Golf News for Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Courses

Royal North Devon in England celebrates 150 year anniversary

The Royal North Devon Golf Club, founded back in 1864, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, a landmark that will highlight the history and tradition of the Atlantic Links, a collection of some of the oldest and most revered links in England.

The six courses that form the Atlantic Links trail (www.atlantic-links.co.uk) along the dramatic backdrop of the north Atlantic coastline boast a combined age of almost 700 years with both Burnham & Berrow and St Enodoc founded in 1890, Saunton East in 1897 with the younger members, Trevose and Saunton East, having been established in 1925 and 1937 respectively.

Royal North Devon, or Westward Ho! as it is fondly known, is not only the senior citizen of the Atlantic Links, but is also England's oldest golf course. Indeed this unique links course, set on common land on which livestock still graze today, has hardly changed in 150 years and to play it is like taking a step back in time and seeing how golf was played in Victorian England.

The club is steeped in history: it was on this course that JH Taylor, born in the village of Northam that overlooks the course, started his career as a caddie. He went on to win five Open Championships and formed one third of the great triumvirate, with Harry Vardon and James Braid, who dominated the game for some 30 years. The club honoured Taylor with club presidency in 1957 and his portrait and some of the clubs which he used to win his Open titles are still proudly displayed in the clubhouse. In fact thanks the club's heritage, the clubhouse is a veritable treasure trove of golf memorabilia, second only to that owned by The R&A.

Royal North Devon will be marking its 150th anniversary with a number of competitions during the year including the hosting of the West of England Amateur Championships (staged in April), the inaugural World Hickory Masters in August and the English County Finals in late September. A series of events and a gala evening will also take place in Anniversary Week from July 19th to 26th.

"Celebrating our 150th anniversary makes 2014 an important year for Royal North Devon as a club but we are also hoping that the occasion will highlight just how established and historical the golf courses in the Atlantic Links are in terms of golf in England," comments Mark Evans, General Manager of Royal North Devon.

"We have almost 700 years of links pedigree as a group and in terms of the quality and tradition of our courses, there really is no better links trail that offers better value than we do."

Golfers can book to play Royal North Devon in its anniversary year alongside the other Atlantic Links courses at www.atlantic-links.co.uk where a variety of golf packages are available or can be tailored to suit individual needs.

For further press information and photographs, please contact Helen Heady of Heady PR, on behalf of England's Atlantic Links on M: +44 (0)7966 491 509 or T: +44 (0)20 8789 0900 or E: helen@headypr.co.uk

Notes to Editors:
Established in 2008, England's Atlantic Links is now recognized as one of the leading golfing destinations in the UK. Hardly surprising as this exceptional string of golfing gems comprises the six best links courses in the south west: Somerset's Burnham & Berrow, Saunton's West and East Courses and Royal North Devon in Devon and the north Cornish clubs of St Enodoc and Trevose.

The Courses:
Dating back to 1864, Royal North Devon, or Westward Ho! as it is also known, is England's oldest links and this year celebrates its 150th birthday for which the club has organized a number of tournaments and events. The golf course has hardly changed over nearly 150 years and to play it is like taking a step back in time and seeing how golf was played in Victorian England. The golf course, on terrain that undulates more gently than Burnham & Berrow, is set on common land on which livestock still graze. While JH Taylor may have served as Burnham & Berrow's first pro, it as here at Royal North Devon that the golfer started his career as a caddie and later finished it as club president. With such heritage, the clubhouse serves as a treasure trove of golf memorabilia second only to the R&A.

Founded in 1890, Somerset's Burnham & Berrow is particularly noted for its distinct sand hills that form such stubborn, natural obstacles, along with the buckthorn and even a marsh for golfers to avoid mid-way through a round. Throw in the prevailing south westerly winds that whip in from the Atlantic and along the Bristol Channel, and golfers are left with a links challenge not for the faint hearted. The course has evolved over the decades but today's layout is largely the work of Harry Colt. The club's first professional was the legendary JH Taylor, five times an Open champion, who described the course as "one of the most sporting courses conceivable". Burnham & Berrow has hosted a string of prestigious amateur tournaments, most recently the 2011 R&A Boys Championship and The Brabazon Trophy.

Further down the Devon coast is Saunton, set in the remote shadows of the giant sand dunes of Braunton Burrows. When the club was inaugurated in 1897 its clubhouse doubled up as the local post office, yet now its two championship courses, East and West, are among the greatest links in the world. England's most successful post-war golfer, Nick Faldo, has said, "I've no doubt if the East Course were located on the coast of Lancashire or Kent it would have hosted an Open Championship by now," although the West course is an exceptional challenge in its own right and it is a mistake to consider it second best. It was here in 1997 that a 17-year-old Sergio Garcia won the British Boys Championship, just two years before making his Ryder Cup debut.

Cornwall's St Enodoc is another links once trodden, never forgotten. Founded in 1890 and designed by James Braid, it has a fantastic setting among the dunes overlooking the River Camel estuary and with far-reaching views over the Atlantic. The Church course, so called because of the Norman Church that was uncovered in the middle of the course, is renowned for its towering Himalaya bunker that entirely blocks golfers' view of the 6th green from all but a slither of fairway. This is the tallest bunker in Europe. Over the past four years the course has benefited hugely from refurbishments that have included laying new greens and tees. St Enodoc has been bestowed the honour of hosting the 2014 English Women's Amateur Championship from July 14 to 17, further testament to the quality of the Church Course.

Across the Camel River from St Enodoc and over the majestic Trevose Head that juts into the Atlantic, Trevose Golf & Country Club offers a brilliant links that staged the celebrated English Amateur Stroke play Championship (Brabazon Trophy) in 2008 and the Macgregor Trophy in 2011. Complete with state-of-the-art holiday lodges, flats and bungalows, Trevose conjures a relaxed holiday atmosphere to go with its classic Harry Colt golf course. With only a gentle breeze the 7,168-yard Championship Course offers good scoring opportunities, particularly with 3 par 5's, but the character of the course is transformed when the winds blows in from the sea.

Countrywide Golf Holidays
Countrywide Golf Holidays is well placed to promote the Atlantic Links as it has been organising golf tours in the UK for over 20 years and, thanks to being based in Cornwall, has indepth knowledge of the five clubs, nearby accommodation providers and off-course attractions and activities. With strong focus on personal service, tailor-made itineraries and a commitment to offer value for money, combined with a passion for the West Country, Countrywide Golf Holidays is a natural partner for the Atlantic Links. For more, go to www.countrywidegolfholidays.com or contact info@countrywide-golf.com or tel: +44 (0)1637 879991.