Golf Course Review of Saunton Golf Club (East & West)
Saunton Golf Course
Reviewed by Ed Battye -
Quick Summary: 36 holes of wonderful links golf
Our 5 Star Rating: 4.7 (East), 4.4 (West)
If anyone dare claim there is a better 36 holes of links golf at one golf club in England than at Saunton I'm pretty sure I could make an unquestionable case for this wonderful piece of linksland.
One of the things that confirms this for me is, not only the quality of every single hole, but the subtle yet significant differences between the two courses.
I've played both courses on multiple occasions and there is no doubt that this is links golf of a very high quality.
My first ever round was on the 'inferior' (ha!) West course but after the first two holes you know this is going to be a special day;. The first hole contains everything that an opening hole should possess in my opinion. It's of medium length, has a high tee where everything lies before you, there's a safe option or a more aggressive line and the green is just out of sight adding an extra level of suspense. And when you reach your tee-shot that uncertainty is replaced with delight at a green complex that sits perfectly into the foot of large sand dunes inviting your approach. The second is also a magnificent hole with a precise drive required between more huge dunes before the hole turns to the right and you are faced with an intimidating second shot. This really is one of the strongest starts to any course in the country.
The rest of the links ventures away from the largest dunes on the estate but there is still a reasonable level of elevation change and the course slowly reveals several pleasant surprises as you make your way around the layout.
It's not as quirky as somewhere like Silloth on Solway or Burnham & Berrow but there's a real element of fun to be had playing here and whilst it's demanding in terms of stroke-making it also provides massive enjoyment and allows you to play any number of shots into the greens. Many of the greens here are raised and that alone makes for an interesting challenge.
Virtually every hole is absolutley rock solid and each has grown on me with every play. The seventh is a clear stand-out hole whilst the trio of par fours from the 13th are also very strong.
There aren't any weak holes on the course although the par three ninth, named 'Pond', is my least favourite. Take that away and you have 17 thrilling holes each offering something special and without a hint of monotony.
Meanwhile, the East course is very much a different proposition to the West. Although the terrain is relatively flat, especially the fairways, several of the holes run through the notorious burrows giving each one its own distinct character. It's a longer course than the West and you will often hear words such as; mighty, grand, strong and titanic to describe it. It is indeed a powerhouse of a course and, as many have put forward in the past, it would be a venue with attributes worthy of hosting an Open Championship.
That said, I would say the West is possibly the more memorable course. There are a lot of very strong par fours on the East and to say they are all much of a muchness is unfair but at the end of the day it is usually the holes on the West that are the easier to recollect.
Everything is laid out in front of you on the East. It's a very visible course with only a small number of blind or partially sighted holes - two of these come when you drive at the 8th and hit into the 16th. It isn't as tight as the West but long hitting is required even when the course is running fast. It's a fair course and you earn every single birdie or par here.
I was hugely impressed with the East although it perhaps didn't quite live up to the (awe inspiring) billing in terms of what I had read and heard beforehand on the first play but it has grown on me over time. Perhaps I was expecting too much first time around.
Holes of note on the East course are too many to mention. There's a whole series of top draw par fours and all three of the par 3's are very good too. The fourth, aptly called 'Gap', and the ninth, with a brilliant green complex, are my personal pick of the two-shotters but the third, tenth, 14th and 18th would also be worth candidates. Meanwhile, you will struggle to find a better links par three than the exposed 13th.
The only two holes which I dislike on the East are the sixth and 11th which just don't quite seem to fit with the rest of the course.
So which is the best course? I would probably agree with the majority and say that the East is a 'better' course, certainly from a championship perspective. But it would be a close call and the West is certainly more fun and calls for more creativity.
If I could only play one I'd be happy to toss a coin... but whenever I come here I make sure I play them both!
Saunton is featured in the National Club Golfer Top 100 under £100 Golf Courses of Great Britain.