Saunton (East)

Saunton (East)

Saunton (East) Golf Club

Saunton (East) Golf Club | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

The view from the clubhouse at Saunton is one of the finest in British golf. The sand dunes of Braunton Borrows lie ahead, situated between the River Taw and the Torridge estuary, and they accommodate 36 links holes of the very highest quality.
 
A snaking fairway can be seen here, and a flag fluttering there, dotted across this expanse of prime golfing land. Small wonder that many believe, were the R&A ever looking for another southern venue on the current Open Championship circuit, that their search should begin and end here in North Devon.
 
With the seaside town of Barnstaple nearby, and the M5 passing within 30 miles, it is an opinion that extends far beyond the locals whose privilege it is to be able to choose on a Saturday morning which of the club’s two fabulous courses to tackle.
 
While St Enodoc, a couple of hours even further south and west in Cornwall, possesses the unpredictably and charm of seaside golf at its best, it is Saunton that presents the kind of honest, relentless challenge guaranteed to identify a true champion.
 
If the neighbouring West course is not quite as long as its elder sibling, it should certainly not be ignored. Like other courses that are the junior half of a double act – try the New at St Andrews or the East at Wentworth, to name but two – it undoubtedly suffers in comparison. If it were a separate club 10 miles up the road, its renown would be that much greater. Leaving aside the merits of the almost-equally fine West for a moment, it is the East that is billed as Saunton’s championship course.


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A Brief History of Saunton (East) Golf Club

Golf has been played at Saunton since 1897, the West Course actually came first, but the East Course as we know it today was redesigned in 1919 after the Great War by Herbert Fowler. Fowler is the man responsible for such inland masterpieces as Walton Heath and The Berkshire, but the only other links he ever had a hand in was Royal Lytham
 
Much like Royal Birkdale, holes here tend to run between rather than across the dunes, and blind shots – for those who believe they carry a negative connotation – are few and far between. And just as at Birkdale, the East is a course that eschews the spectacular in favour of presenting one hole after the other of fair and demanding character.
 
In 1923 an exhibition match was arranged between Harry Vardon and JH Taylor who had 11 Claret Jugs between them. Six years later there was another exhibition match, between Taylor, Braid and the up-and-coming Sir Henry Cotton, arranged to celebrate the opening of a new clubhouse which is still in use today. 
 
World War II saw the course used for military purposes before it was then restored to a challenging links and it has since been regarded as one of the leading courses in the UK and certainly one of the very best in Devon.

Saunton (East) Golf Club Review | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

The Front Nine

With only two par 5s and only a couple of obvious birdie opportunities, Saunton does not give much away.

That’s even more true now that the 2nd, previously shorter on the card than the 1st, a par 4, has been extended to almost 530 yards. In fact the opening four holes are particularly fearsome, each measuring over 400 yards. 

Stand on the elevated 1st tee when the wind is up and survey the 480 yards ahead, and you’ll know you’re in for a challenge.
 
Accordingly, it comes as something of a relief when you arrive at the extremely short 5th, just 120 yards.

If there is a chance to make a score here, it comes around the turn, where a series of four holes under 400 yards offers the chance to smarten a card up.

The Back Nine

After that things get much harder, not least on the closing three holes. The 16th is probably the best hole on the course and accordingly is named after its designer. The ideal tee shot on what is a demanding driving hole will run close to the bunker on the left that protects the inside angle of the dogleg, leaving a mid-iron to the almost circular green.
 
The 17th is also awkward, not least because the elevated tee on this 200-yard-plus short hole means the approach is at the mercy of the wind.
 
Finally, the drive at the 18th must avoid a nest of bunkers on the left to set up an uphill approach to the large green.

Where is Saunton (East) located?

Saunton is near the north tip of Devon, approximately 45 miles from Exeter and 100 miles west of Bristol. 

Bristol Airport is the nearest major airport for international visitors, which is located just outside the city of Bristol. Some international visitors may have to travel to London Heathrow, which is around four hours from Saunton by car.

What is a green fee at Saunton (East)?

From April to October the green fee is £145. That then reduces by £20 per day if you are playing on successive days. If you are playing with a member then a round will cost £45.

Are there practice facilities at Saunton (East)?

There are two practice putting greens, a short-game practice area, a covered range for iron play only and a long practice ground.


Visit Saunton's website here.
Go back to the NCG Top 100s Homepage.