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Southwest England—Day 1: Burnham and Berrow Golf Club

Burnham and Berrow Golf Club

Burnham and Berrow Golf Club


Burnham and Berrow Golf Club (Designer: Harry Colt. Location: Burnham-on-sea): Trips to the UK for people who don’t sleep on planes always start with a blur. There’s the overnight to Heathrow, the insanity of picking up a rental car and trying to find your way out of the maze that is the airport; and there’s usually a drive somewhere, in this case two and a half hours down the M past Bristol to the coast.

When we hit Burnham and Berrow, a neat links that runs along a series of dunes, the temperature dropped 10 degrees (from an unseasonably high of 22 in London) and the fog rolled in. That meant a competition of British PGA members was basically stuck for hours trying to finish their round.

With the fog in place, I went to bed for a couple of hours, awaking to hit the first tee for late afternoon.

Burnham’s Championship course is impressive, one that’s probably overlooked by many people. The whole concept of coming to the South-West of England was basically to check out five clubs—Burnham, Saunton, Royal North Devon, St. Enodoc and Trevose—that don’t get their due. Burnham likely deserves more attention. It has an elegant routing (not quite the out-and-back links you expect) and wanders into some spectacular dunes.

Foggy: Burnham is hard by the sea, though fog that hangs around is unusual.
Foggy: Burnham is hard by the sea, though fog that hangs around is unusual.

In fact, dunes are present on the first hole, a tough starter that forces you to consider your tee shot (though there is plenty of room to the right) and your approach (where the dunes pinch in towards the green).

The par threes are exceptional at Burnham, and I know the 5th, a sporty 194-yard one shot wonder with a sophisticated green, quite well. That’s where we were when the fog rolled back in, forcing the competition in front of us to stop and leaving us standing on the green for an hour as we awaited play to start again. The green and its surrounds are ingenious, with a severe bank on the left, and bunkers protecting the front and right sides.

The 9th at Burnham shows Colt’s genius with the one-shot hole.
The 9th at Burnham shows Colt’s genius with the one-shot hole.

We walked the next three holes—probably the least interesting on the course where the land flattens and it loses its panache—and by then the competition was called off and we were able to finish the round. As the pros walked in, the sky brightened, the fog burned off and we completed an adventurous and fascinating back nine that I feel eclipses the front. The run of holes from 12 to 18 is exceptional, with some great greens with plenty of movement.

A great par five, the 13th at Burnham showcases the terrific landforms the course is based on.
A great par five, the 13th at Burnham showcases the terrific landforms the course is based on.

Interestingly, a lot of links end weakly as the designer tried to find an acceptable route back to the clubhouse. That’s not the case with Burnham, where the closer is big boy golf at its finest, requiring two great shots to a green set just to the left of the first tee.

No one will walk away from Burnham disappointed; it is a fair, strong links worth seeking out.

Where we stayed: I love dormie houses, the little cottages that are affiliated with the course, or sometimes even rooms in the clubhouse. Usually they are relatively Spartan and perfectly acceptable. Their proximity to the golf course makes them ideal for those playing early or late. In the case of Burnham, the club’s accommodations are a stone’s throw from the first tee, just across the parking lot. Comfortable, and just a short drive from the town center, Burnham’s rooms aren’t elaborate, but they work wonderfully well, especially if you had a group coming to the course.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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