Golf course in autumn light with colourful trees lining the fairway
Golf course in autumn light with colourful trees lining the fairway

5 golf courses in the South West that shouldn’t be missed

Here's our pick of some of the lesser-known golfing gems in the glorious South West of the UK.

For the comparisons with Pebble Beach: Thurlestone Golf Club

Once compared favourably to famous Pebble Beach in the US by the ‘voice of golf’ Peter Alliss, Thurlestone is one of those edge-of-cliff courses that Devon seems to specialise in. It has some seriously impressive coastal views to provide the backdrop to your round and the course itself is well designed and maintained – with a Top 100 in England ranking to show for it.

The cliff top views along the front 9 are particularly superb, and on a clear day you can see as far as Cornwall. Test yourself against the pacy greens, strategically placed bunkers, tricky rough and of course the blustery sea winds.

For the golfing heritage: Royal North Devon Golf Club

The Royal North Devon Golf Club (or Westward Ho as it’s also known) was founded in 1864 and is thought to be the oldest golf course in England still playing over its original fairways.

History seeps from its pores and the club quite rightly wallows in its glorious past. It’s an Old Tom Morris design over common land and has changed very little in the subsequent 150 years. Herbert Fowler did make some changes in 1910, but you really are playing a piece of history when you tackle this course. Make sure you take the time to check out the golfing memorabilia in the clubhouse, where a portrait of five-time Open winner, JH Taylor, has pride of place.

The 11th hole is a perfect illustration of what Royal North Devon is all about. It’s only 370 yards but viewed from the tee it seems intimidating and deceptive, with trademark spiky reeds and a number of bunkers in view. Disorientation is something this course does very well – generally the fairways are more generous than they look but you’ll need your drives to be pretty accurate.

Royal North Devon is ground zero for links golf in England, a course that should be experienced several times to fully appreciate its many virtues and one that is vastly underrated.

For the heathland perfection: West Sussex Golf Club

Designed by Cecil Hutchison and Guy Campbell, West Sussex Golf Club is a spectacular, traditional-style course that all golf enthusiasts should tick off their list. The better-known names of Sunningdale, Walton Heath and Swinley Forest are all within an hour’s drive, but this little gem offers one of the UK’s best heathland challenges.

The modest yardage is a consequence of the longest hole (the 1st) being only 484 yards. Consequently, first-time visitors may wander on to the 2nd tee with their guard down having had a comfortable first shot, but this course should not be underestimated. The only par 5 on the course has been and gone and ahead of you are six par 4s in excess of 410 yards, while two of the quintet of short holes come in at over 220 yards.

There are some obvious strengths. The bunkering is superb - the sand is mainly brilliant white with a soft powdery consistency on the fairways but and a little more grit around the greens. The greens are surprisingly contoured with everything from punch bowls to false fronts to take on.

A head-scratchingly good round for experienced golfer with plenty to offer the higher handicappers, too.

For the adrenalin junkie: Perranporth Golf Club

If you're holidaying anywhere near Padstow, Newquay, or Truro, this memorable links course is a must. Perranporth Golf Club was designed by famous course architect James Braid in 1927 and sits on the rugged cliffs above Perranporth beach, meaning many of the holes have impressive views across the Atlantic. It ranks in the top 100 courses in the UK and is one of the South West’s most popular golfing destinations.

There are several changes in elevation during the course of the round and you often play from exposed tees, located on top of dunes, or from dune-lined fairways up to greens in the gods. Local knowledge or tips from the resident pro are essential as there are a large number of blind tee and second shots, but this is links golf as it was meant to be played. Each hole doesn’t reveal itself until the moment you walk onto the tee and even then, it doesn’t always show its full colours. Not for the fainthearted, certainly, but exhilarating when your game is good.

For the spectacular coastal views: Gloucester Golf Club

If your enjoyment of golf depends as much on the surrounding scenery as the game itself, there are few courses better in the southwest than Gloucester Golf Club. Nestled in a prime location on the edge of the Cotswolds in 240 acres of glorious countryside, the pleasure of your round will definitely be enhanced by the beauty of the vistas.

Gloucester has an 18-hole, par 72 championship course that’s been designed to benefit from the natural undulations of the hillside as the hill falls from a height of 600 feet to 200 feet at the base of the golf course.

The first 11 holes have you negotiating the lower slopes with streams running parallel and across the fairways. After the tricky uphill par 3 of the 12th, you enter the scenic holes that have the best views across Gloucester and the surrounding countryside. These include some interesting and tricky holes - especially the downhill 18th where many golfers have tried to drive the green, with disastrous consequences.

In addition to the 18-hole golf course you'll find a 9-hole par 3 golf course, ideal for warming up.

Hopefully this has given you some fab new courses to try the next time you’re in the South West of England. Happy golfing!