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.
My first ever round was on the 'inferior' (ha!) West course but after the first two holes you know this is going to be a special day;. The first hole contains everything that an opening hole should possess in my opinion. It's of medium length, has a high tee where everything lies before you, there's a safe option or a more aggressive line and the green is just out of sight adding an extra level of suspense. And when you reach your tee-shot that uncertainty is replaced with delight at a green complex that sits perfectly into the foot of large sand dunes inviting your approach. The second is also a magnificent hole with a precise drive required between more huge dunes before the hole turns to the right and you are faced with an intimidating second shot. This really is one of the strongest starts to any course in the country.
The rest of the links ventures away from the largest dunes on the estate but there is still a reasonable level of elevation change and the course slowly reveals several pleasant surprises as you make your way around the layout.
It's not as quirky as somewhere like Silloth on Solway or Burnham & Berrow but there's a real element of fun to be had playing here and whilst it's demanding in terms of stroke-making it also provides massive enjoyment and allows you to play any number of shots into the greens. Many of the greens here are raised and that alone makes for an interesting challenge.
Virtually every hole is absolutely rock solid and each has grown on me with every play. The seventh is a clear stand-out hole whilst the trio of par fours from the 13th are also very strong.
There aren't any weak holes on the course although the par three ninth, named 'Pond', is my least favourite. Take that away and you have 17 thrilling holes each offering something special and without a hint of monotony.
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 (East) here.