While the links lovers’ default is to swarm to Scotland or Ireland, those in the know are quietly slinking off to experience the tantalizing trail of ancient links in south-west England.
The Atlantic Links, a collection of the 6 premier championship links courses along the north Atlantic Ocean, starts in Somerset at Burnham & Berrow at Burnham-on-Sea and on to north Devon, where Saunton offers two courses, East and West, and Royal North Devon, England’s oldest links course. Further down the coast in north Cornwall lies St Enodoc, located in the picturesque seaside town of Rock, and Trevose, which sits in the shadow of the majestic Trevose Head alongside Constantine Bay.
Together these legendary and revered courses have made their mark on the global golfing map as a must-play set of links set against the wild and dramatic backdrop of the north Atlantic coastline and are now recognized as a genuine alternative to the other great links tours in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Pictured – Towards the green at Hole #1 at Burham & Berrow
Moreover, the moderately-priced green fees ensure great value for money for the quality of the layouts whilst the temperate climate of the south-west ensures excellent course conditioning throughout the year.
Founded in 1890, Burnham & Berrow is the first stop on the tour. The distinct sand hills and hazardous buckthorn that form stubborn, natural obstacles all over the course and its narrow fairways and undulating greens that give these links unique character. A treacherous marsh and a prevailing south westerly wind that whips in from the Atlantic ensure a testy challenge and a course that plays differently almost every day. Though the course has evolved over the decades, today’s layout is largely the work of Harry Colt.
Further down the Atlantic coast in Devon is Saunton, set in the shadows of the giant sand dunes of Braunton Burrows. Inaugurated in 1893, the club is home to two championship links, East and West, which are regarded among the greatest links in the world. The West course is an exceptional challenge in its own right and is a close second to the East Course, making it one of England’s finest 36-hole golf clubs.
Dating back to 1864, Royal North Devon, or Westward Ho! as it is fondly referred to, is England’s oldest links. This layout has hardly changed over nearly 150 years and playing it is like taking a step back in time and experiencing how golf was played in Victorian times. Set out on terrain that undulates more gently than Burnham & Berrow, RND is set on common land on which livestock still graze, giving it a quirkiness you’ll rarely find. It is here JH Taylor began his career as a caddie and later finished it as club president. With such heritage, the clubhouse boasts a treasure trove of golf memorabilia second only to that of The R&A in St Andrews.
Founded in 1890 and designed by James Braid, St Enodoc enjoys a spectacular setting among the dunes overlooking the River Camel estuary and the dramatic backdrop of the Atlantic; from almost every hole there is a stunning sea or estuary panorama. The Church course, so called because of the Norman Church that was uncovered in the middle of the course, is renowned for its towering Himalaya bunker on the 6th green, reputedly the tallest bunker in Europe, whilst a number of blind shots, tight fairways and undulating greens make it a truly tough, but scintillating test of golf.
Neighboring Trevose is a classic Harry Colt championship links that with its variety of accommodation and country club facilities including a par 3 course, swimming pool and tennis courts, exudes a relaxed, holiday atmosphere. With only a gentle breeze the 6,973-yard Championship Course offers good scoring opportunities, particularly with 3 par 5’s, but the character of the course is transformed when the wind blows in from the sea and tightens up the course.
The combined appeal of history, tradition and variety of these Atlantic Links course is complemented by numerous off-course attractions in the south-west region of England.
It is simply bursting with things to do and see including pretty coastal towns like Clovelly and Ilfracombe in north Devon while bustling market towns such as Wadebridge and Barnstaple and charming fishing villages like Port Isaac, Rock and Padstow can be found along the north Cornish coast. Further up the coast, historic towns like Weston-super-Mare and the spa town of Bath, near Burnham & Berrow, are ideal destinations to round off a golfing adventure.
From Traveling Golfer