Libbaton Golf Club Review
Course Name: Libbaton Golf Club
Location: High Bickington, Umberleigh, Devon EX37 9BS, UK
Date Played: Summer 2021
Course Type: Parkland
Constructed in 1986, Libbaton Golf Club is a parkland track situated in North Devon countryside.
It is approximately 10 miles from both of the major towns in North Devon, Barnstaple and Bideford. I’m actually a little surprised that this course receives enough golfing traffic but as it’s coming up to 40 years old it must do.
This is laid out on a roughly triangular patch of undulating land and features several ponds and a stream to gobble up errant shots.
In addition to many mature trees, there has clearly been a fair bit of planting to define many of the fairways.
The rough is pretty short for the most part although there are a few areas of long rough that may catch you out.
A major plus point is there isn’t any long rough under the trees that line the fairways. This is a particular bugbear of mine and one that adds to slow play.
The opening hole is a gentle starter with the only significant danger being the prospect of topping your tee shot into the ponds in front of the tee.
Looking at the 2nd hole on the club website you will quickly realize the hole is about 140 yards shorter than it was originally. I can only presume this is because too many golf balls were going into the house at the end of the second fairway.
The 3rd hole is a classic drop par-3 and is listed as the club’s signature hole. It is a death or glory shot as there is a steep bank in front of the green which leads down into a pond that must be cleared. You can utilize the slope behind the green as that is kept pretty short by the look of it. Personally, I preferred the seventh hole out of the par-3s on the course.
The 4th, 5th and 6th are all long par-4s that run parallel to one another back-and-forth up and down the slope of the land.
The tee shot on the 4th is up quite a significant hill and immediately follows a steep climb up the 3rd green. It was 30°C when I played so an oxygen mask was required!
The 5th is a pretty long par-4 of 446 yards. Fortunately, you are playing your second shot back down that steep hill. This takes a little bit of pressure off although anything long will end down a severe slope leaving you a very tricky pitch.
Try to hold the left-hand side of the fairway on the 6th as the trees encroach on the right-hand side near the green. You will need an accurate second as anything to the right will drift off down a steep bank and anything left will end up either in a dry ditch or undergrowth.
The next hole is the nicest looking on the course. At least it would be if they weren’t currently quarrying the stone to build the cart path!
A pretty little par-3 with a couple of ponds to catch you out. Try to avoid slicing as you’re almost certain to be in the agua!
The first par-5 is next and it has a very tricky fairway to hit. It slopes quite a bit from left to right and if you are down the right-hand side you are most likely to lose your ball either in the undergrowth or stream.
Take care with your approach as well since anything long or right of the green will leave you in trouble.
A short driveable par-4 finishes the front nine with a severely sloping fairway it’s best to aim out to the right and let the ball roll back down. Not the widest fairway but then it’s only 250 yards.
There’s a short par-5 to start the back nine. Lined by relatively immature trees that won’t cause too many problems if you miss the fairway. Make sure you avoid the ditches in the lay up area though.
11 is a short par-3 with a bunker to be avoided. If the flag is in the front lower portion of the green then you might be better off picking a club to go at least halfway up the green. That way you should take that bunker out of play.
The 12th is the longest hole on the golf course at 555 yards. Another tree-lined hole where your approach shot will be played uphill.
The biggest problem with the 13th is probably the false front on the green which I fell foul of with my approach. The green also isn’t particularly deep so it’s quite easy to go through the back.
14 is a 90° dogleg so accuracy off the tee is paramount. Trees line both sides of the hole so pick a club that you can hit around 180 yards and aim for the marker post. If you execute that shot correctly then turn 90° to your left. You’ll be left with around 120 yards or so to a green that is protected by water to the left and undergrowth behind.
The final par-5 is a short one but don’t let that fool you as there’s a ditch to clear with your second shot assuming you manage to hit the fairway from the tee. Your approach will be played to another green set above you.
16 is arguably the hardest hole on the course played parallel to the previous par-5 and only about 30 yards shorter. At least you shouldn’t have to contend with the ditch at the bottom of the slope though.
There’s also a pond to deal with on your second shot or lay up with the green setback amongst the trees.
The penultimate hole is a long par-3 played downhill to a green with water through the back so you need to be sure of your club selection on this one.
The home hole is relatively straightforward as long as you can avoid being distracted by the ponds in front of the tee.
Out of bounds awaits to the left should you stray too far and is also a problem should your approach be too big.
My impressions of the course weren’t helped by the fact that they appear to be extending the buggy track all the way around the course. This work is only partially completed at the moment.
I’m not a big fan of buggies and having an unsightly cart track does nothing for the aesthetics of any golf course.
Unfortunately, the greens weren’t the best. A little spongy underfoot and featuring some areas of moss on most of them.
I’m no expert on greenkeeping but I was always under the impression that a slightly spongy feeling green was usually a sign of a thatch problem.
Towards the end of the round, I noticed the greenkeeper driving around the course dumping the contents of a large tank of water onto each green. Indeed I ended up missing out two greens when he did this just before I was about to play the hole.
I didn’t spot whether sprinklers had been fitted around the greens. They all exhibited some signs of stress due to the recent heatwave.
I thought the fairways were in decent condition and offered a nice surface to play from. Despite the recent dry weather, they weren’t too firm to walk on either which is often an issue at newish courses which are often built on clay soils.
On the whole, I thought the tees were in reasonable condition. A few were a little worn but I think they tended to be ones that were in shady areas and therefore likely to be more difficult to maintain. The majority were nice and flat so you weren’t searching for somewhere to tee your golf ball.
Libbaton is one of a growing number of UK courses that allow you to play from the tees of your choice. This meant I was able to play the course from the white competition tees.
This course would challenge the majority of players given the number of sloping lies that you are likely to face. There are quite a few long par-4s that would test the long games of all but the biggest hitters.
Most of the longer holes are fairly generous off the tee but there are a few shots where you simply have to hit the fairway or green.
Off The Course
Food & drink is available all day in the clubhouse/bar and is there also a free-to-use practice area.
The staff and other golfers I came across all seemed very friendly.
Libbaton Golf Club Review: Summary
So how can I sum up my visit to Libbaton Golf Club? When I visit any golf course it is the greens that I look to first since they form such a large part of any round of golf.
In this case, they weren’t quite as good as I would have liked them.
There are also a number of steep climbs and long walks from greens to tees which might give someone with fitness issues cause for concern.
Some might argue I’m being a bit picky considering the round cost me only £20.
Given that a casual visitor without a county card would have paid £30 then I think that probably would have been a bit steep for the quality of golf on offer.
If the greens could be improved then the membership of £520 per year would actually be very good value for money for local residents.
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