Royal North Devon Golf Club

Perhaps the most authentic and pure links in England - it is also the oldest dating to 1864.

Royal North Devon Golf Club

Devon, England

Overview

Royal North Devon Golf Club is as far removed from manicured and manufactured as you can get. It has been called the greatest natural links in the world. Traditional yet progressive, Royal North Devon Golf Club is worth every effort to see and experience.

The Ladies Club is the 2nd oldest in the world. The oldest? The Ladies Putting Club at The Himalayas in St Andrews.

The home golf club of JH Taylor and Horace Hutchinson. You can still find JH Taylor's name written on his locker!

In 1907, the R&A met to choose the host of the 1909 Open. The candidates were Royal North Devon Golf Club and Deal. The preference was for Westward Ho! but in the end, Royal Cinque Ports GC was chosen.

In 1913, Herbert Fowler described the 4th and 9th at Royal North Devon Golf Club as ideal golfing holes.

Since January 1, 2020, the golf course hasn't allowed the use of plastic tees in a move to save the environment and promote sustainability.

Tom Doak recommends golf architecture students pay special attention to bunkering and routing.


Golf Course Review

Royal North Devon Golf Club is located in England on the Devon coastline by the seaside town of Westward Ho! overlooking Barnstaple Bay. Saunton Golf Club lies directly opposite, the River Taw and River Torridge are in between and The Bristol Channel, the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean all in plain sight. The 1000-acre parcel of land is called The Burrows. Serving a dual purpose, the golf course is shared by livestock - though now limited to only 1200 sheep and 100 horses at any given time.

Royal North Devon Golf Club History

Golf was first played on The Burrows in the 1850s. Old Tom Morris made a visit in 1860 but it would be his visit in 1864 which provided the newly formed club with a 17-hole and 22-hole layout. The first 3 holes are on the flattish ground. These are somewhat out of keeping the rest on the front nine. The reason? The clubhouse was built in 1888 was a mile from the 1st tee (now 4th). The first 3 holes were built to connect the clubhouse to the existing course.

Herbert Fowler updated Royal North Devon Golf Club in 1908 and remained virtually unchanged until only recently. Under his direction, length was added and three new one-shot holes were added to the card. Six holes were given new bunker schemes. In fact, Bernard Darwin in the book, Golf Courses of the British Isles, wrote that many would compare it to St Andrews... In fact, by 1912 it was considered by many to be the finest links in the world of golf. 'Fowler's Bunker still sits proudly on the 12th fairway, albeit with the addition of railway sleepers.

Due to coastal erosion, changes were proposed to preserve the 7th, 8th and 9th. Tom MacKenzie of MacKenzie & Ebert were called upon to do the work. The proposal includes the 7th receiving a new green more inland and will be a par 5 rather than par 4. The 8th will be a completely new par 3. New tees on the 9th will make it a dogleg left par 4. The aim will be to complete the work by 2021.

Royal North Devon Golf Club: A Club of Firsts

Westward Ho! is:
- the 1st club founded by English golfers
- the oldest club in England
- the first seaside links in England
- home of the 1st ladies golf club in England (1868)

Westward Ho! 's Royal Heritage

Further information on the club and its history can be found in Scott Macpherson's book, Golf's Royal Clubs.

Independent Royal North Devon Reviews

Read Golf Club Atlas' review of Royal North Devon Golf Club.

Enjoy Richard Pennell's accomplished write-up of Westward Ho!

Royal North Devon GC Artwork

Buy modern golf artwork of Royal North Devon Golf Club.

A portrait of Herbert Fowler by Montague Cooper.Montague Cooper

Featured Architect: Herbert Fowler

Herbert Fowler was known for establishing natural-looking green sites and working backwards to the tee. Bernard Darwin described Herbert Fowler as “perhaps the most daring and original of all golfing architects..." Topography used to test with his courses following the contours of the land. Bunkers...

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At a glance

Consultants

  • MacKenzie & Ebert
  • MacKenzie, Tom

Facilities

Collections

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Contact Details

Devon, EX39 1HD, England

Visit Club Website
A portrait of Herbert Fowler by Montague Cooper.Montague Cooper

Featured Architect: Herbert Fowler

Herbert Fowler was known for establishing natural-looking green sites and working backwards to the tee. Bernard Darwin described Herbert Fowler as “perhaps the most daring and original of all golfing architects..." Topography used to test with his courses following the contours of the land. Bunkers...

View Profile

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