Burnham & Berrow Golf Club
- Par 71
- 6759 Yds
SO good they named it twice. The original nine holes at Burnham date back to 1891 and five years later the members decided to extend the course to Berrow Church and the resultant 18 holes became known by their present name.
Like many other of our finest courses, Burnham & Berrow has been fashioned by many hands.
The renowned Herbert Fowler, a member here and significant influence over the likes of Walton Heath, The Berkshire, Cruden Bay and Royal Lytham, extended the course to over 6,000 yards in 1910 and Harry Colt, assisted by Alister MacKenzie, applied the finishing touches.
Actually, Colt did rather more, removing several of Burnham & Berrow’s blind shots that dates back to an era when nothing was thought of playing over dunes to unseen fairways and greens beyond.
Now all but five holes (those around the turn) are played amid dramatic duneland but by and large you can at least partially see where you are going.
A good example is the 1st, where the fairway pinches in at driving distance to such a degree that briefly we need to walk in single file.
Only the most accurate of drives will be rewarded with a view of the pin for the approach.
The 2nd, a longer par 4, calls for a fine iron shot to hold a green all too eager to reject balls to the right, while the 3rd is more sporty, and has a punchbowl green that means certain pin positions are very accessible.
The secret at the 4th is to play well left and not try to cut the corner before the first of a series of excellent short holes, this one to a delightfully situated green in the heart of the dunes.
Now we emerge on to flatter land with the 7th a fine test of golfing nerve and nous, if less attractive than what has gone before.
An exceptional closing stretch, the holes varying wildly in terms of difficulty in length but never anything less than compelling.
There are shades of Royal West Norfolk here and at the next with wide-open expanses flanked by marshland.
The short 9th marks the furthest end of the course, from where Cheddar Gorge, the Bristol Channel and the islands of Steep and Flat Home can all be seen, as well as Weston-super-Mare.
If the back nine begins with perhaps the least remarkable holes, it soon burst into life at the 12th, and unusually contoured par 4 to a table-top green, the kind of hole that only exists in one place and that reminds you why these seaside courses are so treasured by the purists.
Next comes one of those 5s where you must plot your way to the green. Awkward angles and a fairway of inconsistent width make aggressive play fraught with danger and in reality the vast majority of us will be delighted to escape with a par.
Now we are into the exceptional closing stretch, the holes varying wildly in terms of difficulty in length but never anything less than compelling.
The 15th is long and sinuous, the 16th playful and the 17th a short hole that demands a high-quality long iron.
Finally, the 18th turns left, unseen from the tee, before opening out towards a large, flat green.
Burnham & Berrow has hosted countess prestigious amateur events, the most recent of which came in 2006. That was the English Amateur, when the final was contested between two talented young players, hoping eventually to make their way in the professional game. Their names? Oliver Fisher and our own columnist Ross McGowan, now both established on the European Tour.
The best courses really do identify the best players.