Golf has been hosted at Saunton (known also as Saunton Sands) since 1897 when the club was formed as a 9 hole course. Holes were added here and there, but it wasn’t until the end of World War 1 when Mr. William Herbert Fowler (Walton Heath, The Berkshire) was commission to to re-design the course.
It was moved into the dunes land to the current location, and apart from 4 holes which have been changed over the years, it remains as the current ‘East’ course as we play today. The second 18 was added later in 1935, also designed by Herbert Fowler.
Now, lets dig into one of the great par 4’s on the East course, simply known as “The Gap”
Angles and Views to the Green:
To get a good view of the green for an approach your tee shots needs to be placed in the left half of the fairway. As can be seen from the image above, any ball landing within the white lines will see the middle of the green.
However, to get a full view of the wide green the ball needs to be placed between the blue line and bunkers running up the left side of the fairway. Classic strategic design where the best place for your approach shot brings hazards and trouble into play.
Pin placement and wind direction may dictate how aggressive a line you take off the tee.
Options Off the Tee:
Option A – Perfect placement on the left half of the fairway some 275 yards off the back tee. This will give you the best line into the green, but trouble is close by with the fairway bunkers.
Option B – The safe play. Off the back tees lay up between 220-240 yards with a long iron to the left side of the fairway. You avoid any trouble with the bunkers and are rewarded with a great view of the green, but an approach shot of 200+ yards is needed for the second.
Option C – Give yourself a shorter approach shot by taking the more direct route aiming for the centre of the fairway. You will avoid any trouble from the fairway bunkers, but a semi-blind or blind second shot is needed depending on the pin.
Option D – The aggressive line and aim for the gap, but being only 10 yards wide its a high risk tee shot.
Wind and firmness of the fairways will allow for a variety of clubs to be used off the tee. In the peak of summer with fairways running firm and fast, and with a favourable wind, a long iron can certainly get you close to the gap. Plenty of strategy and decisions to be made off the tee.
The Approach Shot & Green:
The ‘Gap’ provides a real testing tee shot given the importance of a good view to the green, but the approach shot provides a little more room for error. This is a long par at 420 yards off the forward tees and to provide fairness, Herbert Fowler, laid out a wide 30 yard green with plenty of space to miss both sides and short.
In true links golf style, the ground game comes into play significantly. An approach shot with a long iron can be played some 10-20 yards short of the green allowing firm conditions to roll the ball up onto the putting surface.
If you have the view of the green from the fairway, its a welcoming approach, but if you are blocked off your blind approach is given space to miss. This, for me, is what excellent design provides. A fair test which will reward good shots, but equally require a good shot to take on more risk.
As you can see from the image below, the safer tee shot (Option B above) leaves a 210 yard approach shot to the green and those who brave the gap are rewarded with a wedge or short iron to the green.
The green itself is large, and the 30 yard width provides a decent target to aim for. Split broadly into two tiers with the back tier being higher. Pin placement will be a factor for how your approach shot is played, as a front pin may favour the ground shot approach.
Two pot bunkers guard the left and right hand side of the ground and will swallow up any stray shots.
Final Thoughts of Saunton East’s 4th: “The Gap”
This 4th hole at the wonderful Saunton East course is fantastic. Its long and tough, but offers strategy and decisions off the tee, a fair approach shot and a large green which can be prove torturous if on the wrong tier.
Its a fun hole to play, and one you’ll want to play again after walking off the green immediately. The way it meanders through the dunes, views are blocked from the majority of the fairway and clever bunkering creates a real risk/reward tee shot.
Like most links courses, the wind and conditions on the day will play a huge part in how you tackle the hole, but this is the kind of design I love. Options, strategy and visual beauty.
Now… after reading this, take a look at the video fly-through of the hole above in the article header. It really gives an excellent sense of the hole and how it should be played.