Top 100 under £80: No. 3November, 2011
A south-west links good enough to host The Open
Open call for Saunton?
SOME courses just have a certain magnitude, are on a grand scale, and that is certainly the case when you stand in front of the clubhouse at Devon’s finest and survey the expanse of prime linksland in front of you.
Everyone says that you could host the Open here and, in terms of the on-site facilities, I wouldn’t disagree – though there might be one or two logistical problems getting the crowds in and out and accommodating them all in the nearest town, Barnstaple.
But then again, Sandwich will host the Open next year and it is tiny as well as hamstrung by minor coastal roads that are the only routes to the course.
While some great courses plough through the dunes, Saunton’s fairways, rather like those at Royal Birkdale, tend to be generally flat and run in corridors between the sandhills.
As a consequence, there are very few blind shots and, by and large, you can see exactly what you are doing.
With only three short holes (each of them outstanding in a different way) and two par 5s, Saunton is dominated by its par 4s.
Several, as you would expect, are of the meaty variety but there is subtlety as well, particularly around the turn, where there are streams to be avoided and the angles of doglegs to be negotiated.
On the front nine, watch out for the 4th, The Gap, which speaks for itself while Saunton builds to a crescendo with its finishing stretch.
This begins with Narrows, an aptly named 455-yard par 4, and takes in Fowler, a tough dogleg named after the designer where out of bounds lurks on the right.
The last of the par 3s, and arguably the best, is the 17th, over 200 yards and played from an elevated tee with views for miles.
Finally, the last rises gently uphill to a well-protected green, the culmination of a championship examination that invariably identifies the finest players.