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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Iain
A wonderful course and with the correct infrastructure would be great Open venue. This is rated very low on the list of English course at number 11. I would rate it as number 2, with Royal Birkdale as number 1 (only because of the Open history) Saunton is miles better than the course currently ranked as number 2 (Woodhall Spa, Hothckin). It is a better and fairer test of golf with much more tradition, but is also much friendlier with excellent customer service.
May 14, 2008
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Max Monroe
I was fortunate enough to have played in the West of England a few years ago and got to play six rounds on the East course. I have played over 30 of the top 100 courses in GB&I and many in the States and this is truly one of the most under rated courses on this list. Without question Saunton's East course has the best three par 3s on any one course, The BEST. The wind can really make this course play drastically different day to day. The location of the club is part of the splendor, set amongst tall and wild sand dunes. With a little bit of added length and more room for spectators this would be an Open venue. Saunton is a must play for any links purist. The West course is excellent too.
March 20, 2008
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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andrew armstrong
This is one of the finest collections of golf holes of any links golf course in the UK. There is not one weak hole on the course and just when you think you've got a rest bite with a relatively easy looking hole, there are greens with contours that you can easily three put on. If that's not enough then the on shore breeze will certainly make the long par 4 holes very difficult indeed. This is a very true test of golf and the course, quite deserves to be in the top 100 UK golf courses. While your'e their, also have a go on the West course, it's also a very good course!
September 24, 2007
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Richard Davies
Wonderful course but so difficult! Blind shots, punishing rough, tiered greens this has it all. Scenery and views are magnificent, and you quickly realise you are playing somewhere very special.You will need to be playing at your best to have any chance of matching your handicap, and virtually every hole is a serious challenge to your ability and stock of balls.The green fee though high, reflects that you get the opportunity to play 2 wonderful courses the match of anywhere. It really is that good.I look forward to returning.
August 29, 2007
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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michael frankel
played here twice as part of a 9 day trip in may 2007. a lovely course in fine condition with some really special holes. this is worth going out of your way to play. as i'd read, however, the wonderful dunes were more part of the scenery than the golf course so for links lovers, it's not as exciting as it looks. the caddymaster and his crew added to the enjoyment. overall, very good, but NOT a potential Open venue.
July 18, 2007
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Brian Tomlin
Played this course in March and it deserves to be placed much higher in the rankings than it currently is. If it had better infrastructure it would have held an Open by now - put simply this is the best links course in England and I cannot wait to return to this golfing oasis.
March 17, 2007
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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anthony wright
A warm welcome was given by the starter, you are then faced with 470 yard par four with rubbish waiting left and right for the errant drive and yes there is a carry of some 150 yards. This course's length is not the dififculty but the feeling of trouble that lerks just off every fairway.The condition of the course was near to perfect the greens true and quick. Thanks to the professional and greenstaff for their develish placing of the pins. A great experience and challenge.
July 06, 2006
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Oliver MIddlemiss
Standing at the first tee at the East Course in Saunton is quite an experience. Classic links extend all around you as you reach for the driver (nothing else is a viable option, as the tee shot on 1 requires a 200 yard carry over impenetrable terrain). A word of advice at this point: it is advisable not to attempt such a hazardous tee shot having visited the local hostelries of North Devon on the previous evening. Such establishments are well known to lure unsuspecting golfers with their fair maidens and even fairer pricing policies. Unfortunately, this author was undone by this unique combination of hospitality and course design, but having recovered with enough to be able to be ‘put down for a seven’, it was on to the second where the sheer magnificence of this course simply rolled on. If Saunton was located in, say, East Lothian or the East Neuk, it would perhaps be considered to be one of the greatest courses on the planet. It has rightfully been mentioned as a possible additional Open venue. I personally do not believe that, at present, this course could support an Open Championship. Road access would be tricky, and, to be slightly critical, the clubhouse is not up to it. Changing facilities were Spartan, and the service and food in the bar/restaurant area left quite a bit to be desired. This is a course with so much potential – the 18 holes are near perfect. Whether the management of the complex have the acumen, or desire to turn it into something truly special remains to be seen.
July 04, 2006
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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Wayne
Far and away the best course we played while staying the west of England. Simply magnificent golf and just as I imagine it should be during the British Open. Hard fast fairways and greens wispy long rough and great routing. We really enjoyed ourselves here at Saunton and our only regret was not having the time or stamina for the West course which looks pretty damn good too.
June 16, 2006
10 / 10
Saunton (East)
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paul
Played the East on a cold February afternoon, but it soon warms up!Great course and club members all very friendly, the views of the dunes are very impressive and the selection of par 3's,4's and a couple of 5's are great. At £35 with a meal on a winter rate it is worth every penny,and the greens are as good as any you will find in February. It may be off the beaten track but if you are in the Devon area you should not miss it.
February 26, 2006
8 / 10
Saunton (East)
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