If you’ve ever thought about visiting Englands Atlantic Links, there couldn’t be a better time, as six premier links courses in the south west, have maintained their strong presence in the latest course rankings compiled by the UK magazine, Golf Monthly.
In the publication’s ‘UK & Ireland’s Top 100 Golf Courses 2015/16’, Somerset’s Burnham & Berrow ranks most highly amongst Englands Atlantic Links championship courses at number 33, up four places from 37th spot two years ago.
Burnham is closely followed by Saunton’s East Course at 35 (up from 39) and St Enodoc’s Church Course in Cornwall which has continued its rise up the rankings to 36th from 41st position.
The other three Atlantic Links courses also feature well inside the top 100 with Saunton West in at number 61, Royal North Devon – known also as Westward Ho! – placed in 72nd position and Cornwall’s Trevose in 77th spot.
Given the impressive positioning of the six Atlantic Links courses in the Golf Monthly rankings, it is hardly surprising that this terrific trail along the north Atlantic Coast is recognized as one of England’s premier golfing destinations.
“All the clubs in Englands Atlantic Links are of course delighted to feature so prominently in the new Golf Monthly rankings which are after all produced ‘by golfers, for golfers’…”
“Indeed these rankings prove that the Atlantic Links is a genuine and credible alternative to the links golf available in both Scotland and Ireland…”
“Moreover Englands Atlantic Links compare very favorably in terms of value for money with similar golf tours in the UK that offer courses of the tremendous quality that we have to offer.” said Karen Drake, Secretary at Burnham & Berrow.
Now in its sixth edition, Golf Monthly asked its ranking assessors to give various marks for Quality of Test & Design, Condition & Presentation, Visual Appeal, Facilities and Experience.
Whilst all the scores were taken into account, each report was also read carefully to look at supporting evidence and then a combination used to ensure that variations between assessors were ironed out.
This moderation process, and regular contact with assessors, makes a subjective process as objective as it can be.
The Courses: Established in 2008, Englands Atlantic Links is now recognized as one of the leading golfing destinations in the UK, thanks to the quality of its six courses.
Dating back to 1864, Royal North Devon, or Westward Ho! as it is also known, is England’s oldest links and this year celebrates its 150thbirthday for which the club has organized a number of tournaments and events.
The golf course, on terrain that undulates more gently than Burnham & Berrow, is set on common land on which livestock still graze.
While JH Taylor may have served as Burnham & Berrow’s first pro, it was here at Royal North Devon that the golfer started his career as a caddie and later finished it as club president.
With such heritage, the clubhouse serves as a treasure trove of golf memorabilia second only to the R&A.
Founded in 1890, Somerset’s Burnham & Berrow is particularly noted for its distinct sand hills that form such stubborn, natural obstacles, along with the buckthorn and even a marsh for golfers to avoid mid-way through a round.
Throw in the prevailing south westerly winds that whip in from the Atlantic and along the Bristol Channel, and golfers are left with a links challenge not for the faint hearted.
The course has evolved over the decades but today’s layout is largely the work of Harry Colt.
The club’s first professional was the legendary JH Taylor, five times an Open champion, who described the course as “one of the most sporting courses conceivable”.
Burnham & Berrow has hosted a string of prestigious amateur tournaments, most recently the 2011 R&A Boys Championship and The Brabazon Trophy.
Further down the Devon coast is Saunton, set in the remote shadows of the giant sand dunes of Braunton Burrows.
When the club was inaugurated in 1897 its clubhouse doubled up as the local post office, yet now its two championship courses, East and West, are among the greatest links in the world.
England’s most successful post-war golfer, Nick Faldo, has said, “I’ve no doubt if the East Course were located on the coast of Lancashire or Kent it would have hosted an Open Championship by now“.
Although the West course is an exceptional challenge in its own right and it is a mistake to consider it second best.
It was here in 1997 that a 17-year-old Sergio Garcia won the British Boys Championship, just two years before making his Ryder Cup debut. In 2014
In 2014, Saunton’s East and West Courses hosted the English Amateur Championship, the blue riband men’s event on England Golf’s calendar.
Cornwall’s St Enodoc is another links once trodden, never forgotten.
Founded in 1890 and designed by James Braid, it has a fantastic setting among the dunes overlooking the River Camel estuary and with far-reaching views over the Atlantic.
The Church course, so called because of the Norman Church that was uncovered in the middle of the course, is renowned for its towering Himalaya bunker that entirely blocks golfers’ view of the 6th green from all but a slither of fairway.
This is the tallest bunker in Europe. Over the past four years the course has benefited hugely from refurbishments that have included laying new greens and tees.
In 2014 St Enodoc was honoured to host the English Women’s Amateur Championship, further testament to the quality of the Church Course.
Across the Camel River from St Enodoc and over the majestic Trevose Head that juts into the Atlantic, Trevose Golf & Country Club offers a brilliant links.
This course staged the celebrated English Amateur Strokeplay Championship (Brabazon Trophy) in 2008 and the Macgregor Trophy in 2011.
Complete with state-of-the-art holiday lodges, flats and bungalows, Trevose conjures a relaxed holiday atmosphere to go with its classic Harry Colt golf course.
With only a gentle breeze the 7,168-yard Championship Course offers good scoring opportunities, particularly with 3 par 5’s, but the character of the course is transformed when the winds blows in from the sea.
The temperate micro climate of south-west England allows year-round golf with the gentler winter conditions enabling the greenkeepers to maintain their courses in immaculate condition throughout the changing seasons.
In recent year’s the standard of accommodation in the around Englands Atlantic Links courses has risen dramatically.
There is now a host of comfortable, character hotels like Woodlands Country House in Padstow, beautifully restored stately homes such as the Bath Spa Hotel, modern seaside hotels such as Saunton Sands and delightful, friendly bed-and-breakfasts.
Adding to the appeal of Englands Atlantic Links tour are the numerous off-course activities that exist in the south-west.
These include some of the best beaches in the UK, stunning cliff walks, surfing, sailing, charming fishing villages and bustling market towns such as Barnstaple and Truro, as well as visitor attractions such as The Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the world famous Trebah Gardens.
Well done to all the courses that featured in the Golf Monthly Top 100!