This GCMA club is famous for… Royal North Devon

This venerable club, run by Mark Evans, can claim to be the oldest in England…

The honours board alone at Royal North Devon is older than some major cities and is a monument to some of the greats of the game.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 09.44.52Harold Hilton, Herbert Fowler, Horace Hutchinson – all are stencilled into the wood for eternity. Yes, Westward Ho! can claim to be the birthplace of English golf. Founded way back in 1864, it is the oldest golf course in the country and is thought to be the oldest links course anywhere outside of Scotland. To put that into context, when it opened, cricketer WG Grace was a mere stripling at 15, the American Civil War was still raging and the Football Association was only a few months old. That kind of wisdom gives the course a certain character and it is largely unchanged in a century.

JH Taylor, the five-time Open champion, learned his craft here among the reeds, rushes and farm animals. Some of the clubs which he used to win those titles are now on display in the Royal North Devon clubhouse. The building plays host to its own museum, which is a must see for any students of the game, and the trophies on display there are a monument to golf in its earliest days. That the course is really, really, old is not its only unique feature, though.

Westward Ho! is the only place that has an exclamation mark in its title, while the signature shot on the course comes on the fourth hole and features the fabulous Cape bunker. Old Tom Morris was responsible for the massive sand trap, which lies some 170 yards from the tee. Most players today simply drive over the top of it but a painful experience awaits those who fail to properly get through the ball.

Around 100 yards across, with 15 foot high planking, the Cape is a sight to behold but a menace to your scorecard and was once considered one of the widest bunkers in Europe. Keep well away from it if you want to truly enjoy your day out at Royal North Devon.

By Marie J. Taylor

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