If you're planning your next away-day or weekend with the girls, or you fancy entering an Open competition at a different venue, here's an option from Women & Golf to help you decide.
A trip to the fabled fairways at Royal North Devon has been a pilgrimage for generations of golfers. Whether it be on the rugged links itself, in the golf museum (the members’ tangible pride in being the second oldest ladies’ golf club in the world is quite literally on display), or on the club’s honours boards, which reads like a who’s who of golfing greats, the club oozes a perennial charm.
Often referred to as the ‘St Andrews of the South’, little has changed at England’s oldest surviving club since the great JH Taylor plied his trade here over a century ago. The sheep and ponies still graze nonchalantly on the fairways, seemingly oblivious to the golfers passing by, while the links, bar a few minor alterations, has been left largely in the charge of mother nature herself.
Stretching away from you in a flat, unremarkable manner, first time visitors may be deceived into wondering what all the fuss is about. Don’t be. Negotiate the livestock, and an enthralling course plays out before you, littered with hidden humps and hollows, and a variety of some of the most idiosyncratic hazards you are ever likely to encounter.
Nowhere more so than at the infamous 4th hole, where a 15-foot wooden sleepered bunker dissects the entire width of the fairway. Find yourself entrapped, and it will require Houdini levels of trickery to advance your ball forward.
Despite rarely being over-powered by modern-day technology, the Old Tom Morris layout’s strongest defences remain the fearsome Atlantic gusts, which are as regular a feature here as the animals which meander the fairways, and the more understated bunkers, who rarely announce their presence until after your ball has trickled into their sandy jaws.
With a local rule permitting players to drop out from hoof marks, the course, more fondly known as Westward Ho! is never likely to draw comparisons to Augusta. Its charms can instead be sourced in the little eccentricities, such as the fascinating museum housed in the clubhouse, which charts the club’s history from its origins as the cradle of English golf.
Situated a little further along the beautiful North Devon coastline, the art deco Saunton Sands Hotel is the ideal spot to unwind after a day on the course. Sitting on the clifftop, overlooking the lunar landscape at Braunton Burrows, the hotel is just a stone’s throw from another of the South West’s most prestigious golfing venues, Saunton.
With an aura laced with old fashioned charm, the ocean facing hotel feels remarkably akin to something out of an Agatha Christie novel, bar the grisly bits of course! Its amenities however are unmistakably modern and include a glamorous bar, relaxed beachside grill, a gym, indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, aroma sauna, and tennis courts. A brand-new luxury spa is also slated to open later this year.
For more information about Royal North Devon Golf Club please visit www.royalnorthdevongolfclub.co.uk
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