South Devon is one of England’s most scenic regions. In contrast to the rugged Atlantic coastline on the northern side of the county, the South Devon coast is gentler, full of coves and estuaries, picture perfect.
Perched on top of a cliff overlooking the sea on a coastal strip of downland turf, Thurlestone has been compared to Pebble Beach in California. Designed by Harry S Colt in 1897, the holes stretch across the hill-top although, bizarrely, the first is played in the opposite direction before a gentle climb. It is a pleasant 6340-yard course on fast-running soil where hidden hazards, nooks and crannies, emerge to punish indifferent shots. The 18th is a 500-yard downhill hole where the ball runs rapidly towards the clubhouse. The stupendous views of the surrounding area and sea are worth the visit alone.
East Devon provides superb coastal views as far as Portland Bill in Dorset on a fine day. A course both demanding and fair, the fairways are generous but a wayward drive will be punished. There are many public footpaths on and around the course so care needs to be taken. The fifth and 15th have split level greens, but the third is perhaps the most difficult hole at 411 yards and is well named Pine Coffin while the 414 yard 14th is also a test. The par three 10th is memorable and played from an elevated tee across a picturesque valley to a three-tiered green. The 16th 406-yard par four where an accurate drive is essential starts a downhill stroll back to the clubhouse. An outstanding venue.
For another experience entirely, head inland and visit Bovey Castle in the Dartmoor National Park; thousands travel here to walk across this dramatic landscape, but for golfers there is J.F. Abercromby jewel to entertain you. Bovey Castle provides a spine-tingling test of golf in one of the most beautiful settings around. It’s immaculate, thanks to former owner Peter de Savary who bought the place in 2003 and threw £30m into restoring the golf course and the stunning Edwardian country house hotel to its 1920s heyday.
Yet another of the great architects, Alistair MacKenzie could not resist the charms of South Devon either, and he left his mark at Teignmouth Golf Club, described as a moorland links with outstanding views over the sea and moorlands.
In addition to the 360-degree views, golfers visiting Teignmouth will discover the challenging and fascinating course devised by the great doctor. His characteristic signature is his unorthodox greens; at Teignmouth, Mackenzie’s penchant for two-tiered putting surfaces with three sides protected by humps and mounds is plainly evident.
This feature also makes the course tough, and testament to the design is the fact that the only changes to the layout have been in adding new tees for extra length.