No list of the world’s most prestigious golf clubs would be complete without mentioning Royal North Devon Golf Club. This seaside links course is the oldest golf club in England, having been established in 1864. After celebrating its 150th anniversary, Royal North Devon continues to go from strength to strength, even still playing on its original fairways.
Also known as Westward Ho!, this course has a championship layout of over seven thousand yards. The wild winds that swirl around this south-west course help make it into such a timeless challenge. The principles of the traditional links style have never been abandoned here and, despite its age, the course is still a great test for any player.
There are many outstanding holes to be played at Westward Ho!, with a particularly enjoyable stretch from the fourth tee on through to the tenth green. There are also two wonderful par fives, at thirteen and seventeen. Although thirteen is a very short par five, at just 442 yards, it is no easy birdie. The small green sits four feet above the fairway, with punishing slopes on all sides. Ignore the distance here. With the wind up, par is a respectable score on this hole.
Playing a round at Royal North Devon is about as close as you can come to travelling back in time and playing the way the earliest golfers played. This is another course designed by Old Tom Morris, and it has many unique features that make it distinct from other courses. Not least of these is that the land is designated as common ground, so players share the environment with sheep, ponies and walkers.