Lady Heathcoat-Amory was Joyce Wethered when she won the British Ladies Amateur four times and the English Ladies Amateur five times in the 1920s. Tiverton Golf Club owes much to her husband, Sir John Amory, whose financial assistance led to the club’s foundation in 1932.
“They invited that renowned architect James Braid to inspect the land and design an 18-hole golf course,” wrote Ross Salmon in Devon Golf Clubs. “His plans were entirely satisfactory, and the only stumbling block was the high cost of buying the land, laying out a course and buying all the equipment for its maintenance as well as playing the necessary staff.”
According to the minutes of a meeting, Sir John Amory “came forward and generously offered to purchase Bradford Farm in order to provide the required site for a golf course.”
Several other benefactor’s came forward, a clubhouse was built and James Braid’s course was built.
“No two holes are alike,” continued Ross Salmon, “and it calls for a great variation of shot making all the way round.
An additional natural hazard is the Great Western Canal, which catches any sliced shot all the way down the third fairway. This is a most difficult par five…
Another typical and difficult hole is the par four eleventh. For the first two hundred yards you have trees on both sides of the fairway which slopes away towards the rough. It needs two mighty shots to hit the green… A par at this hole is quite an achievement.
There are three spectacular short holes, but all demand absolute accuracy off the tee to avoid trouble to right and left and behind.”
First played Tiverton a couple of years ago in teaming rain and my over-riding impression was of a lot of approach shots to concealed pins. Thought I should revisit on a better day and I did on a warm summers day in August 2020. I would say course condition was about average with good greens but poor bunkers (variable sand and even allowing for covid I would have thought they would have been raked on the day of an open competition). Very much parkland, the front nine seemed more hilly than the back, whilst there seem to a lot of side by side fairways on the back nine separated by trees. Overall the round didn't seem to flow, not helped by a noticeable change since my last visit; the 12th has been altered from a par 4 to a par 3 due to an adjacent housing development. I thought the first six holes were probably the better holes although I didn't like the 3rd which was an uphill par 5 and was steeply sloping left to right. Favourite hole was probably the very short 4th, despite hitting a decent shot and cascading off the bank on the right hand side of the green off the left side down an embankment ! Overall a reasonable place for an occasional game especially if parkland is your thing.
If you’re looking for a decent and accessible parkland course en-route from Burnham & Berrow to Saunton or Royal North Devon (or vice versa), Tiverton is not a bad option.
I wouldn’t recommend it in the winter, due its foundations being set on the well-known sticky red land of Devon, but for a spring/summer game, it’s a very pleasant parkland diversion from the sandy links.
The short par five 3rd really does need to be treated with respect as the fairway slopes viciously towards the canal at the landing area of a decent drive. If you can shape the ball from right to left and hold the severely cambered fairway you might be tempted to go for glory, but more often than not the ball ends up heading towards the gathering canal from where a bogey (or worse) is carded with alarming regularity.
The short par three 4th measures less than 120 yards, but its set on a rise with a significant drop off to the left and out-of-bounds on the right. It’s a cracking greensite and a great example of a demanding little one-shotter. The views from this high point of the course are glorious too.
The course would benefit from a judicious tree-clearing programme, as is the case at many English parkland courses. The strategy of “simple” straight hitting is one-dimensional.
Unusually there’s no fairway bunkering at Tiverton, the course relies on trees for hazards and the tilt of the land. The bunkering around the green complexes is decent enough.
In summary, a nice members’ club that has enough interest to keep most golfers happy enough.
Incidentally, if you’re into Gothic Revival architecture and lovely gardens, the National Trust’s Knightshayes Court is located just across the North Devon Link Road from the golf club.