Top 10 Links Golf Courses in the West Country

The Open Championship & the Top 10 Links Golf Courses in the West Country

The Open Championship 2018 is to be held at Carnoustie, Scotland between 19th – 22nd July.

As is the way with all Open Championship’s, it will be held on one of the top links courses in Britain & Ireland. Carnoustie is famously regarded as the toughest course on the links rota.

The South West of England may not have a course on the Open rota, however, does have a wealth of links riches which are well worth a visit of steeped in golfing history.

We thought we would pass on some of our knowledge and passion for South West golf and bring you the Golf South West guide to the top 10 links golf courses across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

What makes a top links course?

Condition

The dry sand-based fairways and greens mean you get the best condition golf all year round. The greenkeepers can easily maintain the course through the winter months. Is there anything more satisfying than striking a sweet iron shot from links turf? It’ll be tough to convince me otherwise.
Now, the condition doesn’t just cover the mown areas, links courses typically have lots of bunkers all with riveted faces, these take time and effort to build and maintain. The top courses do this brilliantly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for good greens and closely mown fairways, but when you’re stood on the tee you only see the ‘features’ of the golf hole. Which bring us on to the course designer…

Layout

James Braid, Harry Colt, Tom & Alistair Mackenzie…These were top course designers, each with a unique style and vision. Producing some of the finest links around today.

A top course has strategically placed bunkers, dips & tees. I find a lot of these courses will have 2 or 3 different tees on each hole, this means the greenkeepers can mix the course up or play with the difficulty depending on the occasion or weather.

Views

Nothing better than playing golf with the ocean as the backdrop. If you’re a golfer that hasn’t experienced this, it’ll take your breath away when you do for the first time.

Staring out into the ocean can have a calming influence on your golf game and if doesn’t, at least you’ll have the view to enjoy.

Hosting Big Events

Be it Amateur or Professional, the top courses play host to a range of big events. From your average County Match/Championship to The Open Championship, the best will host the best.

Hosting these events helps raise the profile of the course as you’ll usually want to come back for more!

As the West Countries golf travel specialists, we have assembled a list of the top 10 links courses in the South West. Using the points above to determine the best.

Each course has deserved its place in the top 10 and we will explain why…

10. West Cornwall Golf Club

Proud to be the oldest golf club in Cornwall. Built around the sand dunes of Porth Kidney, West Cornwall Golf Club offers panoramic views from almost every hole. The oldest course in the Duchy, the course runs 5850 yards along the banks of the River Hayle and the cliff tops that overlook St Ives Bay. Due to its location, the course can largely change depending on the wind, meaning you may never have the same experience twice. This coupled with the stunning location makes Cornwall’s oldest course a real gem. Regularly hosting Cornwall County Union events including the U18’s 4 Counties Tournament in 2018.

We recommend staying in: St Ives | St Just | Porthleven
Courses nearby include: Cape Cornwall | Perranporth | Mullion
Our suggested tour: St Ives Tour

9. Weston-super-Mare Golf Club

Established in 1892, the course offers a true test of links golf with its narrow fairways and challenging wind conditions. I’ve played here too many times to count and each time the wind has played a game with me. If the wind feels off the left, it’s probably coming from the right!

The course is situated along the edge of Weston beach with views across the Bristol Channel.

The 15th is their signature hole, stretching well over 400 yards with out of bounds down the right. The wind usually comes from the sea which means a good shot is required to stop the ball drifting close to the OB. Designed to replicate the 17th at St Andrews.

In 2017 they played host to South West Week. The largest county tournament in the Country!

We recommend staying in: Weston Super Mare | Burnham on Sea | Mendip Spring
Courses nearby include: Burnham & Berrow | Mendip Spring | Enmore Park
Our suggested tour: Mid Somerset Tour

8. Thurlestone Golf Club

Thurlestone Golf Club is situated along the coastline of Bigbury Bay. It offers fantastic views of the of the Avon Estuary. Designed by Harry Colt.

The course stretches over 6,200 yards but can play an awful lot longer when the wind is up.

I like the feel of the venue, very traditional members club. You won’t be going away from here disappointed. The course takes a couple of holes to get going, but once you get on top the cliffs, this course really produces a blueprint for the idealistic cliff top links.

The course is a genuine treat and any true golfer will not fail to enjoy this South West, clifftop experience.

Thurlestone Golf Club regularly host Devon County matches/ competitions, ranking in the top 5 courses in Devon.

We recommend staying: in Dartmouth | Bovey Castle
Courses nearby include: Bovey Castle | Dartmouth
Our suggested tour: Dartmoor Golf Tour

7. Perranporth Golf Club

Situated at the very top of Perranporth, overlooking Perran beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

The first tip – take a course planner… thank me later.

The second tip – play well…

One of my favourite links courses in England. There are a number of blind shots, hence the first tip, but the fairways are generous in areas and you should always have a second shot to advance the ball towards the green.

Always in brilliant condition, smooth quick greens and constant bunkers. Everything you need to have an enjoyable, challenging and complete round of golf!

Hosts countless amounts of County competitions including the South West Counties Youth Championship a few years back.

We recommend staying in: St Ives | Newquay | Perranporth
Courses nearby include: Tehidy Park | Newquay | West Cornwall
Our suggested tour: Gwel an Mor Golf Tour

6. Royal North Devon Golf Club

The oldest golf club in England.

Trivia: The great Tom Watson was made an honorary member in 2014.

Designed by Old Tom Morris in 1864, the course is located on Westward Ho!. More trivia: Westward Ho! is the only place in the UK with an exclamation point in its name.

Very, very generous fairways (apart from 10th & 11th holes). If this is how golf was played in 1864 then take me back! I enjoy the course a lot, mainly because it’s difficult to lose a golf ball, although I have tried on multiple occasions.

The old school locker room makes you aware that you’re playing a course rich with golfing history. The museum is also well worth a visit whilst you are on site.

Hosts many Devon County events but primarily as a joint host of the West of England Strokeplay competition which is a National and World ranking event.

We recommend staying in: Barnstaple | Saunton | Bideford
Courses nearby include: Saunton | Highbullen | Ilfracombe
Our suggested tour: Devon Atlantic Coastline Golf Tour

5. Trevose Golf & Country Club

When it comes to Stay & Play venues, it doesn’t get much better than this. 4 & 5-star accommodation in the form of lodges, bungalows or apartments are a unique and high-quality offering.

The clubhouse sits above the course overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. At times the course is a stone throw away from the sea, the famous 4th hole, Par 5, often shows the waves crashing in the background. Not enough to put us off our tap in for birdie…

After the golf, you can relax in the pool or if you’re still full of energy how about a game of tennis? Me personally, you’ll find me in the snooker room with a beer.

Regularly hosting County & National events. In 2017 the English Men’s County Finals was held here.

We recommend staying in: Padstow | Polzeath | Newquay | Trevose
Courses nearby include: St Enodoc | Point at Polzeath | Newquay | Bowood Park
Our suggested tour: Atlantic Links Golf Tour

4. Saunton Golf Club, West Course

Located just outside of Barnstaple, Saunton Golf Club offers two seriously good courses. The West Course is the shorter, more user-friendly of the two. Still a tough course, but nothing in difficulty compared to the East Course. Always in terrific condition, sometimes a more enjoyable round than the East because there isn’t as much traffic during peak days.

Typically, if a course has two courses, one of them is a let-down or certainly plays second fiddle. You categorically do not get this at Saunton. I’d happily play the West course for the rest of my life.

Hosts the top events along with the East course, which we shall hear about very soon.

We recommend staying in: Barnstaple | Saunton
Courses nearby include: Royal North Devon | Highbullen | Ilfracombe
Our suggested tour: North Devon Golf Tour

3. Burnham & Berrow Golf Club

The finest course in Somerset! Always a tough choice between Burnham and Saunton East. The two are giants when it comes to links golf.

Burnham has made a couple of changes that might edge it ahead of Saunton East once they start to bed in. New tees on the 6th, 9th & 11th holes along with a re-shape of the 6th green have dramatically improved what was already an outstanding course.

7000 yards from the green tees, not for the faint-hearted. During the summer months, you’ll see scorched fairways and knee-high rough, a tricky combination if you’re not careful.

Last year the Professional Shop and driving range were refurbished, again a huge improvement that has boosted the golf clubs image as you are welcomed into the club.

One of the few courses that still offers a full caddy service along with a traditional style clubhouse. If you have the budget and have never played before, we fully recommend the caddy service to enhance your experience.

Hosted major amateur events such as; British Boys Amateur, Brabazon Trophy, English Amateur, British Ladies Amateur, West of England Amateur Matchplay.

Bucket list worthy!

We recommend staying in: Weston Super Mare | Burnham on Sea | Mendip Spring
Courses nearby include: Weston Super Mare | Mendip Spring | Enmore Park
Our suggested tour: Pride of Somerset Golf Tour

2. Saunton Golf Club, East Course

Yet again the East Course pips Burnham to 2nd place. The fact that they can maintain two of the best courses around is extremely impressive.

Very similar to Burnham, cut through the sand dunes and shaped in a way that tests every golfer. The clubhouse was refurbished a few years back, really added to the atmosphere of the club.

There’s no doubt this is an extreme test of golf. If the wind is blowing you’ll need your ‘Tiger stinger’ available to keep the ball in play. Always in top condition from tee to green!

Having two courses has enabled Saunton to host some of the most prestigious events in amateur golf; The British Boys Amateur, Brabazon Trophy, English Amateur, Seniors Amateur.

As this post is centred around the Open and links golf, it would be remiss of me to not mention that it has been widely rumoured that if the Open Championship was to venture south, Saunton would be the favourite to host.

The Saunton experience is one that every golfer should have during their lifetime.

We recommend staying in :Barnstaple | Saunton
Courses nearby include: Royal North Devon | Highbullen | Ilfracombe
Our suggested tour: Atlantic Links Golf Tour

1. St Enodoc Golf Club

Located across the estuary from Padstow in the little (pricey) village of Rock. St Enodoc has been the highest ranked course in the West Country for some time. Designed by James Braid in 1890.

Consistently ranking in the world top 100 courses, currently ranking 87th.

It’s hard to put your finger on what is the best feature of this course. I’m always blown away by the condition, the views, the modern clubhouse, practice facilities… the whole St Enodoc package is just breath-taking.

Not only is the golf the best around but this area of Cornwall is almost unrivalled.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to walk around this course, you need to ask yourself if you’re really a golfer?

Congratulations to St Enodoc, again you’re the top on the bunch and here you shall stay for some time.

We recommend staying in: Padstow | Polzeath | Newquay | Trevose
Courses nearby include: Trevose | Point at Polzeath | Newquay | Bowood Park
Our suggested tour: Atlantic Links Golf Tour

West Countries Top 10 Links Courses 2018

  • 1. St Enodoc Golf Club
  • 2. Saunton Golf Club East Course
  • 3. Burnham & Berrow Golf Club
  • 4. Saunton Golf Club West Course
  • 5. Trevose Golf & Country Club
  • 6. Royal North Devon Golf Club
  • 7. Perranporth Golf Club
  • 8. Thurlestone Golf Club
  • 9. Weston-super-Mare Golf Club
  • 10.West Cornwall Golf Club
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