Saunton Golf Club

Herbert Fowler's acclaimed courses at Saunton are a proper test with a unique rhythm of holes.

Saunton Golf Club

Devon, England

Overview

The second 18 at Saunton puts it in the discussion for the best set of 36 in UK&I.

Tom Doak feels the 5th and 13th holes on the East Course are two of the toughest par 3's he has ever played.


Golf Course Review

The Saunton Golf Club has two links golf courses consisting of 36 holes located on the North Devon coast opposite Royal North Devon Golf Club at Westward Ho! The West Course lies in the dunes nearer the coast and borders the more inland East Course. Between the two, the more inland East Course of Herbert Fowler's vintage is considered the superior of the two.

Saunton Golf Club East Course

Saunton Golf Club came into being officially in May 1897. Originally a 9 hole course, it was extended to 12 holes by 1906 and finally to 18 holes in 1908. 4 holes were rearranged in 1912. During WW1, the course was reduced to 12 holes.

WW1 significantly affected the links and by 1919, only 12 holes were in play. At that point, Herbert Fowler was hired to return the course to its former glory. Holes 3 through 16 use the basis of Fowler's 1919 design.

With the advent of WW2, much of the East Course was leveled for military purposes. It wasn't until 1952 that the East Course was again being played after a CK Cotton restoration. The reestablishment of the links followed Fowler's design. Holes 3-5 and 7-16 can be directly linked to Fowler's routing and design.

Saunton Golf Club East Course Reviews

Read Sean Arble's tour of the East Course.

Saunton Golf Club West Course

The success of the East Course meant that by 1935, Herbert Fowler was again hired to build a second golf links - what would become The Saunton Golf Club West Course. The original West Course was lost just a few years later when the dunes were used for practising D-Day landings in 1939.

While the East Course was reopened for play in 1952, it would 22 more years for the return of the West Course. 9 holes were open after being re-designed by Frank Pennink in 1974. In 1975, the second nine was open for play. Pennink himself wrote that the course was a joint design with then Saunton GC Secretary, JWD Goodman. Donald Steel rebuilt all the greens in 1987 and added irrigation to the course.

Saunton Golf Club West Course Reviews

Read Sean Arble's tour of the West Course.

How Much Herbert Fowler is left at Saunton?

Many think Saunton is a 36 hole mecca of Herbert Fowler-designed links similar to The Berkshire and Walton Heath. This is decidedly not the case. The original Herbert Fowler links were lost during WW2. It doesn't take anything away from the quality of the golf on offer but if you're a Herbert Fowler fan, the Braunton Burrows on Bideford Bay is not the place to come looking.

It would take until the 1970s to have the second 18 holes back where they once stood. The East Course is what could be termed a CK Cotton 'Herbert Fowler restoration'.

The Saunton Golf Club East Course is highly regarded in any event with only Rye, Sandwich, Royal Lytham and St Enodoc rated higher among English links in Tom Doak's Confidential Guide.

Ranked41/100in GB&I
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

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  • MacKenzie & Ebert

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Contact Details

Devon, EX33 1LG, England

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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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