitors. I used to go out with the greenkeepers and do the pin positions depending on the weather conditions, time of year, etc. and also to set the standard scratch for the day, again pending the weather on the day. Since then of course we have much more professional greenkeepers - as opposed to the retired farmers who knew a bit about looking after grass that I was working with! At the start, it was only me in the pro shop, doing all the teaching, running the shop and helping out on the greenkeeping side. It was quite a tough juggle back in those days, although there wasn’t much business in the pro shop and limited teaching opportunities. In fact it was so quiet at times that I nearly left after two years!

But then the golf club had a change of direction and more golfers joined the membership so it gave me the chance to develop the coaching side of things and I also got involved in some county teaching. I was also the instigator of a junior section (which more recently included Scott Godfrey* I am proud to say) and developed the practice range into a full driving range. For the first 20 years I devoted a lot of time to helping the club move in the right direction in terms of boosting members, expanding the junior section and enhancing the practice facilities.

Before that it was just a place to play some holiday golf and little more.

For the next 20 years, I have been helping everybody here to move the club forward on annual basis. Given my experience and longevity here, I am seen as a person to turn to for advice and for bouncing ideas off.

*In 1998, Scott Godfrey won the Carris Trophy and became, as far as records show, the first St Enodoc golfer to win a national championship of any sort. Since then he has achieved even greater success, winning the English Amateur Championship in 2001 and gaining full international honours in the England team.

Do you see the role of the professional at golf clubs changing much in the next 40 years?

I would say that the way the golf professional operates moving forward will be very different. You are now required to have a degree to be a club professional as it is a completely different job to what it used to be. Because of that, the role of a golf pro will change dramatically as they will be able to help golf clubs in almost every aspect of the club in terms of membership, the pro shop, course maintenance and conditioning etc thanks to their qualifications. It’s a proper, professional job now.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced at your time spent at the club?

The internet! It has become the golf pros’ friend but originally it was very much the enemy. With internet pricing in the late ‘90s and early 2000s giving customers incredible discounts, we had a big battle on our hands and simply couldn’t compete with online sales. Now, however, we are able to match prices in our shop and at the same time offer a personal service and advice to members and visitors so we are back in business.

And what has been your greatest source of enjoyment?

The golf course itself!

I have spent 40 years working at a place where everyone else wants to spend their holidays! Just five minutes from my office, I can be out in the dunes enjoying a glorious walk with magnificent views. A lot of people spends millions of pounds on holiday homes to just spend a few weeks a year here whilst I spend my life here working at a job I love. I am very lucky indeed.

What is it that attracts golfers to play St Enodoc?

Here at St Enodoc we have always called it a hidden gem. Its charm is its location between the north Atlantic Ocean and the Camel River Estuary … the sea and channel views that are quite simply magical, the wonderful fresh sea air, the temperate climate and the unique piece of land on which the course is laid out on. It is a totally natural area of terrain as opposed to the man-made courses that you experience inland. The weather is generally very good most of the time thanks to the Gulf Stream running past us for most of the year which of course helps the conditioning of the course and is complemented by the free-draining sand of the dunes.

Over the years, how has the Church Course at St Enodoc evolved?

From when I first came here all 18 holes have been architecturally looked at by various golf course designers (including Peter McEvoy and Martin Hawtree and, more recently, American Tom Doak) and have subsequently evolved throughout that whole 40-year period. I like to think that I have had an influence on that and that the course has gradually improved over the years, something we continue to do to this day. It’s an ever-evolving story and we work on the basis that it can always be better.

St Enodoc’s other course, the shorter, less challenging Holywell, is thriving with the sudden surge interest in golf. How different an experience is it when compared with the Church Course?

It difficult to compare as it is a completely different kind of layout. It’s a shorter 18 and allows those who are not the greatest of golfers to enjoy a round of golf without being punished by the course. Indeed it makes for a very pleasurable 18 holes for the average golfer, which adds to the offering at St Enodoc. It is also a great track for beginners to play on and for mums and dads to take their kids out on to introduce them to the game. It’s still a challenging course as it tests every part of your game and you need to use every club in the bag but it’s not as tough as the main Church Course. Let’s just say it is a bit more forgiving! From my point of view, it helps get people into the game of golf which is great.

  It should also be mentioned here that the Holywell is no afterthought in terms of care and attention that it receives from a maintenance point of view. More often than not, second courses are not kept to the same standard as the main course but with the introduction of its own head greenkeeper, the Holywell now benefits from exactly the same treatment as the Church Course that ensures the same high quality course conditioning.

Which is your all-time favourite golf hole at St Enodoc that you could play over and over again?

Now that is a really difficult question. To me they are all lovely and there is no real frontrunner as every hole is unique. There is honestly something about every single hole that makes them special and a pleasure to play. The par 3, 4th hole is perhaps my favourite, if pushed.

Any thoughts of retiring any time soon?

Not at the moment as I enjoy the job so much and what’s the point in giving it up if that is the case? I’m definitely not retiring any time now, but in four or five years time when I’m approaching 70, I may retire, but I still love my job – the playing, the retailing side and the coaching so why would I want to retire? What is more, when the weather is good I’ll definitely try and get out on the course once a day. I have shot 64 twice around St Enodoc and shot 29 on both nines but not at the same time so I’m still aiming to shoot a magical 58 one day!

For more information on St Enodoc Golf Club, please visit or call 01208 863216.