Saunton West Course Review
Course Name: Saunton Golf Club – West Course
Course Name: Saunton Golf Club – West Course
Location: Saunton Golf Club Ltd, Near Braunton, North Devon, EX33 1LG, UK
Date Played: Various
Course Type: Links
Saunton West Course Review: Introduction
Having already covered the club’s history in my review of the East Course I am going to get straight into a discussion of the West.
The West course was originally designed by JH Fowler in 1935. It suffered a lot of damage during the war when the area was used as a training ground.
Frank Pennink did a redesign and the course only reopened for play in 1974.
The greens were also relayed during 1987-8 to bring them up to the same standard as those on the East Course.
Traditionally UK courses have tended to offer three sets of tees. White tees for men’s competitions, yellow tees for men’s general play and red tees for ladies.
Saunton offers an additional set of tees, the blue tees. These are generally reserved for major club competitions. Members will usually choose to play off either the white tees or the yellow depending upon their standard of play.
You could also choose to use the set of black tees that are placed well forward and are used by some senior players or young juniors.
The wind plays a crucial factor in the difficulty of every hole none more so than the first. You are liable to find yourself hitting from this high tee to a slight dogleg fairway back into the prevailing wind. The presence of the covered driving range to the right of the hole adds to the difficulty because it is out of bounds. If you are prone to slice then you will need to be careful on this one. You also encounter some fiendish links pot bunkers around the first green.
The next par-4 on paper at least offers a little respite. Given you are now likely to be playing downwind you can at least take a more lofted club from the tee. Trouble awaits both left and right should you fail to find the fairway, however.
The third hole is a par-5 of less than 500 yards. Most people would therefore consider it a doddle. For the longer hitters, it probably is because they can take on the ditches on the left-hand side of the fairway. This would leave them with an opportunity of hitting the green in two. Many players won’t be able to make the carry and will need to play out to the right of those ditches. Having done that, the smart play is then to lay up short since the fairway narrows significantly closer to the green. Your approach should favor the right as the lay of the land should bring your ball back toward the green.
The fourth is the first par-3. Like a number of holes on the West is played from a high tee. Take care to avoid the out-of-bounds on the right. Slicers beware!
You then have a run of 4 testing par-4s in excess of 400 yards. The sixth usually plays back towards the prevailing wind which brings the ditches short of the green into play for all but long hitters.
You must take great care from the tee of the seventh because of the ditch that runs diagonally across the hole. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. You must then play over the ditch again with your second towards a green that is tricky to hit even if you are using a short club.
The next hole (the ninth) offers a little respite as it requires only a middle short iron. A mishit shot may find the pond short of the green and if you aren’t straight off the tee then your next shot could well be from the sand.
The back nine starts with a par-5. From the blue tees in particular this is a testing hole. Plenty of sand awaits and should you miss the fairway left or right you will be hard-pressed to find your ball.
Should you manage to avoid trouble on the way to the green don’t let your guard down. The bunker on the left-hand side has an almost magnetic effect, on my ball at any rate!
The 11th is a long par-3 made longer by playing into the prevailing wind. On some days reaching the green is a great achievement.
The 12th is another par-5 with quite a difference between the blue tee and the white tee. Only the longest hitters would have any chance of clearing the bunkers on the fairway from the blue tees. This would give them a chance of reaching in two. If you’re playing off one of the forward sets of tees then you are more likely to be worried about the ditch with your second shot. If you’re not sure you can comfortably carry them, then best to lay up.
Depending on how far you are able to hit the ball the 13th could offer one of the most difficult approach shots. It will generally be played into the wind as well. The green is set up with a diagonal ridge that will throw any short approach off to the right. Should you overcompensate and play too far left then thick rough and even out-of-bounds await.
The next hole almost begs you to open your shoulders with your driver. You need to take care choosing your line from the tee, however. Cutting too much of the corner off will leave you scratching around in the rough for your ball. The rough to the right of the fairway is generally less punishing so that would be the side to miss. Another tricky green to hit with anything short and right being thrown off toward the bunkers or worse.
Don’t get ahead of yourself on the next hole, although short at around 300 yards, the second shot can be awkward. The green is set above you with two nasty pot bunkers for any short approaches. Should you overcompensate and go over the green more trouble awaits. Even if you hit the green, par is by no means guaranteed.
Another drop hole awaits on the 16th. Played from a high tee it, is still a tricky green to hit with two nasty bunkers at the front of the green and a ditch beyond should you over club. This is about the only vantage point from which you can see the sea (well Bristol Channel)
The penultimate hole is the par-5 that is relatively simple if you manage to hit the ball straight. The biggest danger is the ditch that runs across the fairway short of the green. If you play it as a proper par-5 then it shouldn’t come into play.
The home hole is a beast of a par-3. Played from another elevated tee you have a large dune just left of the line play which can sometimes be awkward as the wind is usually from the left. If you receive a shot on this hole then deliberately playing short might not be a bad tactic in order to avoid the bunkers.
As with the greens on the East I have always been more than happy with the condition whatever the time of year I have been playing. It is particularly noticeable in the autumn and winter how firm, fast and true the greens can be. Certainly, in comparison to the greens, I play most of the year on inland courses.
Given that you are playing a links you are never going to expect the lush manicured fairways you might encounter on a parkland course. The benefit of playing a links is highlighted particularly after rain. The fairways are still very playable and you’re not picking up mud or getting embedded balls.
Teeing grounds are generally in good condition, nice and flat.
Possibly a fraction easier than the East but only a fraction. Even on a calm day, the course offers a stern challenge to every aspect of your game. Should your driver not behave then you are likely to spend a lot of time looking for your ball. The weather conditions will be a major factor determining your ability to play to your handicap. Playing the course in strong winds will require superb ball striking to score well
Off The Course
As mentioned in the review of the East course there are a number of practice facilities available along with a well-stocked pro shop and bar. On my visits to the club, I have always been well-treated by the staff.
While a round of golf at Saunton is certainly not cheap these days, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Some Open Championship venues now charge in excess of £300 per round. I still think by comparison Saunton offers very reasonable value.
If you are able to get your name down for one of the many open competitions then even better.
My golfing partners are often amazed at how much I will sometimes spend on green fees. My argument has always been that I’m never going to play tennis at Wimbledon, football at Wembley or cricket at Lord’s. However, I am able to play at the majority of top courses as long as I’m prepared to splash the cash.
If you are able to afford a day at Saunton then I highly recommend it!
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
Who owns Saunton Golf Club?
Like many British golf clubs, the club is run for the benefit of its members who own the club. It is run through a Limited Company structure. The land is leased from Christie Estates.
How much does it cost to play the West Course at Saunton Golf Club?
During peak summer it will cost £130 ($162) for a round. You can play both courses with a day ticket costing £200 ($249). During the winter months, the green fees are reduced although the courses are usually still very playable.
Which Is The Best Hole On The West Course At Saunton?
For me, the best hole on the West Course at Saunton is the 16th. It is a par-3 played from a high tee that gives you a wonderful view of the course. The green is protected by bunkers and there is also a water hazard at the back of the green if you go through.
Your club selection will need to allow for the change in elevation and most of the time for the wind as this is one of the most exposed tees on either course.
Is The West Course At Saunton Better Than The East?
I think that the West Course offers more variety than the East. Play also tends to be quicker on the West than the East as well.