The village of Bigbury-on-Sea sits on the south coast of Devon, next to where the River Avon spills into the English Channel, and the fairways at Bigbury Golf Club lie less than a couple of miles inland, high up on the clifftops that overlook the coastline.
The club was founded in 1923 when landowner Commander Evans leased a portion of his property to be used as a 9-hole course. Not long after, the venture proved so successful that J.H. Taylor and F. G Hawtree were asked to extend the layout to eighteen holes.
It’s rather appropriate that Taylor co-designed the course as he was born and bred not too far away in Northam, Devon. Even though he won five Open championships, and other titles such as the French and German Open, he never forgot his humble origins and was always eager to promote the game in his home county.
Today, the course extends to 6,011 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 70, 36 out and 34 back. The back nine measures 440 yards shorter than the front nine, thanks mainly to having only one par five on the inward half stretch of holes. Interestingly, there are three short holes on either nine.
We played Bigbury on a heavily overcast and damp New Year’s Eve after thick coastal fog had postponed early play. And yet despite an unpromising weather outlook following a extremely wet December, the course was in excellent shape and fun to play.
The overriding feel at Bigbury is of quiet space and open undulating countryside. The front nine is more inland whereas the back nine leads down towards Bigbury-on-Sea, with majestic views of the Avon estuary, the small village and scenic Burgh Island.
The fairways are wide and well-grassed, the adjoining rough mainly of longer grass with infrequent trees adding perspective. The golf holes are pleasant if a bit routine, with enough bunkering to keep the golfer on his toes. The greens were in excellent condition if obviously slow because of the damp seasonal conditions.
Six par threes are a fascinating feature with three in excess of 200 yards, but the best two at 15 and 17 require no more than a mid-iron from the tee. Other holes of note include the first, a daunting par four of 450 yards, with no roll on the fairways and a long uphill second shot, and the downhill 6th to a welcoming green. Three of the four par fives were a long stretch in the conditions, and only the 8th offered a realistic birdie opportunity.
The experience of playing Bigbury with its distant views would be much enhanced on a fine sunny day, but the place is quite charming without any pretensions and offers an ultimately very satisfying round of golf.