Saunton, set in the giant sand dunes of Braunton Burrows, has two championship courses, East and West, and England’s most successful golfer Sir Nick Faldo 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.”
Quite simply, there is not a weak hole on the course from the drive from the raised tee at the 1st to the last, the impression is of a thorough examination of your game on a series of long par 4s with the pick of them the 1st, 4th, 14th and 17th.
The West course is also an exceptional challenge and 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.
Many feel the West course is a tougher mental challenge with precision the key especially at the 1st, 6th, 16th and 18th to pick out just a testing quartet.
Saunton also boasts one of the best clubhouse views I’ve seen – there’s nothing better than enjoying a drink on the veranda overlooking the course in the company of club captain Charles Marten, who was my expert guide around the East course.
Not unlike Saunton, Burnham and Berrow is noted for its distinct sand hills and winds that whip in from the Atlantic.
The course has evolved over the decades but today’s layout is largely the work of Harry Colt although new tees at the 5th, 8th, 10th, 13th and 15th have produced a course of 6,925 yards with a par of 71 off the championship tees.
It’s a more manageable 6,658 off the white tees and 6,436 off the yellows and there are some classic par 4s such as the 2nd, 7th and 11th, while the 12th is a dangerous hole involving water and the par-3 17th is a smasher.
So, was it worth the drive? Most certainly it was and all six courses in the Atlantic Links stable are accessible via the M5 motorway and the A39 “Atlantic Highway”, but if you want to wimp it, you can fly to Bristol, Exeter and Newquay.
With average green fees of around £60, the courses also compare favourably with similar quality links in Scotland and Ireland and are a lot cheaper than some of the green fees being asked in Marbella and the Algarve.