Saunton (West) - Devon - England

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


  • +44 (0)1271 812436

Saunton Golf Club is located on the beautiful unspoilt North Devon coast. On the edge of Bideford Bay and the estuary of the River Taw, lie the mountainous Braunton Burrows – one of the largest systems of sand dunes in England.

The West is the second course at Saunton and was originally laid out in the mid-1930s. The land was used as a training ground during the Second World War and it lay dormant for over 40 years. Frank Pennink brought the West back to life and the course opened for play in 1975.

According to Frank Pennink's Choice of Golf Courses, published in 1976, "the pre-war New Course is now rapidly coming into play, designed jointly by the Secretary [J.W.D. Goodban] and myself... For reasons which I will not go into now, apart from its inherent character and charm, Saunton is one of my favourite links, and the New Course seems destined to become equally popular."

The West is slightly shorter than its older sister – the East – but, nonetheless, it represents a fine test, now measuring nearly 6,600 yards from the blue back tees. It challenges the very best golfers, playing host to a number of County Championships and the EGU Seniors Championship.

It’s a more than worthy understudy to the East, requiring accuracy from the tee. Both courses at Saunton have par set at 71, but the configuration of holes on the West’s inward nine is unusual and more varied than its older sibling. Three back-to-back par fours in the middle and three par threes and three par fives interspersed at the beginning, and then again, at the end.

A number of narrow streams (if we were in Scotland we’d call them burns) come into play and many of the holes feature doglegs. Apart from the opening hole, which plays directly through towering dunes, the rest of the course plays over pleasant undulating links land, where the dunes are far less imposing.

Tom Mackenzie has recently completed a West course renovation and commented as follows: "In 2016, a significant package of work was under-taken on the West Course, adding drive bunkers, re-aligning ditches and adding tees. The aim was to close the perceived gap in standard between the two courses."

The West is undeniably a very good course and some would say that alongside the mighty East, the West plays second fiddle, while others have it in the leading role.

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Reviews for Saunton (West)

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Description: The West is the second course at Saunton Golf Club and was originally laid out in the mid-1930s. It’s shorter than its older sister but, nonetheless, the West represents a challenge. Rating: 7.8 out of 10 Reviews: 29
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Richard Smith
This was a wonderful day at an amazing 36 holes of golf. I was finally able to meet my friend and editor in chief of this web site, Mr. Keith Baxter and we set out for 36 holes at Saunton. We took on the West course in the morning. Like Keith I really enjoyed the West course. This course sits in some interesting dunes and requires a good deal of thought and precision to play well which are two virtues that are dreadfully lacking in my game.

There are a number of beautiful and subtle dog legs and driver is clearly not the ideal play on a number of holes. The course is clearly fun, difficult yet fair. I enjoyed the par 4 first which was uphill, into the wind and rewards good play. I'll call the creeks burns because it's the UK, and the burn plays havoc with the drives and approaches on 6 and 7 which are excellent par 4's. 9 is a beautiful short par 3 which leaves some openings but severely penalizes the wayward shot, entirely appropriate for a hole of it's length. On the back nine 13, 14 and 15 are a superb run of par 4's varying in length and challenge but providing a great challenge. The finishing three holes of two par 3's and a par 5 is somewhat unusual but doesn't detract from a great experience.

I would rate the two courses at Saunton on par with the great 36 holes in the UK. I've never played Sunningdale but this compares favorable with Walton Heath. Among links courses the Dunluce and Valley at Portrush can give Saunton a run for it's money but that is very high praise. I know Keith is trying to decide where to join, but I can't imagine anything better than to be a member at Saunton and play both these excellent courses all the time. Click the link to read my Atlantic Coast Golf Links story. Richard Smith, Knoxville Tennessee
June 10, 2015
8 / 10
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Tom Maxwell
June 10, 2015
I'm an American who's played there each of the last two years, and will be returning this August to participate in their Open Week. I've made some good friends at the club and find the whole experience at Saunton to be among the most rewarding in my golfing life.
Keith Baxter

In terms of value, a day at Saunton Golf Club is hard to beat anywhere in England. Billed as the country’s best 36-hole links venue, it’s impossible to argue that claim. However, can anyone think of another 36-hole links club in England? I can’t.

I’m a lover of links golf and a strong supporter of England’s southwest. This is where I’ve chosen to live but as yet I have not joined a golf club in North Devon. The dilemma I face is that I can’t decide which club to join – Saunton or Royal North Devon. I’m still deliberating but it’s more likely that neither club would have me as a member.

The West course is more fun than its older sibling the East. There’s more variation, with three par fives (albeit short ones) compared to the East’s two short par fives. There are five par threes on the West (only three on the East) and every one of the West’s one-shotters capture my attention and fuel my imagination starting at the downhill 4th (“Covey”) and concluding at the home hole (“Rookery”), where I threw my match away against Richard Smith when I played here last Monday.

The East is undeniably the stronger course at Saunton Golf Club, but if the West course belonged to separate club I’d probably choose to join it rather than joining the East’s club. The reason for this is that the West is a course that always entertains me from start to finish. It’s a course that surprises me because I’m always amazed that the round finishes so quickly such is the engagement throughout. The course would benefit aesthetically and in terms of challenge from a few more fairway bunkers (as would the East) but this is a small criticism because the West course is simply a little charmer in my eyes. Keith Baxter

May 29, 2015
7 / 10
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David Worley
Club selection can be difficult here as you negotiate some severe doglegs and play alongside the tall dunes. The opening hole is a lovely dogleg right to a green nestled at the foot of the tall line of dunes.

After a succession of different length holes, the 6th heads back into the dunes. The dangers are the grassy mounds jutting into the fairway and the green which has two bunkers front left and which slopes from back to front.

The start of the homeward nine also provides for varied holes but the finish is unusual with two par threes in the final three holes. The 16th is rather like a shorter version of the 17th on the East. There are two bunkers at the front but it is a large green so hit one more club than you might think.

The par three 18th is somewhat tougher than the 16th and has plenty of gorse and buckthorn for a poor tee shot. The green has a number of mounds and anything too strong can finish in a bank with long grass.

This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
May 18, 2015
6 / 10
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Tony White
The West course is so underrated, I would definitely put this course in the same class as Hillside, Formby, S & A, and for fun right up there with Burnham and Berrow. I think it is exactly equal with St Enodoc for the golfing challenge, but more than anything else it is the location, it is the one place in England where I feel like I am on the West coast of Ireland, as much as I love the East, I would be more than happy to come here and play 36 on the West. Give me this over the £300 Surrey courses every day of the week.
September 25, 2014
10 / 10
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James
The last leg of our 9 round six day epic on the Atlantic Links trail brought us to this lauded gem of the west, Saunton. As we drove past it we could see it was going to be a fabulous piece of ground to play golf on.A night at the Saunton Sands Hotel keeping the night porter busy behind the bar was probably not great preparation for the 36 hole Mens open (they have a fabulous Open week here, See the website) but having had the tremendous benefit of the wonderful breakfast we headed for the Links. You do not have a view of the sea here at any point but you are blessed with some spectacular and pure golf. Much has been written about the East course but the West would command a visit it in its own right, even if it were not sat next to the East. There are a plethora of very engaging holes as you head out toward the beach. Of particular note are the first three holes that involve you in Links Strategy right from the off. The fairways are pretty flat and you get a fair bounce throughout. The greens are thoughtfully protected and a little undulating in places but inviting of a good shot. Although the course gets your blood running there is nothing much intimidating about this course and it is eminantly playable for all standards. We massively enjoyed it and felt it was consistantly engaging, entirely recognisable to those of us who play most of our golf in land but without any doubt a red blooded championship links course through some lovely Wind whipped dunes that invites all manner shotmaking. The routing works really well and it is a very beguiling walk. Now to the East, " I' the east my pleasure lies." (anthony and Cleopatra) JCB LAY
August 25, 2013
8 / 10
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Jon Wilkinson
Playing both Saunton courses last week in a strong wind, after all this year's rain and then some heat, the rough was utterly fearsome. This was more of a factor on the West, which is much tighter due to the almost total lack of any band of light rough by the fairways. Any stray drive was a lost ball.I would agree with all previous comments, the West is indeed an excellent course in its own right with some outstanding holes. We felt, however, that it was generally in poorer condition than the East.
August 19, 2012
6 / 10
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thomas
March 16, 2013
Saunton is a terrific golfing venue and its West course an excellent test of links golf. Mostly the course is fairly spacious off the tee but then it's thinking cap time as the greens are not only firm and true rolling but are also cunningly contoured, at times severely so, thus effecting approach play. There are some really excellent holes like the 7th, where you play over the ditch twice, plus the 13th, 14th and short par-4 15th which needs your full attention. There are really no weak holes on this course which I thoroughly recommend.
Matthew Adams
The west course at Saunton was our morning round at the club and a great introduction to the sprawling links land here. The first hole is quite short but perfectly sculpted with a raised tee and green and much interest in between. The land is perfect for a links in that it meets most people’s television-inspired view of a links, with very few flat holes Saunton (West) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerThe par threes are almost as good as those on the East course with the 4th, 16th, and 18th, played from raised tees, all excellent. The long holes offer great variety although maybe not as much as the East course which is epic. However, I would echo the thoughts of others that the West is no addendum, it is fantastic in its own right. The par 4 7th could be played in any number of ways but picking the correct line to carry the stream and stop in the fairway while keeping the approach as short as possible is a tough task for the first timer, but is enticing and infuriating in equal measure. Those who think that a links course should be ‘fair’ will not regret playing here. The fairways are firm so some bounces may be unexpected but I struggle to remember a tricky blind shot and the greens are well kept on both courses at Saunton. There is always a choice of shots into the greens so you don’t have to hit towering approaches to score well. Stay out of the long rough though, especially when it is drying out from the early morning sea mist.
June 15, 2012
6 / 10
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Tony White
A friend and I did something very silly in the summer of 2011, we travelled 160 miles to have a days golf at Saunton (that's not the silly part). After the 36 we decided we wanted another game, and after much discussion we both agreed that we would play the beautiful West course for a second time, we loved it that much, the last few holes in the setting sun were magical. It's such a great Match Play course and the back nine is dynamic with 3 par 3's, 3 par 4's and 3 par 5's. The silly part is, we are both 48 year's old and it took us both about 3 days to recover. We are going to do it all again this summer and every summer we can manage it.
March 04, 2012
10 / 10
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Cédric
Saunton West is yet another course that would be ranked higher (and I definitely think it should) if it didn't have such an esteemed neighbour. People should definitely play both courses at Saunton and make their own opinion to decide which they prefer. I liked the East more but I would feel very priviledged to be a member at Saunton. For there are 36 wonderful golf holes. Cedric
April 14, 2011
8 / 10
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HDM
I have played this course about 12 times now with my golf mad son and have to say it is a very good golf links in a lovely setting. It is not a long course but requires a lot of good course management on your way around with limited scope to take the driver out of the bag unless you are swinging extremely well in the often breey conditions. Bad shots can cause serious damage to your card very swiftly so making a good score here is no mean feat. Staff very friendly and I would rush back to have a holiday near here to play this lovely course and its bigger brother East course in a flash - if only my wife would let me! I think I prefer the East course but only slightly and this course is worth a trip to Saunton in its own right if you can find the time to do so and you like a nice challenge when you play your golf.
September 15, 2010
8 / 10
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