Review for Saunton (East)

Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Review:

I returned to Saunton last Monday to meet up with Richard Smith from Knoxville, Tennessee. Richard is one of our Top Reviewers and a fine golfer who has visited Britain & Ireland regularly over the last thirty years or so. The southwest of England was a gap in his golfing CV, so I persuaded him to make the trip to see for himself what this area has to offer.

It was a lovely day for golf, with an unusual northwesterly breeze. After tackling the underrated West course in the morning, followed by lunch on the wonderful terrace that affords panoramic views over the Braunton Burrows, we headed for the East’s elevated first tee that is perched atop a sand dune. As I stood on that first tee, I decided that I really should get out more frequently to experience the seaside delights that lie on my doorstep. I last played Saunton almost five years ago.

Most male golfers with a reasonable handicap should choose the white tees. The club allows play from either the yellows or the whites and the whites represent a sensible challenge at 6,444 yards with par set at 71. The first is not a gentle start. This 465-yard par four requires a solid drive followed by an approach across a ditch that lies 50 yards short of the green. The pro’s tip is very true: “A 5 will win the opening hole more times than not. Keep this in mind.” The East’s 1st (“Gullpit”) is certainly one of my favourite opening holes. The first of only two par fives arrives at the 2nd hole and it’s reachable for big hitters, measuring only 34 yards longer than the 1st. Fowler’s green sites are usually interesting and the second green is set in a table-like style that is protected by bunkers left and right but has an opening that caters for the ground game. “Homeward”, the other par five, does not arrive until the 15th and it’s even shorter than the par four 1st.

“Tiddler” the par three 5th is the only one-shot hole on the outward half and as its name suggests is the shortest hole on the card. Short certainly does not mean easy – miss the green long and you can be in a world of trouble as I painfully found out. “Sandhill” the par four 8th is an old school par four that has a totally blind drive over a tall dune to a generous fairway on the far side. The green site on 10 is set on a high “Plateau”, hence the name and it’s an engaging short par four that is all about the approach shot to a wickedly tiered green. It’s one of the best holes on the East course. The 11th “Field” feels rather weak compared to 10 but from hole 12 to the last, it’s one solid links hole after another.

There is no doubt in my mind that Saunton’s East course is big enough to host an Open Championship. But as we all know that is unlikely to happen for a multitude of reasons. Assuming the East was chosen by the R&A, many extra fairway bunkers would be required as these are currently relatively thin on the ground. I prefer Saunton to a number of current Open venues but if the East course had a genuine par five I’d be even more impressed. Keith Baxter

Date: May 27, 2015


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