One of the things that confirms this for me is, not only the quality of every single hole, but the subtle yet significant differences between the two courses.
I've played both courses on multiple occasions and there is no doubt that this is links golf of a very high quality.
The East course is very much a different proposition to the West. Although the terrain is relatively flat, especially the fairways, several of the holes run through the notorious burrows giving each one its own distinct character. It's a longer course than the West and you will often hear words such as; mighty, grand, strong and titanic to describe it. It is indeed a powerhouse of a course and, as many have put forward in the past, it would be a venue with attributes worthy of hosting an Open Championship.
That said, I would say the West is possibly the more memorable course. There are a lot of very strong par fours on the East and to say they are all much of a muchness is unfair but at the end of the day it is usually the holes on the West that are the easier to recollect.
Everything is laid out in front of you on the East. It's a very visible course with only a small number of blind or partially sighted holes - two of these come when you drive at the 8th and hit into the 16th. It isn't as tight as the West but long hitting is required even when the course is running fast. It's a fair course and you earn every single birdie or par here.
I was hugely impressed with the East although it perhaps didn't quite live up to the (awe inspiring) billing in terms of what I had read and heard beforehand on the first play but it has grown on me over time. Perhaps I was expecting too much first time around.
Holes of note on the East course are too many to mention. There's a whole series of top draw par fours and all three of the par 3's are very good too. The fourth, aptly called 'Gap', and the ninth, with a brilliant green complex, are my personal pick of the two-shotters but the third, tenth, 14th and 18th would also be worth candidates. Meanwhile, you will struggle to find a better links par three than the exposed 13th.
The only two holes which I dislike on the East are the sixth and 11th which just don't quite seem to fit with the rest of the course.
So which is the best course? I would probably agree with the majority and say that the East is a 'better' course, certainly from a championship perspective. But it would be a close call and the West is certainly more fun and calls for more creativity.
If I could only play one I'd be happy to toss a coin... but whenever I come here I make sure I play them both!
Read the review of Saunton (West) here.