Royal North Devon Golf Club Course Review

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
Photo: Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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

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.

Royal North Devon Golf Club

The timeless terrain of Royal North Devon Golf Club (Photo: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

Royal North Devon Golf Club

Sleepered bunkers abound (Photo: Kevin Murray)

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.

Royal North Devon Golf Club

The links has been fighting back against tidal erosion (Photo: Kevin Murray)

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.

Royal North Devon Golf Club

Looking across the links to the town of Westward Ho! beyond (Photo: Kevin Murray)

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.

Assessor Feedback

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.

GM Verdict

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
Jeremy Ellwood

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 even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, 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 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...