ROYAL NORTH DEVON
England’s oldest course - and the oldest links outside Scotland - Royal North Devon, known locally as Westward Ho!, is the complete antithesis to the modern style of layout so favoured by developers in Asia - and a must-visit for anyone who considers themselves a true aficionado of the game. Established by Old Tom in 1864, then tweaked by Herbert Fowler and other local sons, RND is links golf at its most raw. There is scarcely any definition to the fairways, which are classified as common land and are more often than not populated by sheep and horses (leaving “evidence” of their presence dotted around), and the greens merely follow the natural contours of the land. But herein lies its brilliance. The best holes are down by the shore and take advantage of crumpled terrain. It’s along this stretch that you encounter huge clumps of the infamous sea rushes - a tall, spiky marine vegetation that can be even more hazardous to your score than the majority of the deep sleepered bunkers that punctuate the course. However, you wouldn’t want to stray into “Cape” bunker, one of the biggest in the land, that gobbles up under-hit drives at the par-four fourth. RND’s most famous son is J.H. Taylor, the five-time Open champion, and a large part of the atmospheric clubhouse-cum-golfing museum is dedicated to his achievements. At Westward Ho! you really are following in the footsteps of champions.
Opinions on this course varied more than any other during our trip, and whilst the golfing aficionados will delight in this legendary tracks’s idiosyncrasies, others may find the lack of definition and the wandering animals frustrating.
Whatever one’s opinion, this is a must-see course, absolutely no pushover and certainly memorable. On that note, it’s essential to allow enough time to take in the memorabilia on display, it’s breathtaking.
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