South West England - Best in County Rankings 2019

04 November 2019 Respond to this article

South West England – Best in County Rankings 2019

It’s a case of “six down, one to go” with the publication of this latest news release for our English county re-ranking exercise. The South West is the penultimate region to be considered in our 2-year chart refreshment cycle, covering the six counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

With over five million inhabitants, it’s an area that extends to more than nine thousand square miles, with by far the longest coastline of any English region. It’s also home to two national parks – Dartmoor and Exmoor – and four World Heritage Sites, including the world famous prehistoric monument at Stonehenge.

There are just over two hundred clubs affiliated to the golfing authorities in the South West and we feature almost a third of their golf courses across our six county listings. Currently, fourteen of these layouts occupy positions in our national Top 100 and a handful of those are good enough to make our elite Great Britain & Ireland standings.


Cornwall

The Church course at St Enodoc was one of a dozen new entries in our World Top 100 when we last updated that particular chart in December 2017 so anybody expecting it to retain its position at the top of the Cornish rankings will be pleased to learn that it’s still the county’s #1 layout. Designed by James Braid in 1907, this delightful old links has been entertaining golfers for well over a century now.

St Enodoc Church Course

St Enodoc Golf Club - Church course

Our International Correspondent David Davis had this to say about it earlier this year: “the routing is extremely varied with eighteen totally unique holes played over what can often be called crazy landscape… plain and simple the course offers up endless fun and must be one of the most creative routings in the world… it’s a must-play and given its location a bit of a hidden gem for most. I really think a golfer’s education can’t be complete without experiences like this.”

Cornwall Top 10 Golf Courses 2019

Rank/ Course Move
1 St Enodoc (Church) No change
2 Perranporth Up 2
3 Trevose (Championship) Down 1
4 St Mellion (Nicklaus) Down 1
5 West Cornwall Up 1
6 Bude & North Cornwall Down 1
7 Newquay Up 1
8 Mullion Down 1
9 Bowood Park No change
10 The Point No change


Devon

The East course at Saunton remains at No. 1 in a county chart where the first six courses hold onto the same position. This year marks the centenary of Herbert Fowler’s redesign of the original layout and this mighty links on the North Devon coast has certainly stood the test of time, thanks in no small part to C.K. Cotton’s restoration work in the early 1950s.

Saunton East Course

Saunton Golf Club - East course

In the lower half of the Devonian listings, the 18-hole layouts at Torquay (rising three places to #14) and Bigbury (climbing four spots to #15) make admirable upward moves, whilst the Kigbeare course at Ashbury – the best of seven courses at the UK’s largest golf complex in Okehampton – squeezes into our standings as a new entry at No. 20.

Devon Top 20 Golf Courses 2019

Rank/ Course Move
1 Saunton (East) No change
2 Royal North Devon No change
3 Saunton (West) No change
4 East Devon No change
5 Bovey Castle No change
6 Yelverton No change
7 Teignmouth Up 2
8 Dartmouth (Championship) Down 1
9 Thurlestone Down 1
10 Exeter No change
11 Woodbury Park (Oaks) No change
12 Tavistock No change
13 Churston No change
14 Torquay Up 3
15 Bigbury Up 4
16 Dainton Park Down 2
17 Tiverton Down 2
18 Staddon Heights No change
19 Warren Down 3
20 Ashbury (Kigbeare) New entry


Dorset

Our No. 1 course in Dorset is still Broadstone, which was laid out by the prolific Tom Dunn in 1898 then redesigned by Harry Colt sixteen years later, though the new layout wasn’t actually completed until the introduction of the par three 6th hole in 1922. Four reviewers this year passed favourable comments on their playing experiences such as: “the scenery and the routing are wonderful… great course with some excellent holes… a classic heathland course… an absolute delight with some memorable holes.”

Broadstone Golf Club

Broadstone Golf Club

Six miles to the southeast of Broadstone, the seaside heathland course at Parkstone moves up one place to the runner-up position in the county chart. Laid out by Willie Park Junior in 1909, the course was later redesigned by James Braid, though not all of his far-reaching recommendations were implemented. Braid’s trusted contractor John R. Stutt liked the area so much that he moved to Poole, becoming a member (and subsequently president) of the club. His son, J. Hamilton Stutt, who was a past captain and club trustee, also carried out a little renovation work during his time at Parkstone.

Parkstone Golf Club

Parkstone Golf Club

Dorset Top 10 Golf Courses 2019

Rank/ Course Move
1 Broadstone No change
2 Parkstone Up 1
3 Remedy Oak Down 1
4 Ferndown (Old) No change
5 Isle of Purbeck (Purbeck) No change
6 Sherborne No change
7 Dudsbury No change
8 Yeovil (Old) Up 1
9 Dorset (Lakeland & Parkland) Down 1
10 Knighton Heath No change


Gloucestershire

Ross-on-Wye Golf Club was founded in 1903 but the club’s 18-hole layout – our #1 in Gloucestershire – is of a more recent vintage, having been inaugurated by Frank Pennink, when he was President of the English Golf Union, in 1967. Designed by C.K. Cotton, the fairways of this rather unsung gem were literally carved through a hilly woodland site, where accuracy both off the tee and with the approach shot is of paramount importance.

Ross-on-Wye Golf Club

Ross-on-Wye Golf Club

We’ve added another five courses to this county, with another couple of Minchinhampton’s three 18-hole layouts – the Avening (#5) and Old (#8) – now joining the Cherington course in our new Top 15 table. We hold our hands up and admit that we previously overlooked these two courses, so we’re now happy to correct that inadvertent oversight.

Gloucestershire Top 15 Golf Courses 2019

Rank/ Course Move
1 Ross-on-Wye No change
2 Kendleshire (Hollows & Ruffet) No change
3 Minchinhampton (Cherington) Up 1
4 Players Club (Codrington) Down 1
5 Minchinhampton (Avening) New entry
6 Cleeve Hill Up 1
7 Long Ashton Down 2
8 Minchinghampton (Old) New entry
9 Bristol & Clifton Down 3
10 Cotswold Hills Down 1
11 Knowle Down 3
12 Broadway New entry
13 Chipping Sodbury Down 3
14 Stinchcombe Hill New entry
15 Painswick New entry


Somerset

The Championship course at Burnham & Berrow has been the No. 1 course in Somerset since we first established county lists and, truth be told, it’s in no real danger of being ousted from the top spot as things stand. Starting out as a basic 9-hole layout in 1891, the links developed during its formative years with the assistance of Herbert Fowler and Hugh Alison, who were both club members, but it was Harry Colt who, in the words of the club, “produced a blueprint to turn the course into the challenge it is today.”

Burnham & Berrow Championship course

Burnham & Berrow Golf Club - Championship course

All four player posts for the course this year have been scored as 5-ball reviews, with reviewer remarks such as: “nothing better in the south west until you get down to Saunton… the course was excellent and had many stand out holes... serious test of golf with high dunes… the ambiance and overall feel of the course reflect and uphold the traditional values of the game.”

A new entry arrives at No. 9 and it’s the course at Taunton & Pickeridge in the Blackdown Hills, where Herbert Fowler was a founding member. Fowler laid out the original 9-hole course in 1892 then returned thirty-three years later with design partner Tom Simpson to extend the course to an 18-hole layout. In the mid-1960s, the course was further enhanced when Fred Hawtree carried out some remodelling work after additional land became available. Our editor-in-chief Keith Baxter was here recently and reckons T&P is "unheralded, understated and underrated".

Taunton & Pickeridge Golf Club

Taunton & Pickeridge Golf Club

Somerset Top 10 Golf Courses 2019

Rank/ Course Move
1 Burnham & Berrow (Championship) No change
2 Bath No change
3 Weston-Super-Mare No change
4 Mendip Up 2
5 Enmore Park Down 1
6 Orchardleigh Down 1
7 Clevedon Up 1
8 Saltford Down 1
9 Taunton & Pickeridge New entry
10 Minehead & West Somerset No change


Wiltshire

The 18-hole layout at Bowood prevails at the top of the Wiltshire county standings. Our Midlands and North of England Correspondent Brian Ward was “pleasantly surprised with this typically big and bold Dave Thomas design” when he played here recently, adding that “there’s an unexpected mature feel throughout the routing with numerous impressive tree specimens and historical water features (previously introduced by Capability Brown) often coming into play.”

Bowood Golf & Country Club Wiltshire

Bowood Golf & Country Club

The Blue and Orange nines at Cumberwell Park enter our Wiltshire Top 10 at number 7 and this layout is the newer of the two 18-hole courses at the club. Our editor-in-chief Keith Baxter was here a couple of months ago and his verdict was “there’s not a lot not to like.” In particular, he thought “the greensites are well done and the bunkering, while not exceptional, is good enough.” In his opinion, the club has more than enough to keep golfers satisfied during a 36-hole all-day outing.

Wiltshire Top 10 Golf Courses 2019

Rank/ Course Move
1 Bowood G&CC No change
2 Manor House No change
3 Tidworth Garrison Up 2
4 Kingsdown Down 1
5 Cumberwell Park (Red & Yellow) Down 1
6 Salisbury & South Wilts (Cathedral) No change
7 Cumberwell Park (Blue & Orange) New entry
8 North Wilts No change
9 High Post Down 2
10 Wrag Barn Down 1


The final region to be investigated in our biennial re-ranking exercise for England is the South East, consisting of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Sussex.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses