A tantalising South-West trail of golf at its very best

Alan Hedley
Mon, 2 Aug 2010

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Saunton, set in the giant sand dunes of Braunton Burrows, has two championship courses, West and East of which six times major champion Nick Faldo once said: "I've no doubt if the East Course were located on the coast of Lancashire or Kent it would have hosted an Open Championship by now."


Quite simply, there is not a weak hole on the course from the drive from the raised tee at the first to the last, the impression is of a thorough examination of your game on a series of long par-4s. In my opinion, the pick of them are the first, fourth, 14th and 17th.


The West course is also an exceptional challenge and it was here in 1997 that a 17-year-old Sergio Garcia won the British Boys Championship, just two years before making his Ryder Cup debut.
Many feel the West course is a tougher mental challenge with precision the key especially at the first, sixth, 16th and 18th to pick out just a testing quartet.


Saunton also boasts one of the best clubhouse views I’ve seen – there’s nothing better than enjoying a drink on the veranda overlooking the course in the company of club captain Charles Marten, who was my expert guide around the East course.


Not unlike Saunton, Burnham and Berrow is noted for its distinct sand hills and winds that whip in from the Atlantic. The course has evolved over the decades but today’s layout is still largely the work of Harry Colt although new tees at the fifth, eighth, 10th, 13th and 15th have produced a course of 6,925 yards with a par of 71 off the championship tees.


It’s a more manageable 6,658 off the white tees and 6,436 off the yellows and there are some classic par-4s such as the second, seventh and 11th while the 12th is a dangerous hole involving water. As for the par-3 17th all I can say is it's a smasher.


So, was it worth the drive from my north-east base – just to savour what I discoveredon and off the golf course.  All six links in this Atlantic sextet are accessible via the M5 motorway and the A39 “Atlantic Highway” but if you want to wimp it, you can fly to Bristol, Exeter and Newquay and hire a car.


With average green fees of around £60, the courses also compare favourably with similar quality links in Scotland and Ireland and are a lot cheaper than some of the green fees being asked in Marbella and the Algarve.

Atlantic Links factfile

Royal North Devon Golf Club, Golf Links Road, Westward Ho! Bideford, EX39 1HD
Tel: 01237 473817; www.royalnorthdevongolfclub.co.uk
Saunton Golf Club, Nr Braunton, North Devon EX33 1LG; Tel: 01271 812436; www.sauntongolf.co.uk
St Enodoc Golf Club, Rock, Wadebridge, Cornwall PL27 6LD; Tel: 01208 863216; www.st-enodoc.co.uk
Trevose Golf and Country Club, Constantine Bay, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8JB. Tel: 01841 520208; www.trevose-gc.co.uk
Burnham and Berrow Golf Club, St Christopher’s Way, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset TA8 2PE;
Tel: 01278 785760; www.burnhamandberrowgolfclub.co.uk
Woodlands Country House Hotel, Hill Lane Brent Knoll, Somerset TA9 4DF; Tel: 01278 760232; www.woodlands-hotel.co.uk
Imperial Hotel, Taw Vale Parade, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 8NB; Tel: 01271 345861; www.brend-hotels.co.uk/TheImperial/Home.cfm
Saunton Sands Hotel, Nr Braunton, Devon EX33 1LQ; Tel: 01271 890 212; www.brend-hotels.co.uk/TheSauntonSands/Home.cfm
For more information, click on www.atlantic-links.co.uk; Tour operator, London Golf Tours specialises in trips to England’s Atlantic Links www.londongolftours.com