The Golf World Top 100 panel selects the best golf courses in Devon, a county of supreme depth thanks to its famous links and inland stars.
Devon has courses sitting on two different coastlines and theirs are the names that immediately spring to mind when you think of golf in this south-west county.
But that’s not the whole story, because Devon gets its depth from its inland courses, with pretty much half the list having been in the conversation for a spot in our Top 100 Courses in England and four making the final ranking.
Yet while it has a pleasing standard spread across the county, it is at the same time one of the few counties where there is an undisputed No.1.
Devon is also home to England’s oldest golf course – Royal North Devon – with the Westward Ho! links created by Old Tom Morris and founded back in 1864, making it a must-visit for golf aficionados and traditionalists.
But why should you trust our ranking? Well, the Golf World Top 100 panel has been ranking the finest courses in England for decades and has the most comprehensive knowledge in the game. Using a combination of our current rankings and their experience of each county, the team has produced a comprehensive list of the best golf courses in every English county.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
What are the best golf courses in Devon?
1. Saunton (East)
Without question Devon’s No.1. This ‘links without dunes’ was created by Herbert Fowler on the north Devon coast in the 1920s.
Built on links turf, it is well routed with a feeling of space. It has one of the best opening series of holes in Britain and Ireland, with a series of classy, demanding two-shotters creating a high-calibre start.
Ranks 22nd in our English list, but it could so easily be ten places higher because there’s so little to separate the higher echelon of courses. 32nd in our ranking of Britain and Ireland’s best links, and just inside the top 50 in our list of Britain and Ireland’s best courses.
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2. Royal North Devon
Equally as well known as ‘Westward Ho!’, RND is situated on Northern Burrows, an area of common land shared with horses and sheep, and it is natural, simple, playable, fun and scenic.
Famous for its bulrushes, on hand to gobble up an inaccurate drive, RND is known as England’s St Andrews. It’s not a silly comment, given the history of the course and also the strategic way this gently rippling links tests your game. A wonderfully historic clubhouse, too.
Sits just inside the top 90 in our GB&I ranking, 54th in our list of Britain and Ireland’s best links, and 39th in England.
3. Saunton West
The East’s ‘little sibling is a very fine links indeed. This Top 100 England stalwart features dog-legs and streams, putting a premium on accuracy. Recent changes to some holes have made it longer and almost as much of a test as its sister.
We have it 92nd in our list of the best links in Britain and Ireland, and 71st in England.
4. East Devon
Situated on the Jurassic Coast, England’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features a variety of heathland, links and parkland-style holes. Designed by Harry Colt, it is climbing in our Top 100 England, enhanced by the reintroduction of heather on many holes.
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Located four miles from Plymouth, this heathland is shared with Dartmoor ponies and sheep. Herbert Fowler made full use of the natural contours to create a gem, while the views over the moor are spectacular. World-class opener and a Top 100 England candidate, it’s not long but you must avoid ravines and mine shafts to escape unscathed.
Designed by Alister MacKenzie, this wonderful heathland has six challenging par 3s and views from its location on Haldon Moor to Portland and Dartmoor. If more land was available (the final four are too quirky for some, due to the lack of land), it could challenge some of the best in England. Wonderful green complexes and lovely turf.
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7. Bovey Castle
The first eight holes are situated in a valley on parkland turf that crosses the River Bovey on every hole. They are very good. You climb a steep incline to the next 10 holes, on moorland turf and with granite rocks as features. It’s situated within the Dartmoor National Park.
A great base for a Devon golf break with its hotel described as a ‘mini Gleneagles’. 33rd in our ranking of Britain and Ireland’s best golf resorts.
‘Devon’s Pebble Beach’. The South Hams is one of the most beautiful areas in Devon and this is arguably the county’s most picturesque course. The front nine plays on springy turf along the coast and is sublime. The back nine climbs away from the sea and the turf becomes more parkland, but the sea is in view on all 18 holes.
A wide-open moorland on the edge of Dartmoor with no trees and little gorse. It allows you to open your shoulders with the driver, but accuracy is needed to avoid greenside hollows and bunkers. Fantastic views, and ponies and sheep for company. You won’t find a more rugged, natural layout in the South West. Fun on the moor.
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10. Dawlish Warren
Sits in a nature reserve on the River Exe estuary, on a spit of well-draining land. Views over to Exmouth and up the River Exe, with an abundance of birds and even the odd seal. The only true links in Devon outside of Saunton’s pair. Played over fast-running turf and with excellent greens. The 18th green sits below the Penzance-Paddington railway line.
A tree-lined parkland on the outskirts of the market town. It borders the Great Western Canal and has many tree-lined fairways. Improved by two new holes this year, a downhill par 3 with a water feature, and a dog-leg par 5 with a green protected by a stream. James Braid laid out the original, recent improvements have added some amazing holes.
12. Exeter Golf and Country Club
Situated close to the city centre, this parkland is guarded by beautiful mature trees and bunkers. Superb greens and playing surfaces.
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13. Dartmouth (Championship)
Brawny parkland designed in 1992. Superb views overlooking the River Dart Estuary. Its 7,200 yards are a tough challenge but it has a variety of different holes, with water featuring on many. A good base.
After opening as a nine-hole course in 1890, Churston was redesigned by Harry Colt and opened for play in 1924 with 18 holes. Effectively nine holes out and back along parkland fairways with views over Torbay.
15. Woodbury Park
Located on Woodbury Common, close to Exeter, this parkland was designed in the late 1980s by J. Hamilton Stutt. It features a mixture of wide fairways and tight, tree-lined holes. On five holes the greens are guarded by water.
Located in the South Hams, close to the eponymous village. The back nine features wonderful views up the River Avon across to the beautiful village of Bantham and, on the entrance to the river, Burgh Island with its Art Deco hotel. A pleasant parkland with six par 3s – three of them 200-plus yards.
A short, pleasant parkland that meanders along tree-lined fairways and rises to clifftop golf, approximately 600 feet above the beaches of Babbacombe and Oddicombe. With land lost to development, several of the holes have been redesigned.
18. Staddon Heights
Set down on cliffs close to Plymstock on the outskirts of Plymouth, Staddon Heights has views over Plymouth Sound and the historic city. Good turf awaits, as do short par 4s and a lot of fun.
19. Dainton Park
A modern club that has continuously improved since the early 1990s. It’s a parkland laid out between Totnes and Newton Abbot, benefiting from a good routing, water hazards and some interesting holes.
Founded in 1895 , this is a course of two halves. The front (original) nine are set on moorland turf but the back nine is indisputably parkland. Without doubt, the widest variety of holes in Devon.
Honiton, Manor House & Ashbury (Kigbeare), Ilfracombe, Okehampton, and Teign Valley.
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