Royal North Devon - Devon - England

Royal North Devon Golf Club,
Golf Links Road,
Westward Ho!,
Devon,
EX39 1HD,
England


  • +44 (0) 1237 477598

Royal North Devon Golf Club, or should we say Westward Ho! This nostalgic and monumental links course fits firmly into the “must-play” category. In 1864, Westward Ho! opened for golf and it remains the oldest course in England still playing along its original fairways. It is also the oldest links course outside Scotland and home to the second oldest ladies’ golf club in the world, founded in 1868. The first ladies’ golf club was founded at St Andrews, one year earlier.

“To go to Westward Ho! is not to make a mere visit of pleasure as to an ordinary course;” wrote Darwin in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles. “It is, as is the case of a few other great links, a reverent pilgrimage. Was it not here that Mr Horace Hutchinson and J.H. Taylor, besides a host of other fine players, learned the game?” Originally, the course was laid out by Old Tom Morris and revised in 1908 by Herbert Fowler. Nothing much has changed since then, except the sheep have fattened.

HRH Prince Andrew drives the cape bunker at Royal North Devon Golf ClubWhen you look out of the clubhouse across the course, you might struggle to define the holes. They simply blend into the surroundings. There are no trees or hedges, except if you count the brambles alongside some of the fairways. There are, however, plenty of reeds and rushes waiting to catch the wayward shot.

This is common land golf “au natural”, with a combination of tranquil, flat and folded fairways. Possibly, the only sound you will hear is that of the wind and if you are lucky, the sound of galloping hooves. Here at Royal North Devon, the sheep and horses have life membership. Don’t forget the local rule – if your ball ends up in a hoof mark, you may drop without penalty.

Make sure you buy a yardage book if you don’t know the layout; otherwise you might find yourself teeing off in the wrong direction on a few holes. “Finally,” wrote Darwin, “no account of Westward Ho! would be complete without a reference to tea at the club-house. There is a particular form of roll cut in half and liberally plastered with Devonshire cream and jam. Epithets fail me, and I can only declare that the tea is worthy of the golf.” Not only is tea good but also the panoramic view from the clubhouse is magnificent. Check out the golfing memorabilia in the museum area and, above all, enjoy the spirit that is Royal North Devon.

A man has been charged with drink driving after Land Rover found crashed in a Royal North Devon bunker… click here for more

England's oldest golf course is disappearing into the sea click here for more.

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Reviews for Royal North Devon

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Description: Royal North Devon Golf Club, or should we say Westward Ho! This nostalgic and monumental links course fits firmly into the “must-play” category. Rating: 7.1 out of 10 Reviews: 46
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James
If you can play golf with an open mind, care for the games living history and come with no expectations good or bad you will revel in this course. Being the oldest Golf course in England and celebrating it’s 150th anniversary next year we decided to make this our second stop on the North Atlantic links Trail, having played the 27 holes at Burnham and Berrow the day before. We took a 1.5 hour pleasant country drive up the coast from Somerset. Royal North Devon offered a very different prospect and a unique charm that we all thoroughly enjoyed. Some measure the strength of a course on the course alone regardless of the surroundings but I do not. It is all part of it for me. Here I found my eyes feasting on the most natural course I have played in England. Reminiscent of Pennard in Wales, They too have sheep and live stock grazing on the course as once all links courses did. This place has an atmosphere that Royal North Devon Golf Course - Photo by reviewerbrings an instant smile to your face and is the antithesis of the fastidiously manicured country club from which I hail. The course is very challenging in places and always strategic but unlike some of the courses we played you will pretty much always find your ball, unless you find the deepest rugged grasses that the sheep won’t eat! Your punishment for being off line is a very hard approach line, or an ancient pot bunker, or a scruffy lie on a slope. There are few blind shots but they are well signposted and have broad landing areas. Some holes offer welcome respite and the chance to score. There are some varied holes here and they are all extremely enjoyable. The view from the sixth tee is beautiful and the hole is probably the best one on the course too. Some have said the first and the last are not the greatest holes in the world but I think they fit nicely and do the job they are meant to do. We enjoyed them. They are like paddling out into the deep surf to catch your big waves and then paddling back in once your body can take no more. In between you will find rugged links golf and at the end you will enjoy a well earned drink overlooking the course and panoramic views beyond. No doubt you will be in sensory overload having enjoyed a spectacularly different and purely visceral day on the ancient links. We stayed at the wayfarer public house and had drinks on the beach as the sun set, a superb meal in a local restaurant and Breakfast the next day which set us up for the day. The Room was stunning and had sea views too. Next stop Saunton Sands (3 day trip?) or St Enodoc? We chose St Enodoc and Trevose on the North Atlantic Links Trail. JCB LAY
August 07, 2013
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Matthew Adams
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, Royal North Devon Golf Course - Photo by reviewerbut 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.
June 15, 2012
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Tony White
This course grows on you, played it about 10 times now and actually prefer it to Saunton (there, I said it, ok Saunton members, now calm down). Some people comment about the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th being a bit flat but they are all excellent holes. And the rest of the course is just so interesting, with many Championship class shots required. The greens are always better than Saunton, with a lot more speed and you can die the ball into the hole which is always good. The food was amazing. I don't think you would ever tire of this course. 4 of us played here and both courses at Saunton and all preferred RND.
April 18, 2012
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Armin Zaeh
We booked the tee time and a buggy a few months before our arrival from Germany because one person in our group is handicapped and not able to play the course without a buggy. Although the buggy was in the “system” the club manager told us, it’s Sunday, the buggy is in the green keeper’s hall and they have no key for it. The friendly club assistance wanted to help us anyway but his hands were tied as his chief suggested him not to do any further efforts to solve the problem. Because of this sadly incident it’s hard for me to estimate the course objectively. Playing the Royal North Devon is a pure golf experience. If it’s not windy the course is not very tough and a good start in a golf holiday. We enjoyed the wonderful location and the wild horses. Hope it was the manager’s off day and it isn’t the normal behaviour to (foreign) guests.
October 10, 2011
4 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Cédric
My visit to Westward Ho! was a bit of a roller coaster with ups and downs. Arriving at the clubhouse, the first thing you see is the sign saying that you are at the Oldest Club in England. Trying to make you feel that you just arrived at a very special place (which you are, let's be clear, more of that later). Then direction pro shop for a very warm welcome. The scenery of the whole course on the other hand looks rather uninspiring from the parking and this impression of a "boring" and flat course continues as you play the first 3 holes. Then the magic operates again, with holes 4-9 all very interesting, and the fairways far from being as flat as one could imagine from the parking place. As previous have said, the fairways are not in the best shape. So what? This place is about something else. The greens could have been faster for my taste, but they held the line very well. The back 9 has some nice holes too. Holes around the turn are the only "narrow" holes. For the majority of the course, driving is to very wide fairways. This is not a very difficult course and scoring there is a real possibility. Make sure you check the stroke saver though as some lines of the tee are not always very obvious. Back to the clubhouse after the round, it was a joy to contemplate all the historical pieces (hickory clubs, balatta balls...). Food on the other hand was one the least enjoyable I've had in any clubhouse. RND is a very nice place to play golf and I really enjoyed my time there, despite bland opening holes. I still think it is rated too high, compared for example to nearby Saunton West course. Cedric
April 14, 2011
6 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Stuart Eastwood
May 23, 2011
Spot on! No comparison to Saunton West which we thought fantastic in our recent tour to Devon en route to playing all Top 100 on your BI list. Sorry RND, great history but bit of a goat track.
John
May 23, 2011
Royal North Devon is a bit like Scotland’s Brora and Pennard in Wales in that it pays over common land where livestock can roam freely. But unlike its Scottish and Welsh equivalents it has to contend with being next to one of the most popular beaches in the UK and all the issues that go with dog walkers and BBQ’ing surfers. Like Royal West Norfolk, RND also has to contend with inadequate sea defences that continually erode the very heritage of the club.

When I last visited Devon and played RND, along with both Saunton courses, St Enodoc and Trevose, RND’s greens were the best of the bunch. RND should never be able to compete with Saunton from a condition perspective. RND has twice as many members as Saunton and only one course. RND also has more green fee paying visitors and other extraneous factors (livestock etc) which continually cause the club major problems.

Stuart Eastwood is correct, RND bears no comparison to Saunton West, they’re entirely different courses playing across entirely different terrain. I’ve never seen a goat at RND but I have seen plenty of sheep and horses, so I guess it’s more of a sheep track than a goat track. I think Cedric is right about the dull and rather flat holes but these are where you can make a score, but I feel he caught the canteen on an off day because my experience of the food has always been good. And before anybody suggests I’m a member, I can tell you I’m not. But if I lived in Devon I’d rather be a member of RND than Saunton any day.
Brock
May 30, 2011
I visited SW England in June 2010 and played Burnham & Berrow, Saunton (East & West), RND, & St. Enodoc. I will have to side with Cedric on this one. His assessment of RND and is spot on, with the exception of the food, which we did not experience. As for John, I am not sure that you played Saunton, which is at least a few notches above RND and with two courses as well. I'd join Saunton over RND in a heart beat.
John
November 17, 2011
It’s all about opinions. There are some that don’t like the Old course at St Andrews and there’s a parallel between St Andrews and Westward Ho! RND is where you breathe nature, which is the true essence of golf for me. I do like Saunton but I genuinely prefer RND. You don’t need massive dunes to make a great golf course; in any case the dunes at Saunton block the sea view. The elevated 6th tee at RND is perhaps my favourite teeing ground in England. And finally Brock, if you are going to be condescending at least exercise a little grace. I’d never suggest that you hadn’t played RND would I?
Brock
November 23, 2011
My apologies to John. History certainly has weight in judging one course over another. There are some good holes on the front nine at RND starting with number 4 and yes, the 6th tee is certainly the best on the course. But to suggest that RND would be better to join over Saunton seemed a bit over the top. A club with two top notch links courses is hard to beat.
Harrison Brown
June 04, 2014
RND and Saunton are at opposite ends of the links spectrum, both have great locations, with Saunton more peaceful. As for design features, Saunton can't compete with RND, not since they decimated all of Herbert Fowler's beautiful golf architecture in the 90's. Would it be ok for the Louvre to paint a Tiger Woods smile on the Mona Lisa, no, nor should any golf committee be allowed to change great works of golf art (Wentworth, Saunton). Saunton is still a lovely days golf but rather bland from a technical point of view, unlike RND, which still retains brilliant design features.
John T
November 17, 2014
This is much better than either course at Saunton. All the holes at Saunton are the same, there''s 2 distinct types of holes at RND, the links in the dunes with great sea views (which you don''t get at Saunton) and the flatter type holes with the rushes that are brilliantly designed. This is golf in the spirit of St. Andrews! The most natural test of golf in England, yes it''s rough around the edges but golf is meant to be. This used to be considered one of the greatest courses anywhere mentioned in the same breath as the old course, Hoylake and Sandwich. Saunton doesn''t compare in terms of interest, subtlety and thrills.
Hamish Wilson
This is a course for anyone interested in the traditions and history of golf. We are now so used to play on manicured courses that it does no harm to play here to be reminded of what golf was like. I notice some criticism of the course because it had rabbit holes; well well oh dear! Golf is a game to be enjoyed and it is not necessary to have to play some 7500yd. bunker and water ridden monster to do this. Go here to enjoy yourself. Take in the marvellous collectiomn of memorabilia in the clubhouse. This is not to be missed.
November 19, 2010
10 / 10
Royal North Devon
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David Redwood
A real treat to play links golf in it's purest form. Wide open fairways make driving fun but accurate approach shots are essential to avoid the tiny greenside bunkers. The sheep and horses wandering the fairways and the museum in the clubhouse added to what was a fun day.
October 29, 2009
6 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Lano
Fantastic course which i played around 20yrs ago & long to go back too, Golf from the 19th Century and a guilty pleasure to go back in time and see how it all began.I still dream about that enormous bunker on the 4th hole which i actually went into, but (amazingly) got out of first time.......(ive got an old picture of me doing this shot somewhere and you can actually see the ball flying out of it !! i must find it !!!)The wild horses & sheep just add to the character of the place, as do the magnificent coastal views, i played in the evening and finished whilst sunset was upon us........fantastic !!!the clubhouse is a sight to behold too, wonderful heritage & a very friendly welcome was had.i'd recommend everyone to play this course at least once before you die........as the memories shall never leave you.Wonderful.Lano.
October 26, 2009
10 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Sam Baldwin
The front 9 is as good as any links golf I've played. The first is very tough with a strong wind but all the opening holes are interesting. The best aspect is the clubhouse, loads of history and interesting bits to look at. I don't really understand the people slagging this place off, it is a cracking place to play golf. The condition was very good throughout, highly recommended. But have to understand that this place is how golf started and I respect the fact that they haven't let the place go modern and commercialised.
August 05, 2009
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Christopher Jones
September 09, 2009
Fabulous test of golf in a wonderful setting.
Malcolm Searle
I played here one foggy spring morning, and experienced golf as it used to be played, on open common land with sheep grazing and horses hoofprints in, with sea rushes which seemed to magnetically draw my ball to them. I'm sure it's not everyone's cup of tea, but the club house reeks of history and all golfers (especially links lovers) should make their respectful pilgrimage at least once.
July 13, 2009
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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