Founded back in 1897 Thurlestone packs a lot of fun and entertainment, as well as plenty of good golf, into its modest 6,189 yards that run alongside Bigbury Bay.
The fun actually starts long before you reach the golf club and begins on the three-mile single file Devon country lane that leads down to the wonderfully located course situated in an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Whilst there are several passing places it was more like dodgem car racing than typical British motoring on the June morning I attempted it.
As soon as one eventually arrives in the car park though you are instantly hit with the brilliant green complex of the opening hole. Harry Colt is credited with the design of the course and it is clear to see the hand of somebody who knew what they were doing, especially in the opening third of the course.
There are two distinct parts to Thurlestone and there is undeniably an imbalance to the layout. The undulating front nine plays to a par 33 (just 2,620 yards) whilst the sweeping back nine can stretch to 3,559 yards (par 38!). This is not something the club can easily overcome but have recently consulted golf architect, James Edwards, to help bring more life to some of the longer cliff-top holes; the 10th, 12th and 14th in particular. Having been shown artists impressions of these from the Club Manager they will certainly improve the holes from a visual perspective as well as from a strategic stand point too.
The short and sweet first six holes are played over slightly more linksier ground and are simply wonderful. Although this start to the course contains three par-threes, a very driveable par-four and a couple more two-shotters under 350-yards it is good golf and exceptionally fun. The skyline green at the second, the backdrop to the third, the hogsback nature of the green complex at the fourth and the treachery of the bunkers at the short sixth get the course off to a flying start. I played with my 12-year-old son and he loved this opening section of the course.
The seventh is also a fine hole with a stonewall to contend with as this 339-yarder transitions us out towards the sloping cliff tops where some big hitting is then required.
From here we mostly face a barrage of long par-fours as well as three par-fives in the space of four holes. The green complexes are not as impressive on this part of the property but there is still some very good golf to be played and the round ends in fine style with an excellent par-three at the 17th followed by the impressive closing hole which can play as a short par-five or long par-four.
I was particularly fond of the 10th thanks to its bold green setting and the views from the 11th, 12th and 13th are spectacular. The 16th is also an interesting hole with a 90 degree dog-leg in the fairway and a green you certainly don't want to miss.
Tennis enthusiasts are also well catered for at Thurlestone with access to a number of grass courts included within the very modest membership fee of £805.
Thurlestone is a feel-good course you should certainly add to your South-West golf itinerary. It won't break the bank as should be noted from the fact it recently appeared in Golf World's Top 100 golf courses in England with a green-fee under £60. The setting is exceptional, the views (Thurlestone Rock to the East and the Avon Estuary & enigmatic Burgh Island to the West) are simply stunning and the golf is very good too for the most part, excellent at times.
You'll no doubt get a warm Devonshire welcome and although the back nine plays a touch on the long side it is not a golf course that will beat you up. Enjoy.
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The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.