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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Billy
After a 5-year gap, I returned to Royal North Devon with great anticipation. On my previous trip I thoroughly enjoyed the course but I enjoyed my return trip even more. Don’t expect manicured fairways and tee boxes at Westward Ho! because you will be disappointed but do expect some great greens and memorable golf holes, not least those in the famous rushes. The first and last two holes which play on low-lying ground are the weakest holes on the course, but those aside, the rest are fabulous true sandy links holes. Westward Ho! is the oldest seaside course in England and the reverent club, founded in 1864, is worthy of the journey to Devon alone. Couple this monumental historical experience with the two sensational courses at Saunton Golf Club and you will have played one of the best and most affordable seaside threesomes in the UK.
April 24, 2009
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Dan Hare
Very enjoyable round of golf, conscious of following in the footsteps of the greats of the game. On a couple of tees you just cannot imagine how you can NOT hit the ball in a bunker - tremendous fun. Highly recommended, and perfect complement to Saunton Sands.
April 13, 2009
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Jim McCann

I can only imagine that some of the less than complimentary reviews elsewhere for Royal North Devon are penned by golfers who “just don’t get it” with RND and where it stands in relation to the modern game of golf. Thank God the members here have preserved such a timeless jewel in a world of pristine tee boxes, manicured fairways and greens that run to double digits on the stimpmeter. Indeed,

RND is as raw as it gets when playing golf nowadays but don’t be put off by the elemental nature of sharing fairways with sheep, cattle and horses – embrace the fact that you are still able to emulate the greats such as five time Open Champion JH Taylor over such an unspoiled tract of common land.

The opening and closing couple of holes you can regard as a means to get from the clubhouse to the more interesting land along the coast but they are far from boring or bland. The holes from 3 to 9 are the best on the property (with the drive over the famous “Cape” bunker at the 4th one that will live long in the memory) as they dip in and out of the sandhills by the shoreline.

There then follows some of the most unusual holes I’ve ever played, with some long carries over or past huge clumps of tall, spiky sea rushes to fairway areas hidden from view and the timing of these intimidating obstacles arriving so late in a round is just perfect. Greens when we played were absolutely top drawer - fast and true - and all that a golfer would ask for anywhere, so what if the fairways are a little unkempt in places?

A misty and mysterious Royal North Devon – photo by Jim McCannThe clubhouse is so atmospheric, with a wonderful open lounge area set aside to allow visitors to admire the various golfing artefacts, photos and letters that have accumulated over nearly 150 years. If you visit RND and don’t experience a wee tingle as you walk along the main corridor with names chiselled (I kid you not) onto the huge honours boards flanking both walls then it’s time your doctor paid a visit to confirm that you’re officially dead.

I hope the weather is kinder next time I visit as thick fog on the back nine made life very difficult but, in a strange way, the conditions added an even greater mystique to this Grand Old Lady. It’s fair to say the spirit of Old Tom Morris lives on at places like Westward Ho! and for that we should all be eternally grateful.

Jim McCann

April 08, 2009
8 / 10
Royal North Devon
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wtc
I was really impressed with this course. Terrific fun to play with a series of unorthodox obstacles (the bunker at the fourth and the sea-rushes being the most memorable). The course is uncomplicated visually but the clever bunkering and treacherous contours around the hard-to-hold greens make it a great test of both ball-striking and creativity. The first two holes are amongst the weakest but a terrific run from thereon in, with the 5th and the 6th being particularly good. The wonderful clubhouse must be one of the best anywhere, with its sense of history, welcoming atmosphere and stunning views over the whole course. One thing to note: the condition isn't as good as the course - but it certainly isn't bad enough to significantly detract from the experience.
December 07, 2008
10 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Ivan
As links courses go, one of the flatest I have played. The course does though have a number of blind shots, which on playing for the first time are always intriguing. My only question mark is why the second/third hardest hole on the course - the 18th - is strokeindex 18?Wonderful club house - steeped in history - and very friendly staff and members.
July 22, 2008
6 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Mervyn Slade
September 09, 2008
Stroke Index is applied using an algorithm taking several factors into account. The distribution of the strokes being the reason the 18th is stroke 18. This confused me for the first 40 or so years of playing at RND but a quick Google resolved the conundrum!
Nick Munton
A great course to play if you have a sense of history and the roll of honour boards and the museum in the clubhouse certainly add to this. Judged as a golf course though, it is unremarkable, and in parts quite bland. Worth a round so you can say you've done it, but for a real test of golf (if thats what you want!), go to Saunton - and take a few spare balls!
May 29, 2008
4 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Hamish Wilson
November 19, 2010
Why must you have a real test of golf. Can you not just enjoy yourself?
John Banks
A real step back in time, this is how I imagine places like St Andrews would have looked 50 years ago, a bit rough round the edges but making the most of the natural land that invited the game to be invented. Sheep on the fairways and wild horses make for a fun time, the course has some excellent holes with some average ones. Great views around the edge of the course. Not the greatest course but a great day out.
March 24, 2008
6 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Richard Davies
Thoroughly enjoyed my round and the welcome from the Pro was second to known. First few holes are boring and its only from the 3rd onwards that the course becomes interesting, and then there are 6 or 7 super holes. Overall its a nice course, but I find it hard to understand how it rates higher than Saunton West. In my opinion both Saunton courses are superior in every way. But its still a great day out, but don't miss Saunton.
August 29, 2007
6 / 10
Royal North Devon
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michael frankel
played here may 2007. heard so much about the oldest links in england, we included it with several others in the vicinity. interesting and historically valuable, yes. some good holes, maybe a couple of great ones, yes. however, having played most of the world's top links, this isn't one of them. disappointing, weather related poor condition with too many burrowing animal holes. supposed to play it twice but passed the 2nd time.
July 18, 2007
2 / 10
Royal North Devon
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Ian Henley
A links like no other. If you want manicured this is not the course for you. However the whole course is extremely challenging and set out with some great holes - i do not recall any easy pars you were made to work for everything. Played the course in February and the greens were perfect. The fairways are a little rough in places by virtue of it being common land. We enjoyed the experience but if in North Devon again would favour heading back to Saunton.
February 27, 2007
6 / 10
Royal North Devon
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