Wales & SW England: Golf’s Road Less Travelled (Part 6)
Playing Royal North Devon (a.k.a. Westward Ho) is akin to using a time machine. Honest to God, it feels as though anywhere - on the course or in the wonderful old clubhouse - Braid, Taylor, Vardon or even Old Tom himself might walk right up and start talking golf. And rightly so, as this is the oldest links course in all of England. Using the word charming would not be out of the question when describing RND. But as that’s due more to my being a bit of a romantic about these things, please don’t take that to mean lack of challenge, for there are many. First of all, you are seaside, although never quite hard against the shore. The terrain itself is more rumpled than tumbling but this true links land all the way through. After the first 2 gentle holes to get you going, the game is on. My favorite holes would be the wonderful short but uphill par 3 fifth surrounded by pot bunkers and the par 5 ninth that turns gently left to a severely sloping green guarded by a nasty bunker placed right in the front – no bouncing it in here!
The adventures of my buddies Hutchie and Lucky Lew would continue here. Lucky is still not playing because he’s close to needing hospital style traction but both of them were able to score individual 1-seat buggies for this round of golf. Imagine, if you will, golf via hover-round. Their “drag race” down the straightaway 17th hole was priceless.
Bideford turned out to be a good town to use as a home base for playing golf in the area. Because it’s one of the larger towns in SW England we had many dining options. Every night we had a decent meal and the locals in the pubs were never less than friendly.
The East Course at Saunton Golf Club is a muscular, magnificent championship test. If the ancient Spartans played golf, they’d probably invade and make this their home course. The course is located on the inland side of a huge dune, so there are no jaw-dropping photo ops – unless you only want pictures of a terrific golf links. Once again the guys were able to acquire a buggy but Lucky’s back was in such bad shape that he preferred not to get bounced around anymore than necessary. So he took clubhouse pub detail once again.
Upon completion of the first two holes I was acutely aware it was a day to wear my big boy pants. Flared tee balls will be carried by the wind into the fescue and likely lost. There are ditches that must be negotiated carefully if coming out of the rough. Greens are well protected by bunkers are usually surrounded by hills & humps – unless the green is raised atop one of those small hills. On and on, every hole was very solid and in impressive condition. Saunton East is another one of those world class courses you will want to play twice.
Lucky Lew was waiting for us with a few locals on the veranda overlooking the 18th green. They were all snockered. But even that turned out to be nice because they got into the whole gallery thing when I got up and down from the greenside bunker, making a decent sized snake for par.
(Next up: St. Enodoc)
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