Royal Lytham to Steal the Limelight during the 2012 Open Championship, But England Boasts a Wealth of Premier Links in the South West
The links of Royal Lytham & St Anne’s on the north west coast of England is set to steal the limelight in July when it hosts the 2012 Open Championship, but England boasts a wealth of premier links courses that can be found in the south west of England.
Located on the north Atlantic coastline, England’s Atlantic Links comprises of some of the oldest and most beguiling links in the country despite never staging a tournament of the stature of The Open Championship, due in the main to the lack of infrastructure in the region.
That is not to say that these courses are lacking in terms of allure, quality and history. This tantalizing trail of ancient links, set amid the wild and unadulterated backdrop of north Atlantic coastline, offers challenging and exhilarating golf.
First stop is Somerset’s Burnham & Berrow which is known as a challenging course that has evolved over the decades. Today’s layout however is largely the work of Harry Colt and is noted for its distinct sand hills that form stubborn, natural obstacles along with the buckthorn, a marsh and prevailing south westerly winds that whip in from the Atlantic and along the Bristol Channel,. The club’s first professional was the legendary JH Taylor, five times an Open champion, who described the course as “one of the most sporting courses conceivable”.
Testament to the quality of the course is the number of top amateur events that the club has hosted since its inception in 1890. The 2009 Tillman Trophy was staged at Burnham & Berrow whilst in 2011 it hosted the R&A Boys Championship and The Brabazon Trophy – for the fifth time – and in doing so entered golfing history by becoming the first course to hold both championships in the same year.
Further down the coast Royal North Devon, founded in 1864, is England’s oldest links course and a must for anyone interested in the history of the game. Experiencing Westward Ho! as this links is fondly referred to, is like taking a step back in time and seeing how golf was played 100 years ago whilst the memorabilia and ancient trophies found in the clubhouse are rivalled only by those housed in the Royal & Ancient clubhouse in St Andrews.
Nearby Saunton meanwhile boasts two championship courses that since 1932 have enjoyed a strong tradition of hosting prestigious amateur competitions and in 2014 Saunton’s East and West Courses will stage the English Amateur Championship, the blue riband men’s event on England Golf’s calendar, in late July. Little wonder that Sir Nick Faldo once said of the Saunton links, “I’ve no doubt that if the East Course were located on the coast of Lancashire or Kent it would have hosted an Open Championship by now”.
As the trail heads down to Cornwall, another links once trodden, never forgotten greets the golfer. St Enodoc, founded in 1890 and designed by James Braid, revels in a stunning setting amongst the dunes overlooking the River Camel estuary and with far-reaching views over the Atlantic. The Church course, so called because of the Norman Church that was uncovered in the middle of the course, is famous for its towering Himalaya bunker that entirely blocks golfers’ view of the 6th green from all but a slither of fairway.
St Enodoc’s neighbour, Trevose, is set against the backdrop of the majestic Trevose Head and in benign conditions the 6,973-yard championship course offers good scoring opportunities though the character and challenge of the course are transformed when the wind blows in from the sea. Trevose has also staged a number of amateur tournaments including the 2008 Brabazon Trophy and this year will host the McGregor Trophy.
Together these legendary, award-winning championship courses have firmly established themselves as one of the most prestigious links destinations in the UK.
England’s Atlantic Links courses’ combined appeal of history, tradition and variety is complemented by numerous off-course activities along the Atlantic coastline.
England’s South West is simply bursting with attractions including pretty coastal towns like Ilfracombe in North Devon, bustling market towns such as Wadebridge and Barnstaple and charming fishing villages like Port Isaac, Rock and Padstow along the north Cornish coast whilst historic towns like Weston-super-Mare and Bath, near Burnham & Berrow in Somerset, are ideal destinations to round off a golfing adventure.
The region’s rich culture features the inimitable Barbara Hepworth Museum and Tate St Ives, displaying the very best in modern and local art, the renown Eden Project and fascinating Lost Gardens of Heligan whilst outdoor activities such as surfing around Newquay and walking and horse riding in Exmoor National Park are as good as anywhere in the British Isles.
The gastronomic delights of the South West are not to be missed either, from the exceptional Padstow seafood restaurants of famous local chef Rick Stein and a variety of other Michelin-starred restaurants, to real English ale and authentic pub grub in an abundance of traditional country pubs.
The temperate micro climate allows year-round golf with the gentler winter conditions enabling the greenkeepers to maintain their courses in immaculate condition throughout the changing seasons.
Meanwhile the overall standard of accommodation in the South West has risen dramatically in recent years and there are now a host of comfortable, character hotels like Woodlands Country House Hotel, beautifully restored stately homes such as the Bath Spa Hotel, modern seaside hotels such as Saunton Sands and the St Moritz Hotel & Spa and delightful, friendly bed-and-breakfasts.
In terms of travel, the nearby M5 motorway and A39 “Atlantic Highway”, and international airports at Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Newquay, ensure easy accessibility for all visitors.
For further information on England’s Atlantic Links, visit www.atlantic-links.co.uk.