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ENGLAND’S ATLANTIC LINKS:  AN IRRESISTABLE GOLF DESTINATION

ENGLAND’S ATLANTIC LINKS:  AN IRRESISTABLE GOLF DESTINATION

By: Mike May

One specific golf destination in the southwest of England worth putting on the top of your ‘bucket list’ is the group of six championship links golf courses known as the Atlantic Links (atlantic-links.co.uk).  This group of links courses, marketed as a ‘trail destination,’ for the lack of a better term, overlooks the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Bristol Channel.  One of the courses (Burnham & Berrow) is in Somerset; three of the courses (Royal North Devon, Saunton East, and Saunton West) are in Devon; and two are in Cornwall (Trevose and St. Enodoc).  In fact, all six of these championship golf links courses are listed in Golf Monthly Magazine’s (U.K.) Top 100 in the U.K. & Ireland.

BURNHAM & BERROW GOLF CLUB (in Somerset)

Since 1891, the sand hills and gorse that form the backbone of what is now the Burnham & Berrow Golf Club — located in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, England — have stood the test of time and continue to do so.  The presence of so many perfectly situated sand dunes, the panoramic views of the adjacent Parrett Estuary and Bristol Channel, the steady winds, and the tight lies are wonderful attributes of this championship links course.

Credit must be given to golf course architect Charles Gibson as he was able to efficiently utilize what Mother Nature provided as he created a golf course which continues to challenge, frustrate, stymie, and, in some odd way, entertain golfers as much now as it did more than a century ago.  Simply put, Burnham & Berrow – a par-71 outlet that measures nearly 6,700 yards from the back tees — is a golf course that attracts avid golfers who crave a classic links golf experience and are willing to find out the status of their game.  Burnham & Berrow never disappoints.

The prevailing wind at Burnham & Berrow is often out of the southwest – right off the Atlantic Ocean.  The breeze usually makes its presence known from the outset, as the first hole — a bunkerless and treeless 380-yard uphill par four — is usually played into the wind   On a windy day at Burnham & Berrow, bogey golf is acceptable and applauded.

One of the special aspects of playing Burnham & Berrow is securing access to The Dormy House for overnight accommodations.  This structure, which is a one-minute walk from the first tee, can house eight people in four twin-bedded rooms.  The rooms are clean, quiet, comfortable, and spacious – each with its own private bathroom.  And, there’s access to a TV lounge that serves as a common room for those staying at the Dormy House.

“It is a simple and convenient place to stay when playing this championship links course,” says Karen Drake, managing secretary at Burnham & Berrow.  “By staying at The Dormy House, it gives you the chance to get fully immersed in the Burnham & Berrow experience.”

The late, great Bobby Jones was quoted as saying that the game of golf is played “one stroke at a time.”  That is especially true at the Burnham & Berrow Golf Club.

ROYAL NORTH DEVON GOLF CLUB (in Devon)

Often referred to as Westward Ho!, Royal North Devon is England’s oldest links course.  It opened for play on April 4, 1864.  The club’s founder was The Rev. L.H. Gossett, M.A.  Some refer to Royal North Devon as the St. Andrews of England or the cradle of English golf.  Not surprisingly, Golf World has listed Royal North Devon on its list of 100 Golf Courses in the World that a golfer ‘must play.’  When you play Royal North Devon, you are literally walking through the pages of golf history – dating back to Victorian England.  In fact, on the course, there’s a monument that has been built to honor the role that five-time Open Golf champion J.H. Taylor played in the growth of the club in the late 1800s and well into the 1900s.  Taylor started his golf journey at Royal North Devon where he worked as a caddie as a young boy.  His childhood home was nearby.  Taylor finished his lifelong affiliation with golf by serving as Royal North Devon’s club president in 1957.

Golfing great Harold Hilton made the comment more than 100 years ago that Royal North Devon was the number one competition golf course in England.  The course remains high on all golfers’ opinion polls to this day.

Royal North Devon has been described as a wild and natural course where golfing traditions are on constant display.  This course, as its website correctly states, is “pure, raw exhilaration.”

It is worth noting that at Royal North Devon, sheep and horses are allowed to roam on the golf course.  While the sheep and horses have a noticeable presence on the course, they don’t interfere with play in any way, as they gather in the rough, eating the longer strands of grass.  Fortunately, there’s a local rule which allows relief from situations that involve those roaming mammals:  “A ball which lies in or touches heaped or liquid manure may be lifted without penalty, cleaned, and dropped.”  Now, that’s much appreciated relief!

Also, while the golf course is in a class by itself, the clubhouse at Royal North Devon is another great reason to play and visit this course.  The clubhouse is decorated like a golf museum as it’s filled with a number of golf artifacts, trophies, and memorabilia, such as many of the golf clubs which Taylor used to win his five Open Championships.

In order to properly showcase its treasure trove of golf memorabilia and improve the club dining facilities, the clubhouse has been refurbished. Today, visitors not only enjoy golf amongst the sheep and horses that graze on the common land where the course is laid out, but can now see historic golfing artifacts such as hickory clubs, portraits of Taylor and ancient golf balls displayed in bright, new cabinets around the clubhouse.   Five-time Open champion Tom Watson has visited and played a round at Royal North Devon.  His scorecard, which lists his 64, and a hand-written note of thanks to the club membership are also on display in the clubhouse.

The only place in the United Kingdom with more historic golf memorabilia is at St. Andrews in Scotland.  That’s why Royal North Devon is often referred to as the St. Andrews of the South.  In a nutshell, Royal North Devon represents a blend of the present with the past.

SAUNTON GOLF CLUB (in Devon)

A pastoral and peaceful place for people pursuing par.  That may be the best way to describe the golf experience at the Saunton Golf Club in Braunton in north Devon.  Here, golfers have access to a pair of 18-hole championship links layouts – Saunton East and Saunton West.

At Saunton East and Saunton West, which are built upon the sand hills of the Braunton Burrows, the peaceful atmosphere is only interrupted by the sound of the nearby sea.  As you look at both courses from various vantage points, the local terrain does not look like a golf course.  Instead, it looks like a series of natural sand dunes which act as a natural buffer protecting the integrity of the nearby seashore from local erosion.  Instead, in between the sand dunes are the many fairways of the Saunton Golf Club.

At Saunton, there are no sounds of nearby cars, buses, motorcycles, or airplanes; there are no homes on the golf course; and you are at one with Mother Nature from the moment you begin play until you finish on the 18th hole of either course.  It’s worth noting that the 10th hole on both courses is ‘out in the country,’ so you don’t see the clubhouse again until you finish the home hole.

The best way to describe Saunton Golf Club is to share the recollections of playing the course by six-time major golf champion Nick Faldo:

“I’ve no doubt that if the East Course were located on the coast of Lancashire or Kent, it would have hosted an Open Championship by now,” recalls Faldo.  “The landscape on the West Course is perhaps even more spectacular than the East Course and I cannot think of anywhere in England where the 36 holes could be more enjoyable.”

After playing golf at the Saunton Golf Club, you must do as the locals do, so to speak, and have dinner at Squire’s Fish Restaurant in nearby Braunton.  This restaurant claims to have the finest fish & chips in the southwest of England.  The food is as good – if not better – than advertised.

That evening, you would be wise to spend the night at the Saunton Sands Hotel which is located adjacent to the club and overlooks the spectacular sandy beach that stretches for miles near Braunton in Devon.  The views of the nearby sea and the beach from the pool area, the outdoor sitting areas, and the restaurant make the Saunton Sands Hotel experience so special, distinct, and perfect for any golfer planning to play Saunton and Royal North Devon on the same trip since both clubs are within 20 minutes of each other.

Finally, it’s fair to say that if you want to experience true Open Championship-like golf, make a beeline for the Saunton Golf Club in north Devon.  Your opportunity awaits.

TREVOSE GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB (in Cornwall)

First impressions are so important in all aspects of life.  That’s especially true when you step on the first tee at the Trevose Golf & Country Club Golf, located close to the historic town of Padstow, in north Cornwall.  At the first tee, there’s a clear view of the Trevose Head and the three quies, the three rocky formations that jut out above the surface of the nearby Atlantic Ocean, not far from Trevose Head.  Golfers have enjoyed this view since 1925 and it never gets old.  In fact, on many occasions during the round, you will get a similar view of Trevose Head and the three quies, each time from a different angle.

The Championship Course at Trevose, a brilliant 18-hole layout, was designed by Harry Colt.

As you play the Championship Course, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, try not to get too distracted by the golden sandy beaches and the dramatic seaside vistas of Constantine Bay.  To say that the views are stunning is an understatement.  What’s so special about Trevose is that you can always hear the sound of crashing surf on the nearby shores from any location on the course.  The ever-present sound of the nearby crashing waves is truly soothing. Because Trevose is a true links course, the ever-changing winds will also give this course a different look every day that you play it.

With many affordable and comfortable on-site accommodation options, access to the Constantine restaurant, a full service bar, three resurfaced tennis courts, an outdoor heated pool, a covered driving range, access to seven beaches, and many coastal walking path opportunities, Trevose Golf & Country Club is one of Cornwall’s ideal stay-and-play golf destinations, whether or not you play golf.

 

Because of its geographic location and its many amenities, the Trevose experience is as alluring to non-golfers as it is to golfers.  Always has been and always will be.

 

 

  1. ENODOC GOLF CLUB (in Cornwall)

The St. Enodoc Golf Club, located across the Camel Estuary in Rock, Cornwall, has all the characteristics of a true seaside links golf course – firm, consistent greens; undulating fairways; tight, uneven fairway lies; tough bunkers; a few blind shots; and many memorable and priceless seaside views of the River Camel estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.

At St. Enodoc, there are two courses:  the Church course designed by James Braid which opened in 1890 and the Holywell course, a shorter course which provides a typical links terrain with less daunting shots.

The Church course gets its name from the 11th Century St. Enodoc Church – an old Norman Church — which sits in the middle of the course alongside the 11th fairway.

The clubhouse at St. Enodoc has also been recently refurbished in a modern, New England style, just in time for its 125th anniversary celebrations.  The clubhouse now boasts a bright, airy lounge area, restaurant and bar with a picture window overlooking the 18th green, and an elegant terrace for al fresco dining in the summer.

One of the biggest compliments that can be bestowed on St. Enodoc is that a few Open champions have come to play golf here at St. Enodoc. That list includes Braid, Henry Cotton, Jim Barnes and Tom Watson.

“It (the Church course) is a wonderful golf course,” says Watson.  “It has lots of variety and beautiful views everywhere you look.  It’s a great place to play golf.”

Kudos to Braid whose design of St. Enodoc remains relevant to this day.

One of Braid’s most famous design features is the Himalaya bunker on the 6th hole.  It is reputedly the tallest sand bunker in Europe.  Avoid that hazard at all costs!

When you reach the 18th tee of the Church Course, pause and admire the view before striking your tee shot.  Without a doubt, Braid saved the best view at St. Enodoc for last.  Some golfers simply refer to that view as “unbelievable.”

And, the golf media agree with the appeal of St. Enodoc as Golf Digest ranks the course as the 99th best in the world; Golf Journal lists St. Enodoc as the 51st best course in Europe; and National Club Golfer declares that St. Enodoc is the 17th best golf course in Great Britain & Ireland.  Those rankings would put a smile on the face of the late, great Braid, who won five Open titles himself in the early 1900s.

If St. Enodoc is alluring to past Open champions like Braid, Cotton, Barnes, and Waston, it certainly should be for you.

Simply put, England’s Atlantic Links are an irresistible golf destination.

Learn more by visiting: http://www.atlantic-links.co.uk/

 

The author of this story is Mike May, a freelance golf/travel writer from Wellington, Florida.  May played the Atlantic Links in June 2017.  He can be reached at mmaymarketing@gmail.com

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About Fred Altvater:

I admit it – I am a golfaholic, as well as a teaching professional. I have enjoyed playing the grand game of golf for over 40 years. In addition to playing, I find teaching golf very rewarding – I love to see students when they finally hit that great shot, make the long put, chip in or kill that long drive. - See more at: Toledo Ohio Golf Lessons - About Fred