The West Country has some of Europe's best golf courses

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Jeremy Whittle enjoys links golf at its best (and manages to avoid Europe's biggest bunker...)


 

If Padstow is renowned for super seafood, schools of Chelsea tractors and vast sandy beaches, then Rock, on the other side of the Camel estuary [pictured above], deserves a worldwide reputation for great golf. The St Enodoc golf club perched on the headland overlooking the estuary and Padstow bay, has to be one of the finest seaside golf locations in Britain, ranking with other famous courses such as Prince's and Royal St George’s, Aberdovey and Harlech, Turnberry and St Andrews. 

 

There are two courses, the Holywell and the Church, but it is the latter that has the greatest resonance, partly because former poet laureate John Betjeman is buried in the churchyard by the 10th green [pictured]. There are so many spectacular views from this course, ranked 99th in the world by Golf Digest in 2014, that you easily get distracted from your game.

Steadfastly loyal to a James Braid design, the course is shorter than some, but the combination of changes in terrain, occasional blind shots and undulating greens make for an exhilarating experience. 

Memorably, the par 4 sixth has perhaps the most daunting bunker I’ve ever come across, a vast gaping dune that bears comparison with the fourth hole at Lahinch Old Course or the giant and infamous ‘Himalaya’ bunker on the fourth at Royal St George’s in Kent. This, then, is the bunker some call the ‘biggest bunker in Europe.’ I’m delighted to say that thankfully I didn’t need my crampons or sand shoes after a crisp six iron sailed mercifully beyond this monstrous hazard to the edge of the green.  

 

But it’s the seaside holes on the back nine, played on a fine spring afternoon, with the tide coming in over the estuary’s empty beaches, that really linger in the memory. The final stretch of the 16th, 17th and 18th, make for a tough but enjoyable finish, which can be savoured in the well-appointed and very friendly New England-style clubhouse. 

Only an hour or so north of Rock is another classic links course at Saunton Sands (sauntongolf.co.uk).  Set back from a beach big enough to land Air Force Dakotas on, Saunton Golf Club is a classic low lying links threading its way through the dunes at Braunton Burrows that was first established in 1897 and that has hosted many major amateur championships. 

Like St Enodoc, Saunton is very highly thought of and the East Course is ranked no 32 in Golf World magazine's Top 100 courses — that’s despite having been used as a military training ground during World War II. The course was painstakingly restored in the post-war years and by 1952 was once again ready to play. It has since been further modernised with slightly longer tee shots and more bunkers, making it a fearsome prospect when the wind blows, while the West Course, shorter and more strategic is another firm favourite.

Both St Enodoc and Saunton are part of the Atlantic Links collection of West Country seaside courses and represent the finest seaside golf in Britain.


You can read more about both these courses and others at atlantic-links.co.uk

 

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