St. Christopher's Way,
- +44 (0) 1278 785760
1 mile N of Burnham-on-Sea
Handicap certificate required – contact in advance
“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.
Tom Doak made a point of replaying Burnham & Berrow (Championship) in 2016 and awarded the course a rating of six out of ten. He commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“My one previous experience at Burnham was on a cold rainy day in the winter of 1982; however a recent return visit proved that I had seriously underestimated the course. The three opening par-4’s are a cracking start, with the approach to the punchbowl 3rd green one of the last remaining vestiges of the bold blind holes described by Bernard Darwin in 1910. The short 5th is one of the UK’s finest, and you would not be able to convince a soul walking off that green that it is in fact the easiest of the four par-3’s on the course. Some of the holes have a more modern feel, due to the water in play at the 6th through 8th and the very steep banks off the edge of the greens at the 13th and 14th. But my previous review that there aren’t any must-see holes was emphatically wrong: holes like the 11th and 15th were the reward for going back.”
A lockdown UK staycation led us to the southwest and, via the reviews here, to Burnham & Berrow. First thing to say is how welcoming the staff were - from booking through the pro shop to the lady serving behind the bar (who produced superb bacon rolls) and finally to the starter who hails from Broughty Ferry. Thanks to them we were in a good mood even before setting off. B&B is a fine course in a special setting (the new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point apart). It’s not an especially tight course but wayward tee shots are punished in thick vegetation. The par 3s are as described. So the simplest thing to say is this - we’ll be back.
Golf society day out on the Championship course, and wow what a course.. having read lots of these reviews we were really looking forward to the challenge.. and it didn’t disappoint. The front nine in fairness make this course, truly magnificent links at its best, the greens are brilliant and a real test but keep it out of trouble and they offer a good chance.
We played with mild conditions and between us the highest stableford score was 31, so when the win picks up maybe a different ball game.
The back nine didn’t quite live up to its earlier holes, the feeling was that it offered one or two decent holes but felt all to similar, tough yes, but similar. Very long course with quite a few blind tees and long par threes.
Overall a joy to play, few very minor niggles from the group of 20, so we’ll worth a visit when in the region. Recommended
Burnham & Berrow has everything. And I mean that. It has everything. A beautiful clubhouse and a great practice area, views out to the Severn Estuary, rolling lumpy fairways, large undulating greens, big imposing dunes - sometimes you go over them, sometimes you go in between them, doglegs, short and long par threes, tempting par fives, strong bunkering, raised tees, both sunken and elevated greens, not one but two monument backdrops (a church and a lighthouse), lots of variation and excellent conditioning. Yet I’ve played here twice now and I just can’t fall in love with the place.
I’ve been beaten to shreds on both visits, making a mockery of my single figure handicap. There’s no doubting Burnham is beautiful, but it’s just brutal. Go offline and your ball can be buried in thick, punishing rough - width and angles is not a concept that was invented at Burnham. Without repeating too much of the reviews that have gone before me, holes 1 to 5 and 14 to 18 play through the best of the dunes whilst you associate the holes in between with flatter wetland areas, although new dunes are in the process of being constructed on the 12th. The short 9th however is in a class of its own and breaks up this slightly inferior stretch, but then again, all of the par threes at Burnham are very strong.
Some of the fairway mowing lines such as those at 10 and 15 are a little odd as they seem to favour the shorter hitter and steer you away from what I felt was the ideal line, but this is made up for by the excellent threes and 14 and 17 as well as the superb green site at 16.
Like a well beaten boxer that’s had a couple of standing eight counts and is being held up by the ropes in the final round, the walk down the 18th is one that can leave you feeling slightly bruised and battered and thankful to be back at the clubhouse. Yet when I played the other week in bright sunshine, I looked behind myself on the final green to see the beautiful links ground over which I’ve just played and scratched my head. Maybe I’ll have fun next time? Maybe my game is just not good enough? Still a bloody good course though.
"It's an adder!" Never before has a search for a ball ended as abruptly as it did on the par 5, 4th hole at Burnham & Berrow. My only previous encounter with a snake was spotting a black mamba hanging precariously from a tree while on safari in South Africa. This was rather less exotic Somerset and, thankfully, this reptile was curled up, either asleep or dead. I wasn't prepared to find out, so I trudged back to the tee, never having been so willing to declare a ball lost.
Serpent interlude apart, Burnham and Berrow lived up the billing of previous reviews - a superb links with an emphasis on precision driving and a requirement to read its dramatic contours.
Oh, and there is the wind. During the first nine it was in our faces and made an already tough track very testing for the uninitiated. At our back after the turn, the danger was overshooting the glorious greens.
My pre-match recce involved watching narrated videos of the links. Sky Sports commentator John E. Morgan extols almost every hole as 'being a beauty'. He is right. They all have individual charm and challenges and many have superb views. He adds that several are 'fraught with danger'. I can play Dr Watson to his Sherlock Holmes and confirm that analysis but I would also say that between us, my partner and I scored well on almost every hole so they do give you a chance... UNLESS you find yourself in the face of the left-hand bunker next to the 5th green. After three pathetic attempts to extricate my ball, I realised I would only get out with the help of an excavator. Nevertheless, there were enough fine moments to make me want to return but, hopefully, the next time the snake will have slithered off.
You have to enjoy playing golf in the wind to enjoy a round at Burnham and Berrow. Its an out and back links with a stiff breeze off the Bristol Channel on the way out and the reverse on the way back. Being a leftie I thought it was wonderful at first as almost all my shots were held up nice and straight but then they began to disappear into the considerable rough returning to base. I loved the beautiful high dunes giving an enclosed feeling to the first few holes but then the course drops into a meadow where it is more open. Some fabulous holes on the back with the heavily contoured greens being a feature. Memorable course with a very good vibe in the old club house.
I love Burnham and Berrow. It has everything you want from a links course. It's tough, it's windy, it has great green complexes and loads of good holes. I would say holes 1 2 3 5 6 9 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 are all very good or great holes. There are very few weak holes. Standout greens are 2 3 14 15 16. Don't expect to shoot your handicap round here, but go and enjoy the challenge and you won't be dissapointed.
The South West is blessed with some very good Links courses, St Enedoc, Trevose, Saunton East/West the historic Royal North Devon and Burnham and Berrow. B&B gets off to a strong start, the first 5/6 holes are excellent and a match for even the best Links courses. The pick of these is the 2nd which starts with a tight tee shot between the dunes to an undulating fairway. Deep revetted bunkers sit either side before you attempt to find this long narrow green. The green itself has a tier set in the front third and a run off protecting the right side with bunkers on the left…this is a brilliant hole. The next 5 or 6 are played over slightly less dramatic terrain but in the middle of this run is hole 9 which plays slightly uphill to a green surrounded by bunkers and run offs…this is an excellent hole although all the par 3 holes at B&B are top notch. Hole 13 is an interesting par 5 that dog legs from right to left but anything but and accurate approach will end in disaster. The course finishes on a high note…hole 18 is a belter moving gently from right to left with grass bunkers guarding the pulled tee shot and thick rough framing the right it is imperative that the golfer finds the fairway. The approach is not a push over either with 4 bunkers surrounding the green and bushes/trees waiting for the errant approach on the left. If you are visiting this part of the UK then B&B is a must and although it lags slightly behind St Enedoc which has more great holes it is still a very good links course. Played Feb 2019.
Nicely balanced account of this course. Although not in the immediate vicinity, B&B really is in a perfect location as a stop off on the way to or from those other SW Links mentioned (Perranporth was omitted - assume that was a typo)!
BB, I must apologise! I have not had the pleasure of playing Perranporth hence why I did not mention it... although I have only heard good things. I will try to get down there this year...
At least you have a great excuse to get back to the South West - fingers crossed you can do it sooner rather than later
I would like to start by saying that Burnham and Berrow is a really really good golf course. I personally believe that golf courses shouldn’t be ranked in a specific order for people to follow as everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to what they believe is ‘good’. For me, Burnham is one of my favourites. Harry Colt is my favourite course architect; his fantastic use of the surroundings creates the perfect blend of landscape views and challenge. This can clearly be seen at my #1 course, Royal Portrush where the fairways carve through the tumbling sand dunes.
Burnham is, in many ways, much like Portrush. Its dunes, although not as near as dramatic as Portrush’s, create what I believe is the perfect landscape for a top quality golf course, creating an amphitheater of golf, right next to the dramatic coastline. The dunes at burnham also impact the fairways with huge dips and hollows covering the playing surface with blind shots destined if a bad tee shot is the played.
The bunkering at Burnham is also fantastic, especially on 2 and 9. The classic deep, walled bunkers found at many top links courses can be found here with the land falling into every trap. The greens are true, undulating and a great challenge, especially on a day when your putting isn’t up to form.
However, Burnham does slightly dip off this dramatic feel on a few occasions. The first 3 holes are fantastic, nothing to complain about. The 4th however is a pretty straight forward flat par 5 with little to no bunkering. A good drive and 5 iron could get to the green. Unfortunately, there are a number of holes like this where the land is flat and out from the beautiful sand-dunes. Don’t underestimate these holes, however, as bunkering is still fierce, just not what I personally find exciting.
The par threes are amazing here, not a single bad one- typical of Colt’s cleaver design.
Altogether, Burnham and Berrow is a very very good golf course. Fun, challenging and beautiful. Although a few ‘weaker holes’ doesn’t quite push the review to ‘outstanding’, the top notch conditioning and friendliness makes Burnham and Berrow and must play for anyone living or visiting the south of England and thoroughly deserves its top 50 rating. Can’t wait to play again in the summer!
The Championship course at Burnham & Berrow Golf Club had long been on my mind to play since hearing of it during the time I lived in England from 1993-1998. Alas, I never made it there as I had other compelling options near London, in Scotland, or Ireland. I had three thoughts in mind after reading about the course sometime in early 1994: 1. Brian Barnes had played here and I was curious about a course that had shaped a young teenager who would later go on to win multiple times as a professional, make six Ryder Cup teams, and famously defeat Jack Nicklaus twice in the same day at the Ryder Cup held at Laurel Valley. 2. the course was known for having some of the finest greens in England, and 3. seemingly every famous architect in the past had added something to it, although it was H.S. Colt who gets the most credit for making it a worthy championship course.
As for Brian Barnes, I don’t know why people were so surprised that he beat Jack Nicklaus twice the same day. He was a longer hitter who when he hit the ball straight was quite formidable. Still, it is a good story especially after Jack Nicklaus requested the afternoon pairings be changed so that he could face him again, Nicklaus birdied the first two holes, yet still went down to defeat 2 and 1. Arnold Palmer famously remarked after the matches concluded that the English team had an extra player since it was obvious Jack was playing for the other side. I had always wanted to see if Burnham & Berrow had provided the young Brian Barnes with a course the equal of what Nicklaus had at Scioto Country Club, a more traditional parkland course. What I found was a course nearly the equal of Scioto, although very different.
When my friends put together a group of courses during a tour of English courses in the summer of 2018, I added my support for Burnham & Berrow as well as Saunton. Upon arrival after playing St. George’s Hill the day before, I liked everything about the club, from the small clubhouse to the lighthouse behind it, and how close everything is to the clubhouse including the putting green, the first tee and the eighteenth hole. Perhaps the only disappointment was the too-short practice range, but maybe that was because a young teenage girl was striking her balls so pure with a swing so rhythmic and flexible that I felt embarrassed to be within twenty yards of her.
Fortunately, I felt less intimidated as I looked at my playing partners also warming up on the range.
This area of Somerset/Devon is blessed with three top golf clubs in Royal North Devon, Burham & Berrrow, and Saunton. Saunton is the class of the three with two terrific golf courses while Burnham & Berrow runs a close second having a fabulous course and an additional nine holes. Yet Westword Ho! might have the nicest beach nearby and a town with views, dining and entertainment options. One cannot go wrong whichever one chooses.
We had a medium wind and a slightly overcast day for our afternoon round. I played as I expected which meant I liked the course so much I gave away some strokes because I wanted to study the golf course. Being able to remember a course on my initial visit if I find it to be good is far more important to me than my score.
All of us liked the front nine. We liked many of the holes on the back nine. We liked how the golf course incorporated the church at the twelfth and thirteenth holes. We did think the greens were very smooth and constructed well. We liked the routing, a traditional out and back. We liked the elevated tees and the changes in the terrain, especially the higher dunes and the valleys. Burnham and Berrow looks and make one feel exactly how one wants to feel on a links course.
In looking at some of the rankings from various publications, I would agree with the ones that place the championship course in the top 50 in the UK and Ireland.
It starts with a very good opening hole, a short par 4 but the fairway is fraught with danger on all sides with a narrow gap in the fairway around 285 yards out. Dunes line the left while one can have a blind shot going too far right. The green has a steep dip right and mounds left and behind. The green has no bunkers, nor does it need it as the green itself is well shaped. This is a good starting hole as any score is possible from a 3 to a 6.
The second takes the course up a notch playing as a mid-length par 4 from an elevated tee with dunes on either side and a fairway that has undulations, valleys, and fall offs all the way to the green. Bunkers are well placed on the fairway and nearer the green. There is a big dip fronting the green as well as to the right of it. It is another well sculpted green. This hole would fit in place on any highly ranked golf course. Our foursome greatly admired this hole and made us eager for the next.
The third as a short par 4 slight dogleg left with a punchbowl green is visually quite attractive. Playing from another elevated tee one gets a good view of the course. Dunes and two bunkers are the defense to the left side of the fairway. The negative of the hole is that it is wide open to the right as it parallels the sixteenth fairway. Even if one goes too far right they should be able to handle the blind shot to the green which will gather slightly off struck balls back to the green. I like the valley fronting the green and the look of the green. Despite it playing longer due to the prevailing wind, the hole is easy unless one hits into the dunes on the left.
The fourth has an even better view of the course from its elevated tee. It plays as a short par 5 dogleg right ending to an uphill green that has no bunkers as it is expertly placed. Dune hills are the defense to the right side of the fairway. The green felt relatively flat to me with more of the tilt nearer the front. Despite playing into the breeze, this hole represents a birdie opportunity and one has to truly mess up at least one shot not to make par. Visually it is another attractive hole.
Five is a gem of a par 3 ranging from 150 to just under 200 yards. This is another hole that could be placed on any of the world’s best courses and it would fit right in. Valleys, swales, depressions front and surround the green which also has three large and deep bunkers at the front and either side. But missing long right or behind might be a more difficult recovery shot. The green is very well contoured. A back pin location would be very difficult given how narrow the green is the closer one gets to the back. At this hole one almost wants to go back and play it again.
From an elevated tee, the sixth hole is a slight dogleg left longer par 4 which continues the consistent lovely views from many of the tees on the front nine. This hole provides a stern test. For the longer hitters, a small pond and wetlands provide defense on the right side of the fairway while a series of mounds provides defense on the left. A larger pond and wetlands sit off the tee on the left but should not be in play. The green has a single bunker on its left and is elevated slightly. We found this to be one of the more difficult green complexes to try to recover from just off the green on either side although the green itself was easy to read.
Water comes into play on the long par 4 seventh hole which is rated the toughest on the course. The real defense of the hole is the undulated green more so than the small pond near the front right of the green with the burn running down the right side of the fairway. This hole is not visually as exciting as any of the previous holes because the dunes have ended but it is likely the hardest to make par despite an easy green.
The short par 5 eighth requires aiming at three bunkers on the left side of the fairway of this dogleg right hole. The tee shot has to carry the burn and the bolder player will try to cut off as much of the dogleg as they can without ending up in the burn. After a successful tee shot, the hole does not ask a lot of you other than at the green where contouring creates fall-offs around the green with the largest depression back left. The green has no bunkers as the bunker on the left is 20 yards short of the green. All of us found this hole to be too easy and felt bunkers should have been added near the green.
The ninth is an excellent par 3 of mid-length but playing slightly uphill with six deep bunkers surrounding the green and fall offs and run-offs everywhere. There is danger short in the bunkers or long behind the green getting caught up in the taller grass. It is a toss-up as to whether the fifth or ninth is the better par 3. The green is wonderfully shaped and a two putt is not a given. Once again, this hole could be placed on any of the world’s finest golf courses and it would fit right in.
Heading back towards the clubhouse is the short tenth par 4 dogleg right with a blind tee shot with two markers to guide you. Missing to the right of the markers will likely leave you in smaller dunes and slightly taller grass from which recovery is not difficult except for the bunker fronting the green on the right. The fairway itself is generous to another pretty flat green. It’s an “okay” hole.
The number two index comes next playing flat as a longer par 4. The green is well defended by six bunkers and a sloped green. One is not inspired by this hole, but it is a difficult hole.
I very much like the twelfth, a mid length par 4 slight dogleg right that has a generous fairway. If one goes right off the tee the result can be a blind shot or be stuck down in one of the hollows or on a rise in taller grass. The green sits up and has no bunkers but it is long, narrow and goes every which way. It has a false front which likely will not allow a run-up shot to make it on the green. It is perhaps the best green on the golf course. This is a well-conceived golf hole. The view of St. Mary’s church behind the green makes the hole quite appealing.
The thirteenth is a mid-length par 5 and is the best par 5 on the course. The tee shot is fairly simple but for the approach shot the fairway narrows with quite large dunes on the left and smaller ones on the right. The dunes on the right seem to be the more difficult ones to recover as they are sharper and more numerous but it is likely one could lose a ball on either side. These dunes pinch in as you approach the green which is elevated and has a sharp fall-off to the left side and behind and a slightly less steep fall-off to the right. This is another good golf hole.
A tough par 3 follows with a green that has no bunkers but is undulated, in two tiers with steep fall-offs on the left and behind. The green is slightly uphill. Visually this hole is no match for the previous par 3’s, but it likely more difficult.
The longest par 4 on the course is next and has an undulating fairway rolling up and down like waves. Tall gorse and trees creates an out-of-bounds down the left side. One likely will not have a level lie and if you are left some of the green can be partially hidden. The ball can kick onto the green if landed on the right side. It is a difficult hole but fair.
Sixteen is a short par 4 with a gentle dogleg to the right. Out of bounds is on the left. This is a good risk-reward hole for the longer hitter but for average length players this hole is too easy as the fairway blends into the third fairway. While the green has some tiers to it, it is not difficult to read or judge the pace.
The long par 3 seventeenth is next and completes an excellent set of par 3’s that can rival the best par 3’s on any other top golf course. There is a nice view from the high elevated tee of some of the clubhouse as well as the lighthouse behind it. The green is fairly difficult and thankfully there are only three bunkers and a false front to consider. As we drove towards the hotel for the next round, we had a long conversation regarding the quality of the par 3’s.
The final hole is a nice long par 4 with danger everywhere for the wayward tee shot and the approach shot. The tee shot has to find the fairway on this dogleg left as there are mounds on the right and a series of deep grass depressions on the left. Near the green there are four bunkers that must be threaded if running the ball on. It is a very fine finishing hole.
What is truly amazing about the championship course at Burnham & Berrow is how often it has been changed. Moreover, seemingly every change has made the course even better. The revisions have not been simple such as adding a bunker or re-shaping a green. The entire routing has changed with previous holes discarded and new ones created, ending in a new routing. This club has a dedicated and forward-thinking membership that is truly focused on how to keep the golf course relevant and interesting. The do have the benefit of very good land for their course, but it still takes vision and commitment to get the maximum out of it. When I think of the today’s best “minimalist” designers, I wonder how many made a journey to see this course because most of the course is a template for exactly how a course should be built if this type of land is available. The greens are accessible, but not overly large or shaped to silly undulations. The fairways are generous but not so wide that one cannot get into real trouble. While there are a few holes where additional bunkers should be added for both additional defense as well as to visually enhance the hole, the course uses the variations in land to maximum effectiveness.
From the championship tees it can now stretch to approximately 7000 yards. For all but the very best amateurs and professionals, it continues to stand the test of time. Obviously, the best golfers in the world would likely be under par as too many of the holes lack both adequate length or difficult greens. If the wind was consistently above 25 mph perhaps it would be a test for them. But for every other golfer it is a very good mixture of fun, challenge, and enjoyment. I would highly recommend playing this golf course more than once if in the area.
Undoubtedly the nr 1 course in Somerset and there is nothing better in the south west until you get down to Saunton
The opening four holes are fabulous, links golf at it's best. Holes 5 and 6 are also good, but 7 and 8 are fairly bland, whilst the 9th is an excellent short par 3 to finish off the front nine. You are at this point at the furthest point from the clubhouse, not good if the wind changes or rain starts. The front nine is on the estuary side whilst the back nine is on the inland side of the dunes and whilst not of the same quality do provide some good holes. The finish is good with 17 an excellent par 3 and 18 a tough par 4
A very good and demanding golf course, that for me peaks at the start and just doesn't maintain the quality of the early holes otherwise it would surely be ranked higher. Greens always very good.