Saunton (East) - Devon - England

Saunton Golf Club,
Braunton,
North Devon,
EX33 1LG,
England


  • +44 (0)1271 812436

  • Golf Club Website

  • 8 miles W of Barnstaple

  • Book in advance – handicap certificate required

If there is a need for another seaside Open Championship venue, then surely the East course at Saunton Golf Club is a worthy candidate. Saunton has never held an Open but it has hosted other important events. Sergio Garcia won the Boys Amateur Championship here in 1997, beating Richard Jones 6 and 5.

Saunton is located on the beautiful unspoilt North Devon coast. On the edge of Bideford Bay and the estuary of the River Taw, lie the Braunton Burrows. Unesco has designated the sand dunes at Braunton Burrows of international importance and it is the first site in the UK to become a biosphere reserve. The area is unique because there are more than 500 species of flora; many including the water Germander, are extremely rare. This area will now rank alongside Mount Vesuvius and the Danube Delta.

The East course, laid out in 1897, runs through a small part of this amazing expanse of sand dunes. Herbert Fowler added a bit of redesign magic in 1919 taking full advantage of the natural terrain, routing the holes with skill. This is the man who was responsible for the masterpiece at Walton Heath and Saunton was perhaps his finest seaside creation.

Bernard Darwin fell in love with the ancient links situated just across the Taw estuary at Westward Ho! He frequently made the “reverent pilgrimage” to Royal North Devon. Darwin had probably never played the East course at the time of writing: “Saunton looks at first glance like a fine golf course.” Harry Vardon loved it, saying: “I would like to retire to Saunton and do nothing but play golf for pleasure.”

In 2017, the club commissioned a Historic Research Study on the East course which highlighted extraordinary impact to Herbert Fowler's original design due to military activity during the Second World War.

Today's East course is clearly very different to the layout enjoyed so much by Harry Vardon, but it's undeniably a tough course. With eight par fours measuring more than 400 yards long and only two par fives, low scoring is very difficult, even more so now that the 2nd hole (once a short par five) has been lengthened to almost 530 yards. There are two excellent short par threes, which demand accuracy, and there’s the tough 207-yard 17th hole, which often needs a solid crack with a wood.

Some commentators believe that the East course would benefit from another par three and another par five to break up the relative monotony of umpteen par fours, seven of which arrive back to back from the 6th.

However, surely nobody will deny that Saunton has 36 of the finest seaside links holes in England? The East course is considered to be Saunton's best, but the West is very good too, which combined make this an outstanding venue for a golf day.

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Reviews for Saunton (East)

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Description: If there is a need for another seaside Open Championship venue, then surely the East course at Saunton Golf Club is a worthy candidate. Rating: 8.8 out of 10 Reviews: 65
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Matthew Adams
Do believe the hype. Saunton is set on perfect links land. For those not keen on very flat links there is no need for alarm. The course winds its ways through and over dunes of varying heights with such diversity in types of green settings: plateaus, flat to the fairway, in horseshoe dunes, half hidden (8th),Saunton (East) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer or with only the cloth of the flag peeking over the punchbowl lid (16th). Mercifully for the first time visitor there are few blind shots. Although the carry over the marker post into the wind on the 8th must be daunting. Many of the par threes are sited on plateaus and without exception all are absolute gems. The origami-inspired green makes the 5th, my slight favourite even though some might complain it’s too short. Access to the course would be the main reason precluding it from hosting The Open. The television pictures of The Open at Saunton would be stunning with late afternoon sunshine bathing the course in a mixture of golden rays and shadows detailing the exquisitely-crumpled landscape. The course certainly has enough variety of challenge to keep anyone entertained, even if not scoring well, with greens easier to putt on than those at Royal St George’s, especially with 18th sited bang in front of the understated clubhouse. There can’t be many courses better than this. Magical.
June 15, 2012
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Andrew Whiteley
I played Saunton East course on 11th January 2012 on a sunny, 2 club wind, 10c day. It's similar to Royal Birkdale in as much that it sports dunes that stand guard either side of most of the fairways. As mentioned by other reviewers, the 1st is a bit of a beast. It measured 445 when I played it but played nearer 520 into the two club wind. I would imagine most would settle for a bogey.  There were a few temporary greens due to work being carried out. The course was in ok condition for the time of year. Saunton (East) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerI was spoilt the previous week by playing Burnham & Berrow whos greens were the best Ive ever played. It was a bit disappointing so I would suggest if intending to play you phone ahead to check if all the greens are in play.  The 3 par 3s have wonderfully shaped green all like upturned saucers. There's only one par 5, so there is a bit of a relentless amount of par 4s, but that's a minor gripe. I've had the good fortune to play some top quality links including Royal Birkdale, Royal Porthcawl and Burnham & Berrow. Saunton is indeed a fine quality links course. Maybe 10,11 and 12 aren't quite up to the other holes, but that's just because the other 15 are so good.  Holes 13 in are top notch and a good test as you will really need to pure you ball sticking to get the better of them.  There are some great views of the endless dunes that seem to go on as far as the eye can see.  Saunton I feel is correctly rated as knocking on the door of the top 10 courses in England.  Regarding the course being worthy of the open circuit, I feel it's a little light on yardage at 6637. The tour pros would murder it unless they really toughened up the bunkering. But this course is a must for any serious links golfer. 
January 11, 2012
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Harrison Brown
January 22, 2013
Bunkering and length wouldn't toughen it up for the top Pro's, it's hole location where they struggle to get birdies.
Raindog
October 01, 2014
This is a very tough course for the members, which are the ones that really count, I looked on the how did i do website at the results, and in one of the medals the best gross was 91 by a 5 handicapper, that must've been a hell of a day. I have played dozens of times and never beat my handicap, it really turns the screw as the round goes on.
gareth
We were looking forward to playing Saunton but have to say that my friend and i were thoroughly underwhelmed by this course. None of the holes were particularly stunning by any stretch of the imagination, there were perhaps 3 or 4 'good' holes, but none that really stood out. General condition of the course was below average for the time of year, the greens were slow and tee boxes were a little scruffy. Perhaps our expectations had been raised by reviews on this website. Perhaps if the green fee was £35 rather than the £75 that we paid we would not have felt so deflated. Open Championship contender? I must have missed something, just can't see it. Having said all this, the welcome was friendly enough but the green fee was too high. We'll try Royal North Devon next time, we won't rush back here though.
September 29, 2011
4 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Marty
September 30, 2011
Amazing review. The course shows one 4-ball rating but every other review shows 5 or 6 balls. I suppose this is what the site is for, to give your opinion. In my opinion Saunton is far from average and is one place I look forward to returning to in the future. Nick Faldo rates the place and I believe he knows a thing or two of Links golf at its best.
Tony White
October 17, 2011
Sad to hear you were underwhelmed with Saunton,I will admit too I was not impressed the first time out, but I thought with all those great reviews I must be missing something. So I tried again, and now I think it is the best days golf in England. It's the isolation, condition and pure golf and 36 different golf holes. Please don't give up, with a county card you can play 36 holes for £47, best value on Planet Earth.Happy golfing.
Edward Vale
October 17, 2011
Possibly a little scruffy, but it's a fabulous course. Not "spectacular" on the course itself (but it is from the clubhouse), but a genuinely top quality, challenging links course.
JAS
October 18, 2011
Hmmm....always a problem when the wallet dictates your expectations to you. If I'm absolutely honest, I found the greens a bit slower this year (played both the Easter & August challenges) than I'd expected. The simple fact is though...outside the current rota courses there are only a handful that could press to be considered on layout and challenge....and Saunton East IS definitely one of them...ok it will fail on accessibility and infrastructure but that takes nothing away from the course itself. If a par 71 has a SSS of 74 then you know it's a proper tough test...end of!!
garf
October 25, 2011
thanks for your measured replies everyone and for not just flaming me! :) i think it was the conditioning of the course that i found most disappointing, thats why i questioned the £75 green fee. we'll have a look into the 36 hole rate with the discount you mentioned Tony, thanks for that, and get another game down there next year. still think its keeping some heavyweight company ranking just outside the top ten in england :)
Max Monroe
Awesome is the East course! Best collection of par 3's on any course I have ever played. The course a bit on the short side but still enjoyable with the many sand dunes and excellent hole designs.
July 24, 2011
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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shab
October 04, 2011
Short? First hole? You're a far better golfer than me pal!
John Alexander
Played East course end of April. Excellent condition with greens running fast and true. Always easier to write a review when you play well and finished 8 over playing off 10, annoyingly double bogeying 1st and 18th. Thought the best holes were 3, 4, 8, 10 par 3 13th. Played with north westerly wind so some of the 430yd par 4's down wind were 5 iron, pitching wedge whilst into the wind driver, 3 wood to reach the green - lovely course and have arranged to get married in Saunton Sands hotel in 2012 so will be back to play again along with West - JA
June 08, 2011
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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David Baxter
Fantastic links course with isolated fairways and large greens; excellant condition all year round; lots of par 4's but great variety and in my opinion not a weak hole; Tee shot from hole 3 off the blues is my favourite; although Par is 71, SSC is invariably around 74 and this reflects the difficulty, especially in the wind; this is real golf, so enjoyable and well worth a visit (DB)
April 28, 2011
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Tony White
Recently returned to Saunton after a gap of 10 years, and yes, it is still the best of the best. One day I will move here and I will be happy to play these two course's for the rest of my life, between them they have absolutely everything. I think it is the feeling of pure isolation, especially in the early evening, there can be no better place for friends to play golf than here, and I mean worldwide.
April 20, 2011
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Cédric
To me, definitely the best course in the area. Is has absolutely everything and ticks all the boxes. Regarding the possibility of hosting the Open, it might never happen as a member confessed to me. They lack the infrastructures, namely the one and only narrow road leading to the club. There is no doubt the course would be up for it and they are still lengthening it for other Championships. This is really a model club, very friendly, with 36 great holes. And their yearly membership fee seems ridiculously low given the quality of the golf. Cedric
April 14, 2011
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Allan Wright
I have played Saunton East from time to time over the past 25 years, and each time I come back I am reminded what a fabulous test of golf it is.Two points I wanted to add not covered in the reviews below. The first is that yes, there are 13 par fours, but look at the range of yardages and you will see that you have to play every club in the bag, even on a still day - 337, 362, 370, 380, 392, 402, 408, 414, 428, 434, 441, 455, 478. Secondly, I played last Saturday as a visitor in a club Stableford - I was playing with and introduced by a member, but the third member of our three ball was a total "roll-up". So it seems that anyone with a handicap certificate can get the chance to play a competitive round off the back tips (yup, the full blue tees at 6779 yards), a real thrill. Mind you, it acts as a stern reminder that, even on a still day in March with not much growth in the rough, when faced with a proper championship links at full yardage you may not be quite as good a player as you think you are. But it's yet another reason to make the pilgrimage beyond Barnstaple and I am certain you won't regret it
March 20, 2011
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Dan Hare
The day we played Saunton was apocalyptic weather, on one hole I screamed a drive out of the middle and it never looked like getting over the dune with the line marker on the top.The rain stung your face like needles, and my "wind proof" brolly was completely destroyed - as were any claims to water resistance from my clothes and shoes.Nevertheless, we had a great time and would love to go back to finish the round !!!
January 21, 2010
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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