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). Each of these links courses, marketed as a ‘trail destination,’ overlooks the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Bristol Channel. The courses are Burnham & Berrow in Somerset; Royal North Devon, Saunton East, and Saunton West in Devon; and Trevose and St. Enodoc in Cornwall. 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 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.
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.
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 in 1864. Some refer to Royal North Devon as the St. Andrews of England. When you play Royal North Devon, you are literally walking through the pages of golf history – dating back to Victorian England. Five-time Open Golf champion J.H. Taylor played a big role in the growth of the club in the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Taylor started his golf journey at Royal North Devon where he worked as a caddie as a young boy.
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, as they tend to gather in the rough. 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.”
Also, while the golf course is in a class by itself, the clubhouse at Royal North Devon is decorated like a golf museum as it’s filled with golf artifacts, trophies, and memorabilia, such as many of the golf clubs and golf balls which Taylor (and others) used to win the Open Championship.
The only place in the UK with more historic golf memorabilia is at St. Andrews in Scotland. 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.
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.”
At Saunton, there are no sounds of nearby cars, buses, motorcycles, or airplanes and there are no homes on the course. Instead, you are at one with Mother Nature from the moment you begin play until you finish on the 18th hole of either course
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, located near 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. In fact, on many occasions during your round, you will get a similar view of Trevose Head and the three quies as you see from the first tee.
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, make sure you check out the golden sandy beaches and the dramatic seaside vistas of Constantine Bay. 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.
With many affordable and comfortable on-site accommodation options, access to the Constantine restaurant, a full service bar, close proximity to seven beaches, and many coastal walking paths, Trevose is one of Cornwall’s ideal stay-and-play golf destinations, whether or not you play golf.
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 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.
One of the biggest compliments that can be bestowed on St. Enodoc is that a few Open champions have come to play golf at St. Enodoc. That list includes Braid, Henry Cotton, Jim Barnes and Tom Watson.
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 and Golf Journal lists St. Enodoc as the 51st best course in Europe.
Simply put, England’s Atlantic Links are an irresistible golf destination.