Best Golf Courses In Devon

Blessed with glorious scenery, the best golf courses in Devon are packed with a brilliant mixture of challenge, topography and diversity

Best Golf Courses in Devon - East Devon
The thirteenth is the final short hole at East Devon
(Image credit: Geoff Ellis, www.golfworking.co.uk)

Best Golf Courses In Devon

Devon is a beautiful, lush, rolling county with Cornwall to the west and both Somerset and Dorset to the east. It is also home to three of the Top 100 courses in the UK&I, all links, as well as a fantastic array of coastal, parkland and moorland golf. There are 44 clubs affiliated to the county union, and this deliberately varied selection of the best golf courses in Devon is intended to show off the terrific variety on offer throughout the county.

Saunton

Saunton - West Course - Hole 4

The fourth is the first short hole on the West Course at Saunton

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Braunton
  • Founded 1897
  • Architect Herbert Fowler
  • GF £90-£195 depending on package, check website for details
  • Par East 71, 6,444 yards - West 71, 6,200 yards
  • Contact Saunton Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Saunton is one of those rare but exceedingly lucky clubs to have more than one course in the Top 100. The East is at 49 and the West is 75, and there are plenty of golfers who actually prefer the latter as it offers arguably more variety, especially in terms of par 3s and par 5s. They're two of the best links courses in England. It is the East, however, that is widely considered to be the tougher of the two, and it has hosted many important amateur events since it was redesigned by Fowler in 1919. The West is certainly no pushover and this means there are 36 holes of top-level, tournament-standard golf on offer at this glorious and spacious site that is separated from the beach by towering dunes.

Read full Saunton Golf Club East Course review

Read full Saunton Golf Club West Course review

Royal North Devon

Royal North Devon - General

A moody sky over the wonderfully natural and rugged course at Royal North Devon

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)
  • Location Westward Ho!
  • Founded 1864
  • Architect Old Tom Morris, Herbert Fowler
  • GF £90 Sun-Fri, £100 Sat
  • Par 72, 6,693 yards
  • Contact Royal North Devon Golf Club (opens in new tab)

In 1860, Old Tom Morris spent a month at Westward Ho! and redesigned the rudimentary layout that had been played on for a few years. The club formed in 1864, and Morris returned to make improvements. There were some Herbert Fowler modifications about 40 years later, and recent coastal erosion has led to some ongoing changes at the far end, but this classic and very natural design has a worldwide reputation. It's one of the best golf courses in England. This is golf at its most elemental; the oldest course in the country and a living museum of the game.

Read full Royal North Devon Golf Club course review

Axe Cliff

Axe Cliff Golf Club - General

Axe Cliff is blessed with a lovely cliff-top setting on the south coast

(Image credit: Axe Cliff Golf Club)
  • Location Seaton
  • Founded 1894
  • Architect James Braid
  • GF £25, all week
  • Par 70, 5,913 yards
  • Contact Axe Cliff Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Axe Cliff is home to a little-known James Braid design that runs up and down the coastal hilltops above Axmouth Harbour and the shingle beach on Devon’s south coast. The opening six holes run over hilly terrain on the landward side of the South-West Coastal Path, and the remainder zig-zag their way ever-closer to the clifftop before heading for home. The course is lightly bunkered, and while it may not be Braid’s greatest strategic test, it scores extremely highly in terms of scenery and feelgood factor.

Bigbury

Bigbury Golf Club - Hole 13

The approach to the par-4 thirteenth at Bigbury with the River Avon deep in the valley below

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Bigbury-on-Sea
  • Founded 1923
  • Architect JH Taylor
  • GF £46 (£35 after 13:00)
  • Par 70, 6,011 yards
  • Contact Bigbury Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Bigbury will soon celebrate its centenary, and its lovely course was designed by JH Taylor and FG Hawtree. It has elements of both parkland and downland with exceptional views of the Avon Estuary and out to sea. Regular elevation changes mean that it is far from a pushover despite its modest length. Wind is likely to feature, and the front nine comprises three of each par where the standout is the terrific par-3 7th across a valley. Most unusually, there is only one par 4 between the 2nd and your return to the clubhouse at 11, but this is of little concern on a sporty course where fun is to the fore. The closing loop of seven leads you down to the beautifully-sited short 15th with its fabulous views out over romantic Burgh Island. All-in-all, Bigbury is a course that is sure to put a smile on your face.

Bovey Castle

Bovey Castle - Hole 5

Protected by the river, the fifth hole at Bovey Castle is a real beauty

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Moretonhampstead
  • Founded 1929
  • Architect JF Abercromby, Donald Steel
  • GF £70
  • Par 70, 6,299 yards
  • Contact Bovey Castle Golf Club (opens in new tab)

It would be hard to imagine a more archetypal English country garden setting for a golf course than this beautiful tract of land on the edge of the moor, and the opening holes are quite simply as pretty as several pictures. JF Abercromby laid out the original design in 1926 and it was sharpened up by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie about 18 years ago. It’s very easy to be distracted by the surroundings early on, and the beautiful babbling brook may claim your ball at any of the first eight holes. The back nine doesn’t quite match the front but is still very attractive and has some fine holes. Don’t forget your camera!

Churston

Churston Golf Club - Aerial

An aerial view over the third hole and beyond of the very pretty course at Churston

(Image credit: Churston Golf Club)
  • Location Brixham
  • Founded 1890
  • Architect Harry Colt
  • GF £55-£60
  • Par 69, 6,192 yards
  • Contact Churston Golf Club (opens in new tab)

All that remains of Churston’s original course after Harry Colt’s redesign following WWI, is land that now makes up the opening and closing holes on the western side of the railway.

The layout now opens with a super-tough par 3 and is then very much an out-and-back configuration with the short par-4 10th at the far/eastern end of the course. Colt’s trademark bunkering remains a key ingredient, and although the boundary is mainly mature woodland, there are still some lovely, elevated views out over the sea.

Dartmouth

Dartmouth - Championship - Hole 3

The par-3 third on the Championship Course at Dartmouth is played from an elevated tee

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Dartmouth
  • Founded 1992
  • Architect Jeremy Pern
  • GF From £38
  • Par 72, 6,637 yards
  • Contact Dartmouth Hotel, Golf & Spa (opens in new tab)

The Championship Course at Dartmouth is a comparatively young and perhaps American-looking course that has great variety and challenge, some glorious scenery and views, and several excellent holes including the four thrilling par 3s. The best two short holes are those at 3 and 5; the former played from an elevated tee over a lake and the latter just a short iron to a lovely green beside a pond. The 9-hole Dartmouth Course is also well worth a game, and playing all 27 in a day is very much recommended.

East Devon

East Devon Golf Club - Aerial

East Devon is blessed with a wonderful site along the clifftops

(Image credit: Geoff Ellis, golfworking.co.uk)
  • Location Budleigh Salterton
  • Founded 1902
  • Architect Harry Colt
  • GF £85 (£70 after 14:00)
  • Par 70, 6,261 yards
  • Contact East Devon Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Despite its proximity to the sea, this lovely clifftop design is not so much links as it is heathland in nature. There are also elements of downland and parkland thrown into the very tasty mix. Dating back to 1902, Herbert Fowler modified the original design before Harry Colt created today’s layout which even has a smattering of James Braid thrown in for good measure. The elevated position means that wind is frequently a factor, and what it lacks in length is more than compensated for by charm, variety and magnificent views.

Read full East Devon Golf Club course review

Sidmouth

Sidmouth Golf Club - Hole 1

Looking back down the opening hole on the hilly course at Sidmouth

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Sidmouth
  • Founded 1889
  • Architect JH Taylor
  • GF £25-£35 depending on number of golfers per tee time
  • Par 66, 5,127 yards
  • Contact Sidmouth Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Sidmouth is a very friendly club that dates back to 1889, and its undulating course is the work of JH Taylor. The front nine runs along the hillside and ever upwards, and includes a hat-trick of varied and enjoyable par 3s from the 4th. There are also super-tough par 4s at the 3rd and 8th, but the climb is rewarded with terrific views out to sea and along the Jurassic coast. The back nine eases you down to the characterful clubhouse and there is great variety all the way.

Tavistock

Tavistock Golf Club - Hole 2

The course at Tavistock leads out onto the beautiful hills of Dartmoor

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Tavistock
  • Founded 1890
  • Architect Unknown
  • GF £40
  • Par 71, 6,512 yards
  • Contact Tavistock Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Surrounded by rolling hills that look as though they go on forever, this gorse-lined layout has evolved over almost 130 years into a course that entertains, is totally fair, and challenges just enough without ever threatening to beat you up. It runs over wonderful, crisp, free-draining linksy turf and the greens are very true and fast-running. Take care at the double green shared by 6 and 14; 3-putting can almost be regulation!

Teignmouth

Teignmouth Golf Club - Hole 11

The par-3 eleventh at Teignmouth is played over an old quarry

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Teignmouth
  • Founded 1924
  • Architect Alister MacKenzie
  • GF £50 all week
  • Par 69, 6,105 yards
  • Contact Teignmouth Golf Club (opens in new tab)

Teignmouth is 10 miles south of Exeter and blessed with a most fabulous setting up at 800 feet with panoramic views out to sea, over the town and estuary, and inland towards Dartmoor. The course was laid out by Alister MacKenzie a decade before he went on to design Augusta, and with the exception of the 13th, it is still largely his handiwork. The most obvious reminder is the trademark two-tiered greens surrounded by humps and bumps, and it is a delightful place for golf with masses of variety including six diverse and testing short holes. Beware the closing hole, a 230-yard par 3 up a slope and into the wind to a wickedly-contoured MacKenzie green!

Thurlestone

Thurlestone Golf Club - Hole 7

The par-4 seventh at Thurlestone is part of a thrilling run along the beach

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Thurlestone
  • Founded 1897
  • Architect Harry Colt
  • GF £60-£65
  • Par 70, 6,262 yards
  • Contact Thurlestone Golf Club (opens in new tab)

If ever there was a playing configuration of contrasting halves, Thurlestone has it with the front nine playing to a par of 33, and the way home containing four par 5s in its total of 38. This is due to its clifftop location which amply compensates for any imbalance with enjoyable golf from start to finish, as well as outstanding views out to sea and over to Burgh Island and beyond. Harry Colt extended the course from its original nine holes and the wind is often a feature which can make short holes long and vice versa.

Read full Thurlestone Golf Club course review

The Warren

The Warren Golf Club - Aerial

The Warren enjoys a fabulous setting between the sea and the River Exe

(Image credit: The Warren Golf Club)
  • Location Dawlish Warren
  • Founded 1892
  • Architect James Braid
  • GF Contact club for details
  • Par 69, 5,968 yards
  • Contact The Warren Golf Club (opens in new tab)

The Warren is a traditional links that is easy on the legs and as natural as they come. Situated on a promontory that is also home to a nature reserve, this James Braid design is a fine test of shot-making, particularly when the wind is up. Well bunkered and with a handful actually designed to hold water, it also boasts a one-off finishing hole with a tee in the marshes and the green in a hollow between the entrance road and Platform One of the local railway station; unique, eccentric, and totally memorable.

Yelverton

Yelverton Golf Club - Hole 2

Humps and bumps guard the approach to the tough par-4 second at Yelverton

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Yelverton
  • Founded 1904
  • Architect Herbert Fowler
  • GF £40-£55
  • Par 71, 6,302 yards
  • Contact Yelverton Golf Club (opens in new tab)

One of the greatest golf architects of all time, Herbert Fowler designed this excellent test back in 1920 which is surrounded by glorious moorland including the brooding Sheeps Tor. A number of craggy and hazardous ravines, probably a throwback to ancient tin mining, come into play at various points, especially in front of the 13th and 18th greens. The two short holes on the back nine at 12 and 17 are both excellent and this is another very friendly club where its fun to spend time in the lively clubhouse.

There are plenty of other courses in Devon that are more than worth visiting. Such is its natural beauty that even its slightly more modest layouts have much to offer.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at r.smith896@btinternet.com.