Golf News for Thursday, February 21, 2013 | Courses

England's Royal North Devon introduces international life memberships

Widely regarded as the St Andrews of England and the cradle of English golf, Royal North Devon, or Westward Ho! as it is historically known, is offering its international life memberships at US$5,000 (circa Euros3,800).

One of the many attractions of RND is that it has hardly changed in nearly 150 years so playing the course gives golfers a unique insight into how the game was played in Victorian England. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the north Atlantic coast, this ancient links is laid out on gently undulating common land where livestock still graze freely. In a stiff breeze, this fast-running links is as tough and challenging as any of the UK's most eminent links but this distinctive experience always gives the golfer a feeling of pure, raw exhilaration.

Off the course, the club prides itself on its friendly atmosphere, rather than the stuffiness so often associated with the older, more traditional clubs. Visitors are pleasantly surprised to discover how relaxed and informal the atmosphere is at RND where the 'craic' in the clubhouse is just as important as a great round out on the links.

Furthermore, Westward Ho! is a place of huge historical importance and heritage as it boasts a treasure trove of golfing memorabilia, second only to that owned by The R&A. In addition to an array of trophies and honours boards, the clubhouse is home to a portrait of the celebrated JH Taylor and many of the golf clubs he used in his Open Championship wins. Indeed JH Taylor started his career as a caddie at RND and later concluded it as club president.

International life members will have the opportunity to be a part of the club's 150th anniversary celebrations in 2014 when RND will stage the World Hickory Championships as well as the English County Finals and many other celebratory events.

To mark the introduction of the new category, an international life membership has been bestowed on the legendary Tom Watson, who played RND a few years ago. When asked in a recent press interview where he would like to turn up for a quiet round of golf, he replied, "Royal North Devon".

On accepting his life membership, Watson commented, "It would be an honour and a privilege to accept your invitation to become a life Member of your historic links, 150 years supporting the grandest game of all is quite a record. Congratulations."

Widely regarded as one of the greatest links players of all time - a claim backed up by his five Open Championship victories - and recently elected as captain of the US Team for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, the ever-popular Watson will now be able to drop by RND whenever he wants to take on this extraordinary links.

Testament to the ongoing quality of the course, RND was placed in 75th position in the latest 'Top 100 Courses UK and Ireland 2012' compiled by the UK magazine Golf Monthly.

In terms of accessibility, RND can be reached via the nearby M5 motorway and A39 "Atlantic Highway", and the international airports at Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham and London.

International life membership will comprise of:

• Life Membership of the Royal North Devon Golf Club (non-transferable) with full playing privileges

• Entitlement to use the club's reciprocal arrangements with other clubs

• Full use of the clubhouse and its facilities

• Access to the club's collection of golfing memorabilia, second only to that of The R&A's collection

• A Royal North Devon golf sweater or polo shirt, blazer badge, club tie and set of blazer buttons

For further information on international life membership of Royal North Devon, individuals should contact Mark Evans, general manager at RND on mark@royalnorthdevongolfclub.co.uk or +44 1237 473 817

More on RND can be found at www.royalnorthdevongolfclub.co.uk

For further background or high res photographs, please contact Helen Heady of Heady PR, on behalf of Royal North Devon Golf Club on M: +44 7966 491 509 or T: +44 20 8789 0900 or E: helen@headypr.co.uk

More on Royal North Devon:
RND is a great, natural golf course that is largely unchanged from the moment 100 years ago when Harold Hilton et al pronounced Westward Ho! to be England's number one competition golf course. RND is pure raw exhilaration and ultimately, the experience of playing a fast running links in a stiff breeze that still tests the very best in the game.

The course stretches out to over 7,000 yards from the championship tees (used for the West of England Championship, one of the top amateur events in the calendar), although it's a suitably stiff test at 6,650 yards, especially when the wind blows.

Many of the great players of the last 100 years were regular competitors at RND but the greatest of them all was undoubtedly John Henry Taylor. Born in the village of Northam, overlooking the course, JH started his long association with the club as a caddie but soon he became an accomplished player. He went on to form one third of the great triumvirate, winning five Open Championships. Alongside Harry Vardon and James Braid, he dominated the game for 30 years. The club honoured Taylor with a presidency in 1957.

A look at the club's honours boards, dating back to 1864, is like a "who's who" of golfing greats. It lists many of the games founding fathers such as Horace Hutchinson, Harold Hilton, Herbert Fowler and Capt Molesworth and although golf has changed hugely in the last century, great links always stand the test of time. RND is just that, a great links and as far removed as possible from the manicured and manufactured championship courses featured every week on television.

RND's General Manager Mark Evans is a scratch golfer and a former Devon County captain. He prides himself on producing a natural golf course with greens that will test your nerve and your touch to the limit. Like St Andrews a first sighting can be deceptive, many new arrivals look out from the clubhouse and ask where the golf course is. It is the sort of course which draws you back and many top golfers who have played half a dozen rounds or more will tell you it's their favourite course.

Our playing surfaces are second to none, boasting year-round fast and true greens, firm tees and tight fairway lies, which require crisply-struck iron shots. In summation, this is true golf played out under big skies and against a backdrop of crashing surf.