The links at Westward Ho! is steeped in history; sharing the fairways with sheep and horses evokes a tangible link to the game’s roots
Royal North Devon Golf Club Course Review
Top 100 Ranking 2021/22 - 85
Previous Rankings 2019/20 - 82 2017/18 - 74 2015/16 - 72 2013/14 - 75 2011/12 - 73 2009/10 - 69
Summer Green Fees
Round: £40-£80 Sun-Fri, £40-£90 Sat; 36 holes: £90 Sun-Fri
Visitor Times: Sunday to Friday after 9.30am, Saturday after 2pm
Medal Tee: Par 72 – 6,693 Yards
Website: www.royalnorthdevongolfclub.co.uk (opens in new tab)
Changes since previous ranking
The new lengthened 7th hole is now in play as a par 5, while the 9th has been shortened from a par 5 to a par 4.
Work on creating a new par-3 8th hole has now been completed, and this new hole will come into play over the next few years depending on the extent of tidal erosion.
Royal North Devon Golf Club Course Review
The historic links at Westward Ho! in Devon is the oldest course (not club) in England still playing over its original fairways.
RND dates back to 1864, and as you set out towards the sea over a couple of relatively benign holes, you may just wonder what all the fuss is about. But be patient!
Before long, you’ll be out onto a landscape of sleepered bunkers, sea rushes, grazing sheep and horses, and golf of the rawest and most fun kind.
Yes, it can take a couple of rounds to begin to understand the subtleties of this great links, but that is all part of its charm and character.
Related: Top 100 Courses UK and Ireland
There are some tremendous holes as you turn right after the 2nd and play more or less parallel to the coast until you reach the long par-3 8th, whose green can be frustratingly elusive if the wind is howling in off the sea to your left.
Fighting back against the tide
This is the part of the course where Royal North Devon has been suffering from coastal erosion in recent years, and where things have been rejigged a little.
The now-completed new 8th hole won’t be drafted in, though, until the tide and elements leave the club no choice.
In this stretch, the tee-shot on the 4th – Cape – perhaps epitomises what the course is all about.
Here, you have to carry two huge sleepered bunkers off the tee, and although you should make it, failure to do so into the wind or on a mishit could make for a very interesting second.
Generally, there’s room to manouevre off the tee, but things tighten up a bit as RND’s famous sea rushes make their presence felt early on the back nine, especially on the 10th where they hide the fairway alarmingly.
As you turn and head for home via the 414-yard 18th the wind may well be at your back. But if it’s strongly against, you could be standing in the fairway with a very long club in hand contemplating your chances of clearing the burn that crosses the fairway just short of the green.
RND is steeped in history and has an old-school feel, but this is a friendly place to play and the clubhouse, packed with golfing memorabilia, is a wonderful spot for a debrief over a pint.
The holes running from 3 to 9 are endorphin-inducing as they are truly spectacular links holes, my favourite being the par-5 6th, which has a raised tee offering the most amazing panoramic view.
One of the best vistas in golf from the clubhouse.
The excellent recent erosion-enforced course changes will hopefully secure this historic course’s future for many generations to come.
The links at Westward Ho! is steeped in history; sharing the fairways with sheep and horses evokes a tangible link to the game’s roots.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
12 Tips For Playing Golf In The Rain
Struggling to replicate your summer golf in rainy weather? Here, we provide 12 tips to help maximise your potential in wet conditions
By Neil Tappin • Published
Data Confirms That Putting Gets Harder As The Day Goes On
Arccos data guru Lou Stagner shared a chart that shows putting is easier earlier in the day compared to late afternoon/evening
By Ross Kilvington • Published