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.”
We played Burnham & Berrow on a very windy afternoon in late August, taking advantage of the opportunity to stay in the on-site dormy house and play the channel course the next morning.
The main championship links is a traditional ‘out and back’ layout and we were told by the members on the putting green to make the most of the conditions on the front nine with the wind at our back.
The first hole is a daunting tee shot, with the clubhouse and practice green to the left and the eighteenth green to the right. The starter gave us our line “start it on the dunes to the right and let the wind bring it back into the fairway” and we were away. The first few holes were truly excellent. The punchbowl green on three was excellent fun and there are elevation changes a-plenty.
The par five fourth takes you down onto a flatter part of the course and you spend time down on this level from the sixth to the eighth. Water comes into play on these holes too which, with the wind, added another element of complexity.
The ninth is a truly special par three, playing back towards the headwind. Ten is a blind tee shot and once you round the dunes onto the fairway the wind hits you in the face. The day we played, it was relentless. Eleven and twelve play parallel to a housing estate and are probably the weakest holes on the course (and some of the most difficult). They were also re-developing 12 when we played so it did look a bit of a building site when we visited. Thirteen was a brute of a 550 yd par five that with the wind felt like it played closer to 650yds, it had a great narrow green and felt like you were back within the dunes. The fifteenth is another strong par four but playing into the wind was immensely difficult at over 400yds. The sixteenth plays back down towards the housing before you climb to the elevated tee for the brilliant seventeenth par three. The eighteenth is a really strong closer, requiring a strong tee shot into the wind and a long second shot down towards the green.
Some really strong holes here but our experience was marred by the conditions which made the back nine a real slog. I’d recommend Saunton East over B&B in the South West links but it is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
My strongest and most favourite memories of this course are from supporting my brother in the West of England Schools’ Championships for Radley College, a squad I couldn’t get into myself. Clambering over the dunes to watch my brother go unbeaten over several years of match-play was great to watch. I had such fun supporting his teams and socialising with them and their golf coaches; ‘Wee-Man’ Kevin Reed and Open Qualifier PGA-Pro Adam Wootton.
Burnham-on-Sea and Berrow are two very sleepy west of England coastal ‘towns’. However, Burnham & Berrow Golf Club sits between the two and is a main source of tourism in the area. BBGC was founded in 1890 and soon after, they hired a young JH Taylor to become the club’s professional and keeper of the greens. BBGC is a traditional out-and-back links course consisting of a challenging layout of tumbling fairways, narrow valleys, protected by deep pot-bunkers and thick rough.
The second hole is the signature hole. A 394-yard par 4 from an elevated tee, looks down over a narrow undulating fairway towards a narrow green with a harsh run off to the right. A complete links test.
I really should visit BBGC more often, as the green fees are standing firm against the astronomical rise of other links green fees. This course is fun. It does not receive enough praise. I recommend all to visit, and if you are, then Walton House B&B is where you stay. Pat and Phil are saints and will look after you and your clubs very very well!
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!