DEVON, ENGLAND, U.K. — Royal North Devon at Westward Ho! can rightly claim to be the cradle of English Golf. Founded in 1864, it is the oldest golf course in the country and is regarded as the St Andrews of the South. The golf course is as tough as any of the UK’s more famous links layouts and has recently been placed in Golf World ‘s “Top 100 Courses in the World” that a golfer “must play”.
Not only is Royal North Devon a great course, it is also a place of huge historical importance. Inside the warmly welcoming clubhouse, the golf museum, honors boards and the clubs top competition trophies are worth a visit on their own and help to tell the story of the game and this remarkable club’s unique place in it.
Above all, this is great, natural golf that is largely unchanged from 100 years ago when Harold Hilton et al pronounced Westward Ho! As England’s No 1 competition golf course. RND is pure, raw exhilaration and ultimately the experience of playing a fast running links in a stiff breeze still tests the very best in the game.
Many of the great players of the last 100 years were regular competitors at RND but the greatest of them all is without doubt John Henry Taylor. Born in the village of Northam overlooking the course, he started his long association with the Club as a caddie boy and soon became an accomplished player. As every golf lover will know he went on to form one third of the great triumvirate, winning five Open Championships. Alongside Harry Vardon and James Braid, JH Taylor dominated the game for 30 years. The club honoured Taylor with a presidency in 1957 and his portrait and some of the clubs which he used to win his Open titles are proudly displayed in the clubhouse.
A look at the Club’s honours boards, dating back to 1864, is like a “Who’s Who” of golfing greats. Listing many of the games founding fathers such as Horace Hutchinson, Harold Hilton, Herbert Fowler, Capt Molesworth, etc. Although golf has changed hugely in the last century and continues to develop and grow, a great links will always stand the test of time. Royal North Devon is just that, a great links and as far removed as possible from the manicured and manufactured championship courses we see every day on television.