Top: Great views from the 2nd fairway. Above: The burn running in front of the 17th green
1st can be a tough startThe green at the par 3, 6thThe 7th is stroke index 1 hole
Itís Day Three of my Atlantic Links Tour and itís 36 holes today at another of Golf Monthlyís Top 100 courses, Saunton East. First I have a warm up on the West course with three members, Mark, Alan and David. Now if you are ever offered a game with Alan and David you should do two things Ė run or split them up. Donít let them play as a pair or you may as well part with your money on the first tee!
But the pound I lost was more than paid back with the knowledge they imparted during a fun game of golf on yet another day when the clouds decided to take a day off. Blue skies and a nice breeze meant for perfect playing conditions. The same architect Herbert Fowler designed the West course sixteen years after the East in 1935. There was a redesign undertaken by Frank Pennink in 1974 and the greens have since been re-laid in 1987. The club do not own the course, but it seems the landowners and the club work well together to not only maintain and improve both courses but the surrounding natural habitat, which also gets some TLC.
Like the other courses on this tour the fairways are hard, fast and golden in colour and as my second shot to the green spins back off and just avoids the pot bunker that guards the right side, I realise that Iím in for another tough test.
The East course gets all the accolades and rightly so, but like the underrated East course at Wentworth its famous older brother slightly overshadows it. In a way this is good news for the visiting golfer, because if you do choose to play the West course it maybe a while before you bump into anyone else Ė and on a beautiful sunny day with some stunning views across the whole of this links land youíll want to take your time and, as Bobby Jones once recommended, Ďsmell the rosesí.
The West course may have five par-3s and only measure 6,403 yards, but itís not a course you are going to overwhelm with a driver in your hand. You need to be in the right positions to take full advantage of your shots into the greens. The course does offer you a lot of risk-and-reward shots. For instance the 15th is only 312 yards from the blue tees. You can aim it out over the densely covered dunes and hit the green Ė well, if you can put backspin on your driver and stop it on a green that is only 32 yards at its widest and funnels down to about six yards. You have more chance of making a birdie by hitting a hybrid and a wedge into the green. A piece of advice imparted by my playing partner Mark and a birdie duly proceeds!
If you do play the West course Iíd recommend you try and play with a member. The people in this part of the world are very hospitable, youíll have a great time and the local knowledge they divulge will help you enjoy your cold beverage as you sit in the clubhouse looking out over the 18th of the East course, readying yourself to take on that test now youíve tasted the hors díoeuvre!
Deep bunkers at the 10thThe tricky 12th greenLooking back down the 13th
All golf photography taken on the day of play © James Mason