A throwback course in many ways set on prime links land with well-behaved livestock roaming around freely. For better players, there may be the impression that the course is “there for the taking”, especially on a still day. The course uses subtlety (which a lot of courses could benefit from) along with the breeze for its defence. Firm ground combined with the subtlety of the flat or gently undulating land creates the challenge, as it reduces depth perception. Some of the bunkering is quite fearsome too although the cross bunker on the 4th is now decorative due to modern equipment, but the contours on the approach to and around the green really make the hole. The most fearsome bunker I experienced (all too closely) can be found by the left of the 5th green with near vertical sleepers on its deep front side. It’s amazing how little you have to go inland for the turf to become less ‘linksy’. In my view the two weakest holes on the course are 12 and 13 which I liked the least for this reason along with their apparent weak design. However, that is just in comparison with the rest of the course. The 11th is genuinely intimidating but is mercifully one of the few holes where precision from the tee is vital. Most holes give options to play over, around or short of hazards. The variety of green complexes maintains interest throughout the round, with putting surfaces that are very good, without quite being outstanding. The best advice about playing the course came from the friendly chap tending to the flower baskets, who advised at all costs to stay out of the sea rushes. If your ball goes in you might find it, but taking a drop is the only way to go. The views of the sea are good around holes 3-9 although sadly for us a grey gloom had settled over the course on our visit. I can understand the comments about the course being a little like a field but if you have an affinity for pure links golf then Royal North Devon will prove to be a treat. Plus there’s a champion all-day breakfast to be had in the clubhouse.
Date: June 15, 2012