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, of course, has never held The 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 an Historic Research Study on the East course. The report highlighted a devastating impact to Herbert Fowler's original design, caused by military activity during the Second World War. This resulted in an early 1950s C.K. Cotton restoration.

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.

If the above article is inaccurate, please let us know by clicking here

Write a review

Reviews for Saunton (East)

Average Reviewers Score:
Description: If there is a need for another seaside Open Championship venue, then the East course at Saunton Golf Club might be a worthy candidate. Rating: 8.7 out of 10 Reviews: 78
TaylorMade
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 03, 2006
8 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

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 15, 2006
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

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
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Got a buzz when driving from Braunton into Saunton, I kept looking left trying to spot the dunes, soon I was in the friendly pro shop and was delighted to get a twilight green fee (£35), was pleased that they also paired me up with another visitor and we were allowed to play off the white markers. Having made a pigs ear all the way down the first hole we reached a rather shabby looking green (burnt patches, seeded, uncut and crow pecked) perhaps it was the just the first green but NO ALL OF THE GREENS were the same ! – also some of the fairways were ‘hooped’ off in areas where there was no grass. Do not get me wrong this course is sailing high in terms of rankings and the club is not short of a bob or two so I was disappointed by its condition. However the layout / set up is good and you do seem to be ‘on your own hole’ a lot of the time, we found the course not overlong from the white markers – only the 1st, 4th and 14th (toughest hole) made us struggle but there is relief in the aptly named 5th ‘tiddler’. An adder on the way to the 2nd tee gave us a shock so you have been warned !.
September 03, 2005
6 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Hugh
Saunton is amazing and it has everything going for it. Two fantastic courses and an excellent clubhouse (with views to die for), good food and friendly service…perfection. The East is a truly amazing links course – don’t expect to play to handicap here first time round, it’s tough. I have played here on a number of occasions and the condition has always been excellent. There are no weak holes here, just true, honest undiluted links golf…my kind of course.
April 13, 2005
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Sally
A course of massive dunes hiding beautifully kept greens - the 18th is particularly memorable and the first tee shot quite an intimidating start from its high tee. Followed a Senior's foursomes competition around the course as a two ball and we couldn't keep up!
June 06, 2004
8 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Steve Smith
When I rang to arrange to play this course, the Secretary suggested a Wednesday morning.Despite my relative youth, he suggested I play in the Competition the Seniors/Vets hold each week.I was signed in as playing with a member, and if I had been in the "frame" in the Single Stableford Competition, the result would not have been decided on back 9 etc., but on date of birth.Very enjoyable
May 26, 2004
8 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Billy
Raw, traditional, facinating links with amazing dunes. Just loved the first tee shot - formidable! Must be one of the best links courses on the planet.
March 30, 2004
8 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful