East Devon Golf Club is absolutely enchanting, the golf course is laid out on high ground, 400 feet above the sea, close to the clifftops, where one can drink in the most spectacular views in golf. The sweeping panorama of Lyme Bay is in view, and on a clear day, you can spot the Isle of Portland, jutting out into the English Channel.
The fairways have been cut through a profusion of gorse and heather. It’s as pretty as a picture, an undulating seaside heathland course with an overwhelming feeling of spaciousness because wide tracts of gorse and heather divide each fairway. Robert Tosswill, a retired army officer laid down the original course, working with the natural lie of the land and it opened for play in March 1902. Herbert Fowler changed the layout in 1913 and after the First World War Harry Colt remodelled the course. This is the layout largely played today.
Measuring a little over 6,200 yards, East Devon is not championship material, but with a lowly par of 70 and some tight drives, this is a challenging and attractive test of golf. Right from the off, the course wends its way slowly but surely to the clifftops. The climb is gradual and certainly not hard work. Many of the holes are memorable and certainly the 9th, a downhill par four, was a record breaker for T. Aydon. In 1934 he entered the Guinness Book of Records for hitting the longest recorded drive. It was measured at 450 yards and he reached the edge of the green. It is no longer featured in the current records, but bear in mind that this drive was struck 70 years ago without the aid of modern technology.
East Devon’s one-shotters are charming, and the pick of the bunch is the 10th, a stunning par three played from an elevated tee across a valley clad in gorse and heather to a well protected, three-tiered green. “The best view in golf”, according to Peter Alliss, can be taken in on the 16th tee, a 406-yard par four. This is the start of the downhill stretch back to the clubhouse. Don’t go too far right here – there are cliffs and out-of-bounds waiting to catch the slice. Anything too far left will be caught by heather or blocked out by trees. The 17th is a delightful long par four with another lovely view and loads of heather and gorse. A par here will feel like a birdie.
East Devon is an elegant course on charming heathland. It’s relatively unknown, but it’s certainly discerning and immensely enjoyable – well worth a visit.
We played East Devon today in lovely sunshine on the swing from Saunton to Ferndown, the golf preceded by a scenic drive across green and pleasant Devon. We had a local ale on the terrace of the friendly, very well appointed cub course over looking the heather lined 18 th whilst also looking up to a gorse lined fairway seemingly up in the sky on the side of a hill. It was like one of those cartoons that was popular back in the day of outlandish golf courses. How on Earth do you end up there? We were about to find out. The start was a little like Crowborough Beacon, gentle heather lined rolling holes, but then moving into some very nice tree lined holes then up to altitude. Despite the up and down holes it never felt one of those Grand Old Duke of York courses where you slog up a hole called Heart attack hill then immediately have an elevated tee shot back down. It's very well presented but never prissy, good greens with plenty of slope, and of course the jaw dropping views from 15 to 17. Good value too, an excellent way to bridge the gap on the way back from the beautiful South West.
East Devon, at Budleigh Salterton, is a golf course that had eluded me for far too long. However, I set that matter straight with a visit in the early Spring of 2017 and came away very impressed with how the course played, especially for the time of year.
It’s a venue which is quite difficult to build into a high quality multi-course trip; a little too far west of the famed Dorset contingent and a niggly cross-county trek from the magnificent links on the North Devon coast. That said, it is certainly worth making a detour to visit this charming cliff-top cum upland-heathland layout.
The par 70 (SSS 71) course has a particularly lovely start with a couple of sub 350-yarders to get us warmed up. Avoid the heather from the tee and put your ball under the hole with your approach at both of these gentle par-fours and you may pick up a birdie. On the other hand, tangle with the gnarly rough or leave yourself a downhill putt and you could be frustratingly dropping shots left, right and centre. The four-quarter-level green at the second is truly fantastic whilst the third is also a particularly fine hole sweeping elegantly to the right.
Between the 7th and the 13th East Devon is exceptionally strong. The three-tiered green at the 163-yard 10th is a highlight whilst the following hole, a tempting par four (maximum 335 yards from the tips) with a drive across an angled valley to a cross-bunkered fairway, is equally wonderful and a prime example of how fun yet demanding a hole of this length can be for all standards of golfer. The long 12th is a bit of an uphill slog but the angled green makes up for this whilst the next is a very pretty dropping par-three.
Holes 14 and 15 are the first of five consecutive par fours to finish the round.
East Devon isn’t a course that will beat you up but don’t expect it to roll over and allow you to tickle its belly either. There’s a great mix of holes over some fairly wild terrain, the turf is excellent and there’s a lovely atmosphere around the club. What’s not to like?
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
East Devon flies under the radar because it’s out on a limb at Budleigh Salterton near Exmouth on the Jurassic Coast. There are no other courses of great repute nearby, so you need to make a special trip to play here – most therefore don’t bother. Touched by Herbert Fowler and Harry Colt it’s a course that really should be better known. It’s a subtle routing that tracks in every compass direction but it’s let down by a rather prosaic parallel starting duo of holes.
#6 was one of Henry Cotton’s favourite par fives where OOB runs down the right and the fairway slopes unkindly towards it. A grassy hollow eats into the fairway for the approach and the green is tricky to hold. The short par four 11th is an interesting risk/reward driving hole across a valley where you need to decide how much of the dogleg to take on. There are plenty of other holes of note from here on in that are routed across the high ground.
I’m a fan of the greensites here and I love the wonderful feeling of spaciousness where there’s plenty of generous width to most fairways which are divided by broad sweeps of heathland. The width provides a multitude of angles for approach shots and I admire this about Budleigh. There’s nothing at East Devon that will blow your socks off (except for the views on a clear day), it’s a course that is simply solid and it gently lulls you into a false sense of security.
It hasn’t got length by modern standards, but it’s not easy on which to score and it plays firm and fast. I doubt many will match their handicaps here first time round. If you like fun golf and appreciate the subtleties of Golden Age design, then East Devon is worth the detour.
For me, East Devon is a tricky one to rate. It’s not quite a 5-ball but it’s better than a 4-ball. It’s a course where the round seems to come to an end all too soon and my glass is half full.
Very happy to see this positive review of East Devon. I've only played it once, (got paired up with a 92-year-old member who walked and carried his bag), but remember it well. I think this is because both the course, and the club, feature so much of what I feel is the unique charm of English golf.