Issuu on Google+

n Crashing waves off Trevose

Seaside specials For some of the finest seaside golf you’re ever likely to play, head down to the West Country’s Atlantic coast. Peter Ellegard packed his bucket and spade as well as his clubs inks golf: the mere mention can make sentimental golfers go misty-eyed and daydream about the likes of the Old Course, Carnoustie and Turnberry. Or 2011 and 2012 Open Championship hosts Royal St George’s and Royal Lytham. England’s West Country is very unlikely to figure, though. Which is a shame, because there are some wonderful links gems that more than match up to their famous counterparts. Some of the region’s top clubs are trying to change all that. Forming an alliance called England’s Atlantic Links, these five clubs offer six of the most historic seaside courses along the scenic Atlantic coastline of Somerset, North Devon and North Cornwall. And you would be hard-pressed to find a better collective test of golf in such magnificent settings anywhere in the world, let alone on your doorstep. You can play one or two of them on a short break, but to see the region in all its glory and experience the best of its traditional links golf, take a touring holiday to play them all while adding some sightseeing along the way.

L

That is exactly what I did, starting at Cornish holiday resort Padstow to play James Braid classic St Enodoc and Harry Colt’s Trevose, then driving up the Atlantic coast to North Devon, where I played both Saunton courses and made a pilgrimage to Royal North Devon – England’s oldest links course – before completing my tour in Somerset to test my mettle against another Colt beauty, Burnham & Berrow. I did my tour in July, just before the annual summer school holidays. Sadly, the great British weather didn’t play ball all the time and I had to brave rain and wind on some days. Yet at other times, such as the day I played Saunton’s duo, the sky was wall-to-wall blue, and I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect setting.

tallest bunker In Padstow, I based myself at the imposing Metropole Hotel, close to the harbour. The fairways of St Enodoc line the cliffs across the Camel Estuary directly opposite and you can take a ferry from the harbour over to Rock with your clubs and walk to up to the golf club. I got there via a pleasant country drive. My drive on

Peter Ellegard

88 tlm n the travel & leisure magazine

www.tlm-magazine.co.uk

Spring 2012

England's Atlantic Links

pack your clubs n england’s atlantic links


the first tee of the undulating Church Course, however, was anything but pleasant, disappearing into dunes way off to the right. It was also a pity about the heavy overcast skies, as it is one of the South West’s most beautiful courses and gives wonderful views from its elevated tees, fairways and greens. Originally designed by Braid in 1907, the course is a par 69 that may not be long by today’s standards but is both a beauty and a beast, with tight fairways and thick rough. It takes its name from the lovely Norman church with its distinctive crooked spire encircled by the 10th14th holes. The feature that really grabs golfers’ attention, though, is on the par-4 6th. The infamous Himalaya bunker – reputedly the tallest in Europe – is a giant crater carved into a huge dune that towers over the fairway like its mountain range namesake. Hit a drive off target here and they may need to call out a search party for you if you try and find your ball. Despite it being high season, I encountered few other golfers on my round. I instantly recognised one – European Tour pro Chris Wood – when I walked past him at the par-3 8th hole, where he had been practising firing irons at the green. I’m glad he moved on before I tried emulating his perfect shots, all resulting in gimme putts, and found a bunker instead. It was like watching a darts pro hit repeated bullseyes before missing the dartboard completely myself. St Enodoc’s closing stretch, overlooking beaches, the Camel Estuary and Padstow, is divine, and I ended in seventh heaven after a rare birdie on the 200-yard, par-3 17th. On the other side of Padstow lies the family-owned Trevose club, which includes on-site apartments and lodges just steps away from the fairways.

n View to the Camel Estuary at St Enodoc

England's Atlantic Links

pack your clubs n england’s atlantic links

Spring 2012

n Teeing off at Burnham & Berrow

Peter Ellegard

Its 18-hole Championship Course (there are two other nine-hole courses) is laid out alongside a bay with views to the headland beyond over crashing waves or, as when I played, gentle swells. The course comprises two loops, the front nine holes hugging the coastline and sand dunes and the opening two holes playing down towards the sea, while the back nine heads back inland to finish with an uphill 18th. Trevose has welcomed golfers to its glorious links since Colt created it in 1925. It is a pedigree shared with exulted layouts such as Masters home course Augusta National, Sunningdale and Open venue Muirfield. If that doesn’t have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end, the views and approach shots will, especially if the wind is up. From Padstow, I headed north to Saunton Sands in Devon. You can do the 80-mile journey in around two hours if you take the A39 Atlantic Highway all the way. However, it is worth diverting onto smaller coast roads at times for a more leisurely drive to take in villages, beaches and sights. Saunton Golf Club has two jewels threaded between dunes adjacent to Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is Britain’s largest sand dune system

Peter Ellegard

biosphere reserve

n Bunker at Royal North Devon with Cape bunkers beyond

tlm n the travel & leisure magazine www.tlm-magazine.co.uk

89


pack your clubs n england’s atlantic links

Off course attractions Cornish resort Padstow has a pretty harbour and great seafood, with several restaurants and a fish and chip bar owned by celebrity chef Rick Stein. Visit pretty coves and sandy beaches nearby, watching surfers on the Atlantic rollers. The space-age greenhouses and gardens of the Eden Project (www.edenproject.com) are just 20 miles from Padstow. Take a tour of the Camel Valley Vineyard (www.camelvalley.com) to buy some of its award-winning wines. I recommend the sparkling rose. Bodmin Moor’s Jamaica Inn (www.jamaicainn.co.uk), made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel, is a good pit stop. At Tintagel, explore the castle (www.english-heritage.org.uk/tintagel) said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Pretty Boscastle is worth a visit, too. Walk past the beach huts on Saunton Sands, in Devon, and survey the dunes of

“You would be hardpressed to find a better collective test of golf in such magnificent settings anywhere”

Eden Project

n Eden Project greenhouses

UNESCO-listed Braunton Burrows (www.explorebraunton.org). Enjoy a cream tea by the seafront at Westward Ho! Drive through Exmoor National Park (www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk), but detour to visit the villages of Lynton, on the coast, and Lynmouth, on the cliffs high above, taking the water-powered Cliff Railway that

and lies behind three-mile-long Saunton Sands beach. Golf was first played here in the 1890s, on what would become its celebrated East Course. The course has some of the finest opening holes in Britain, starting with a bruiser of a 478-yard par 4 followed by a testing par 5 and two more long par 4s, including the handicap-one 4th. Other standout holes include the 6th, which has a ditch down its right-hand side. The blind tee shot over a tussock-covered dune on the par-4 8th will also test your nerve – and leave you a blind approach to the green over another one if you spray it right. Golf commentating legend Henry Longhurst once described the East Course as “the best course never to have held the Open Championship”. I wouldn’t disagree. The equally-beguiling West Course, which was added in 1975, has five par-3 holes including the 16th and 18th, but is no pushover. It has more doglegs than its sibling and needs more course management to keep your ball on the short stuff, both off the tee and approaching the well-

protected greens. Both courses have been chosen to host the English Amateur Championship in 2014.

hoofprint rule

Peter Ellegard

n Saunton's East Course

90 tlm n the travel & leisure magazine

www.tlm-magazine.co.uk

links them. In Somerset, climb Brent Knoll for views over the Severn Estuary to Wales and enjoy a seafront sunset dinner in Weston-superMare. Inland, you can visit Cheddar Gorge (www.cheddargorge.co.uk), get New Age in Glastonbury and see the cathedral in historic Wells.

The nearby, landmark Saunton Sands Hotel makes a handy base as well as offering sweeping views over the beach and sea and the Burrows. Also known as Westward Ho! and located in the town of the same name, Royal North Devon is a treat for golf and history aficionados. It is the cradle of English golf and was founded in 1864, with Old Tom Morris laying down a course prior to Henry Fowler, also responsible for Saunton’s East Course, designing the layout that is roughly what you play today. The course retains its historic character but has stood the test of time well and remains a challenge, not least for the intimidating sleepered walls of the Cape double bunker, over which you have to send your drive on the 4th hole. Gorse bushes and small greens, some like upturned saucers, test your accuracy while the horses and sheep that roam freely – the course is on common land – provide an unusual sight and occasional mobile hazard. Thankfully, a local rule states that if your ball lands in a hoofprint, you can move it without penalty. Make time to look round the fascinating museum in the clubhouse, which has a remarkable collection of old clubs and memorabilia. After a drive through Exmoor into Somerset, I stayed in the delightful Woodlands Country House Hotel close to Burnham-on-Sea to play the most northerly Atlantic Links course, Burnham & Berrow. A classic, undulating links layout, five-time Open winner J H Taylor was the first club professional.

Spring 2012


Woodlands Country House Hotel Woodlands is an ideal base for both serious and social golfers. We are only 2.3miles or 3.7km from the championship course of Burnham & Berrow, which also offers the 9 hole Channel course.

Woodlands can also offer to organise tee-off times for our guests at Burnham & Berrow (Saturday mornings excluded) as we have an arrangement with the club for direct access to key tee-off times. If you can provide your preferred tee-off times when you book your accommodation we can arrange your tee off times for you. Green fees are at the standard rates. Once you have enjoyed your game you can retire back to Woodlands to relax with a drink or a cream tea, perhaps play a game of 'crazy croquet' on the lawn, and enjoy fine dining at our restaurant.

Please visit us at www.woodlands-hotel.co.uk or call on 01278 760 232

Hill Lane, Brent Knoll, Somerset TA9 4DF Just 2 miles from the M5, exit at Junction 22.

Spring 2012

Woodlands

ɄɤȽɜɑɴ

ɄɤɕȐ

ɄɜȐȵ ѥ HȐɕɜǸɤɑǸȽɜ

tlm ■ the travel & leisure magazine www.tlm-magazine.co.uk

91


pack your clubs n england’s atlantic links

GOLF CLIPS

england’s atlantic links golf facts when to go Peter Ellegard

Enjoy golf year-round. The Atlantic-facing coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset enjoy some of Britain’s warmest spring, summer and autumn weather – and mild weather in winter, when green fees are lower. n Beach huts at

getting there

Saunton Sands

All five Atlantic Links golf clubs are easily accessible via the M5. Travel between them on the coastal A39 Atlantic Highway.

accommodation Somerset: Woodlands Country House Hotel, Brent Knoll (www.woodlands-hotel.co.uk). Devon: Saunton Sands Hotel, near Braunton, Imperial Hotel, Barnstaple, and Barnstaple Hotel, Barnstaple (all www.brend-hotels.co.uk); Heasely House, North Molton (www.exmoor-hotel.co.uk); Norbury House, Ilfracombe (www.norburyhouse.co.uk). Cornwall: Metropole Hotel (www.the-metropole.co.uk); Trevose Golf & Country Club, Padstow (www.trevose-gc.co.uk); St Moritz Hotel & Spa, Wadebridge (www.stmoritzhotel.co.uk); The Dormy House B&B, Rock (www.dormyhouserock.co.uk); St Enodoc Hotel, Rock (www.enodoc-hotel.co.uk).

New Ryanair routes to Cyprus are expected to boost the island’s golf tourism. Stansted-Paphos is one of 14 new routes from European airports this spring, and with the island’s top-rated golf course, the Nick Faldo-designed Elea Golf Club, just 10 minutes from Paphos airport, travelling golfers are predicted to form a significant percentage of passengers. The Stansted route will offer four flights a week from May 2, giving an annual capacity of 37,000 seats. www.eleaestate.com

more information Visit the Atlantic Links website at www.atlantic-links.co.uk or call 01932 228333.

courses n Padstow harbour

Devon Royal North Devon Golf Club, Westward Ho! www.royalnorthdevongolfclub.co.uk Saunton Golf Club, near Braunton: www.sauntongolf.co.uk

England's Atlantic Links

Somerset Burnham & Berrow Golf Club, Burnham-on-Sea: www.burnhamandberrowgolfclub.co.uk

Peter Ellegard

Cornwall St Enodoc Golf Club, Rock: www.st-enodoc.co.uk Trevose Golf & Country Club, Padstow: www.trevose-gc.co.uk

n Burnham & Berrow

The course is characterised by daunting, grasscovered sand hills and small, sloping greens, made harder by the constant, buffeting onshore winds. I was happy to get round losing just one ball. My favourite holes included the par-4 12th, where a church overlooks the green, and the demanding par-3 17th, with a lighthouse beyond it. It would be hard to choose a favourite course from the Atlantic Links portfolio, though. I might just need to play them all again to help me decide.

92 tlm n the travel & leisure magazine

www.tlm-magazine.co.uk

Sardinia’s Forte Village Resort is launching a new Wentworth Golf Academy in conjunction with the legendary Wentworth Club. The academy will be run by Wentworth’s PGA professionals from May to September and will coach children and adults on the holiday resort’s synthetic short-game area and new driving range, where golfers hit balls into a lake, as well as oncourse at the nearby, 27-hole Is Molas Golf Club, a former Italian Open venue. www.wentworthclub.com, www.fortevillageresort.com

The Turkish resort of Kusadasi, on the Aegean coast, is gaining its first golf course soon. The 18-hole, 6,991-yard Kusadasi International course officially opens in September and features USGA-standard greens and challenging and undulating fairways. Rental clubs and buggies will be available, and it will also have an academy offering lessons and golf clinics. Currently, Turkey’s golf courses are concentrated in southern resort Belek, with a few around Istanbul. www.kusadasiinternationalgolf.com Golf club rental specialist ClubstoHire’s expansion continues, with impending openings in Lisbon and the Isle of Man taking it to nine outlets – the others being Antalya, Alicante, Murcia, Dublin, Malaga, Edinburgh and Faro – and Gran Canaria and Tenerife opening soon. US stores may follow by the end of 2012. In a tie up with car rental company ArgusCarHire.com, customers booking cars in its locations can also book hire clubs. Rentals start at £35 per week, with rental periods from one day to four weeks. www.clubstohire.com

Spring 2012


Spring 2012

tlm â–  the travel & leisure magazine www.tlm-magazine.co.uk

93


pack your clubs - england’s atlantic links