St. Christopher's Way,
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“Hole succeeds hole, and still the endless range of hills goes on, and from the summit of each one we get the most lovely views, with the Cheddar Gorge in the distance; to the left the Bristol Channel, with the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm and an expanse of dim country on the other side. When we turn for home at the ninth, we see the sandhills stretching tumultuously away towards Weston, with their range of fantastic shapes and occasionally a narrow, meandering ribbon of turf in between.” Burnham in “Somersetshire” was a favourite course of Bernard Darwin, and so, it seems fitting to allow him to introduce Burnham & Berrow.
Burnham & Berrow Golf Club was founded in 1890 and soon after, they hired a youngster called J.H. Taylor. His task was to be the club’s first professional and keeper of the greens. One of the great triumvirate, Taylor went on to win the Open Championship five times.
Charles Gibson, professional at Royal North Devon, laid out the original rudimentary course for the members. According to the book by Phillip Richards, entitled Between the Church and the Lighthouse: “The development of the course took thirty years to reach today’s shape and just about every one of the leading course designers during that period had an input into the course architecture. Herbert Fowler and Hugh Alison were members of Burnham and both had an important part to play in improving the links. So to a lesser extent did Harold Hilton and Dr. Alister MacKenzie but the shape of today’s course is mainly due to Harry Colt.”
There is a church in the middle of the course and that in itself is unusual. Consequently over the years, changes have been made to the layout ensure that the faithful congregation does not get injured by wayward shots; additionally, some of the blind drives have been designed out.
Burnham is a traditional out-and-back links course and as per Darwin’s introduction, taken from his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, Burnham is “ringed round with sandhills”, gigantic ones too. It’s a challenging layout with the tumbling fairways laid out in narrow valleys, protected by deep pot-bunkers and thick rough. The greens are fairly small, requiring precision approach shots and once you are on the putting surface, the fun really begins. Burnham’s undulating, slick greens are amongst the very best in the British Isles.
There are many notable and varied holes at Burnham, with a strong collection of par threes. The first six holes are especially good and the back nine is magnificent. Burnham closes with a classic 18th, one of the best finishing holes in golf, a dogleg left over dunes and an intimidating long second shot across another ridge of dunes towards a green protected by deep threatening pot-bunkers.
Burnham has played host to many important amateur championships over the years and the course is regularly used for Open Championship qualification. A round at Burnham & Berrow is an absolute must for links purists and comparatively good value too for such a quality course in these times of escalating green fees.
BURNHAM & BERROW (Championship) This is a serious test of golf with high dunes which Harry Colt had a hand in the excellent design with the traditional nine out and nine back formats which we enjoyed with the sea breeze holding as we set off and helping on the way in. The ambiance and overall feel of the course reflect and uphold the traditional values of the game. The holes do pose a variety of risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse. The design variety is good with differing lengths while the 16th (index 18) is nearly derivable.
Great greens many of which are on a shelf so be up with your wedge or the ball will return to your feet Augusta like. In reality it looks tougher than it plays and every hole has some bail out area which we realised and utilised when we played again the next day. If you’re not on your A game avoid ‘tiger lines’ and play left to where you will see your ball particularly the two par fives at 4th and 8th which slide around to the right.
You will get a pause from the dunes from the 7th (index 1) until 11th which is flat around the channel course. After that respite brace yourself for a great finishing stretch. The only hole we did not like was the 13th par 5 called Pill Box blind almost from tee to green! Four great very testing par threes all around.
We stayed in the comfortable dormer house and settled the lost bets in the members snooker room. 8/10; May 2019, pd
Burnham & Burrow- In the creation of a SW English itinerary. It is a bit of a jaunt out there from the London airports...so a stop along the way seemed appropriate. B&B was it. It was our first round of 11. It is a fabulous place. Very welcoming and a joy to play. A great mix of dunesland links with some hillside blind shots and boundary defining water hazards. This is a challenging course which requires proper entry angles thought of prior to play of the hole. It is understandable that competitions have been held here often. One of the strongest finishing holes is here also. This is a course which rightly is rated quite high. In any list there are always winners and losers. But remember beauty contests really don't have any losers. My list of the 11 we played...
1] Sunningdale Old
2] Sunningdale New
3] Royal Porthcawl
4] St Enodoc
7] Burnham Berrow
8] Saunton East
10] Saunton West
11] Royal North Devon
A projected 90 minute journey turned into 210 due to the seasonal traffic escaping back up the M5. “Bleddy Grockles”, as Mum might say. The Pro was great about it, and after rushing to the first tee without so much as a stretch (excepting any muscles warmed up during the dash), I hastily placed my opening drive atop a dune on the left. I then proceeded to negotiate the first 5 holes like a ageing Spaniel searching for Golf balls. Like all impartial reviewers, my own score definitely (maybe) doesn’t influence my opinion of the course, so I should mention that the opening 4-5 holes were pretty good. They are what you might expect of a top links course, and a journey to get here of (almost) any duration is confirmed as worth the effort.
The course did tail off in the mid section and as previous reviews have mentioned, the land simply becomes less compelling. However, these holes still have design merit and I enjoyed playing them. My own scoring had by now picked up though, so perhaps a little bias has crept into my review after all. My favourite holes going out were 2, 3, & 5. All had particularly good green sites. The 1st is also very nice, although quite difficult looking for an opener in breezy conditions. I later watched a few groups go off the 1st and several actually hit it down the 18th fairway. Not sure if these were windy accidents or cunning strategy by knowledgeable members?
The course picked up again for me at the 12th, and from then on in there is a run home of good holes with undulating fairways back amongst the dunes. Several of them feel a bit hemmed in on the left side, but otherwise they are fun to play. The 17th was my pick of what is a good set of short holes - requiring from me a very committed 4 iron into a wind with the flag at the back (while a 2 ball on the 18th tee looked on like Statler & Waldorf). And then the 18th itself doglegging away to the left, where you won’t see your ball come to rest if you’ve hit a good drive. The final 2 holes are similar in quality to those at St Enodoc. I actually scored okay in the end, so I would pause to ask if perhaps this course is a little deceptive off the tee and not quite as difficult as it looks?
Playing here completed my introduction to the Great Triumvirate of West Country links courses. In terms of comparisons, it felt more like a distant cousin of Saunton West - lots of dunes to start and finish, with a slightly different bit in the middle. I’d rate it just above that course, but slightly below the other two. The stylishly alliterated B&B does further highlight the quality of Golf on offer along the northern coastline of the South West and is a great option for a first or last stop on a trip to this relatively unheralded region. And if a few more of those cars clogging up the M5 were four-balls carpooling en route to the likes of Burnham et al, perhaps I wouldn’t mind so much
Enjoyable course but does not fall into great/6 ball territory. Like St Enodoc, the start is excellent as is the finish but there are few holes in the middle that are just average.
The greens were probably the best I played on (to be fair though every course has had at least very good greens). This is a fair course with not too many blindshots etc. Excellent dunes for the first 6 or 7 holes and again towards the end of the round. The holes in between are still good but they do not maintain the rage. I thought this was going to be a 6 baller after the opening holes but it falls into middle 5 ball territory. Warren from Aust
Yesterday was our annual visit to B&B. A lovely day with a one-club wind.
The course was in very good nick, particularly the greens which have to be some of the truest in the country.
The first 5 holes are one of the best starts to any links golf course. Part of the appeal is that they look more difficult than they really are, unless it is really blowing, so you can actually get off to a confidence building start.
The criticism of the section from 7 onwards is largely unjustified, other than on 'character' grounds. 7 is a bit of a featureless slog, but 8 is a very good par 5, just not very 'linksy', and 9 is a terrific par 3. 10 is back into the dunes, and is a very blind tee shot, which I don't like, but it is a good hole. 11 is decent enough, but flat. From then on the course gets back into true character.
The two par 3s on the back 9 are unforgiving brutes and the 18th is a great finishing hole.
The clubhouse is very unstuffy for a course of this type, and the catering is excellent.
Burnham & Berrow is a quality layout with an exciting start. The opening hole has been mentioned a few times and rightly so. It's wonderfully positioned between flanking dunes and pity the golfer who allows one's nerves to overcome the execution of a swing -- albeit the first of the day. Opening holes need a proper balance given the order of the round and the 1st at B&B is exceptional.
The 2nd hole ups the meter -- especially on the approach shot. There can be little doubt on a golfer's part when the pin is placed in the deepest part of the green.
My main lone issue with B&B is the middle portion of the course which drops off in terms of architectural elements of note. The land for those holes is fairly non-descript with little really being especially memorable. They are not inferior holes per se, but simply don't have the pedigree encountered when the round commenced.
Things do change as you head back on the inward side. The land noticeably returns to the qualities experienced when you arrive at the long and demanding par-4 11th. At this point the magic that started the round returns with vigor. The land plays a major role especially in the approach area. The dog-leg left par-5 13th is especially a treat because just the slightest error can mean a fast bogey when birdie was sought. The two par-3's on the back are also uncompromising holes with fall-offs for any approach that fails to be hit with top quality execution.
The closing hole is also well done. The 18th mandates two quality shots to find the putting surface. Three pesky bunkers hug the right side and need to be avoided at all costs.
B&B is a layout that does not draw much national acclaim and it's often overlooked by those outside the UK. Clearly, the course deserves a higher recognition and for those getting the opportunity to play it will certainly enjoy the time here because B&B is no bed and breakfast layout. Be ready to play the moment you arrive at the 1st tee.
by M. James Ward
B&B is for sure a traditional British links; dunes in abundance, scenic views, true/fast/undulating greens, humps and hollows, pot bunkers and of course a stiff breeze !
The course itself isn’t particularly tight by some standards of links that we’ve previously experienced – but remains a stiff test of golf for the average player, as was demonstrated by our (11) scores. Certainly, knowing your way around the course would be a sizeable help too, as a few shots were blind or simply hard to figure out from the illusion of the layout from a few of the tees.
That said, if you like your golf, then B&B should be experienced. It really is a quality links course that was in immaculate condition from tee to green. There are numerous notable holes, which makes it hard to name specific ones, but suffice to say that reaching the green, or at least near to it, on your average course means you’ve negotiated the worst – not so at B&B. Lots of run-off slopes, humps, hollows and some of the greens were just begging for a 3-putt (or more!)
The course is definitely in the league of Saunton and Royal Cinque Ports but take you’re A-game if you want to play remotely near your handicap.
Just a word for the 9-hole Channel course that we played in the morning. If you can buy a day ticket then this course is worth a try. Its arguably tighter in places than its big brother but it’s a proper 9-hole in terms of length - and the holes in the stretch from 6-9 are worthy of the Championship course itself.
Our rating is around 5.5 - somewhere inbetween the top two scores available
The links at Burnham & Berrow begins at a pulsating pace and rarely lets up until the moment you reach the comfort of the historic 100-year-old clubhouse where you are able to relax and reflect.
This is true championship golf of the highest order with the opening three holes epitomising everything that is great and superior about links golf.
The tantalising glimpse of the first green through the funnel of dunes, that frame the slither of fairway, sets a wonderful and intriguing tone that resonates throughout the entire round. At this opening hole a drive that favours the left-hand side of the fairway is rewarded with a better view of the green but finding the putting surface is still no guarantee and a ball missing the green to the right can easily result in a bogey or worse thanks to a severe drop-off into a deep hollow.
After an exhilarating drive from a high tee at the second, to a billowing fairway below, you are posed with a similar dilemma where anything missing the green to the right will require a deft pitch, 'bump & run' or even a putt from the tightest of lies to a long, narrow and sloping green. Bunkers to the left magnify the precision required with this approach where only the straightest of shots will be rewarded with a birdie putt.
The third hole is a seemingly more generous driving hole but that sense of openness merely lulls the golfer into more lackadaisical thinking when they should be concentrating on hitting the left-hand side of the fairway to give the best angle of attack into a green located behind a high dune and set in a clover-shaped amphitheatrical dell. A drive down the left however must carry two menacing pot bunkers.
I struggle to recall a better opening three holes to a round of golf than those at Burnham & Berrow.
After playing Burnham & Berrow for the first time it has catapulted itself close to the top of my list of finest links golf courses. A second visit confirmed my initial impression.
There is also a relief nine at Burnham & Berrow; the Channel course. This is virtually the same as the main course but in miniature. The first five holes are played on flatter land close to marshland which separates the course from the sea before the final four make their way back through the dunes.
In truth none of this closing quartet would be out of place on the championship course and although not as long they have rolling fairways and fine green complexes, none better than the one at the short eighth. A quick loop of this course would be a fine way to introduce yourself to the delights of Burnham & Berrow.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
We played today in lovely sunshine and a 2 club wind. The greens were playing extremely true and quick (the Somerset Amateur championships were out earlier in the day), the staff are great, some big sand dunes, the dormy house very comfy, nice town, and yet and yet... The course reminds me of Aberdovey in that it seems to have all the ingredients of a great dish but lacked that certain something. I don't mind water hazards on a links course, Prestwick has similar, but the Channel holes were damp and crusty underfoot, with some dull holes around the turn. Excellent start and finish, some of the best greens I've played on and the other pluses previously just make it a five, but I sympathise with the reviewer criticisng the six ball reviews.
Very good golf course but not great. The reason is a couple of “ordinary” holes (the most inland holes, 11 to 13) which it seems afflicts a number of courses including Open venues. Some very good holes however including:- 3, 7 & 8 and a very good finish from 14 onwards.