Charles Gibson, JH Taylor, Harry Colt
Stunning sea views from across this cliff-top, downland course that welcomes families
South Devon coast. Postcode; TQ7 3NZ
Russell Thomas
01548 560405
Peter Laugher
Green Keeper
Vic Dyer
Thurlestone golf club, finest courses,
Thurlestone golf club, finest courses,
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Canada Cup - Sept. Seniors - Sept.
Fees in 1960s
Fees today


In 1887 there were 171 golf clubs in the country and yet by the time Thurlestone was founded, ten years later this figure had dramatically grown to 1092.

thurlestone golf club, squire brunskill, finest courses,

Squire Brunskill with friends in crenillin

Squire Herbert Brunskill of Thurlestone inherited at the age of twenty-four the family estate, built on his grandfather’s tailoring business in Exeter, and had expansive ideas of creating a fashionable resort at Thurlestone, following the completion of a railway link to nearby Kingsbridge in 1893.

As in many enterprises, if built upon firm foundations, it will flourish even though this scheme took a little longer than originally envisaged.

Charles Gibson, the club maker and professional at Royal North Devon GC, was invited to design the initial nine hole course across ‘the warren‘, a feature that comprises the lower part of the present course.

thurlestone golf club, finest courses

The seventh hole

There was a initial small elite membership of gentlemen and ladies and with extra ground and access rights to the beaches being acquired, J.H Taylor (a member of “the great triumvirate” with Vardon and Braid) was able to extend the course to eighteen holes in 1911 with one said to be the longest in the country, and a par six to boot!

Thurlestone was then given added prestige when Harry Colt (England’s most prolific golf course architect) was commissioned to remodel the course in 1928.

Thurlestone has some similarities to the holiday resort courses of Royal West Norfolk GC at Brancaster and St Enodoc GC at Rock in the attractions they offer to families who come on holiday year after year.

The Thurlestone Hotel and the lawn tennis courts are an integral part of the Thurlestone scene which saw a rapid rise in its popularity as a golf and sporting resort in the 1940’s and 50s. The club and hotel expanded together, happily dependent on each other.


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half tide at Yarmouth Sands Bay

Frank Pennink in 1962 described Thurlestone as “One of the most exhilarating of downland courses, on cliffs, above the coves where smugglers used to operate. It is ideal holiday golf, not too severe, with quite generous fairways but the wind, of course, can blow with a vengeance. The rocky seascapes are majestic and inspiring”.

Please excuse the sentimentality but by way of describing the terrifying drive at the first hole where you climb up above the clubhouse and have to hit down across a road and a stream, through a tunnel composed of clubhouse and hedgerow, let me tell a family story…

For the many holiday makers who are quite right in believing that if coming to Thurlestone they should at least have one round across the downland course, the first hole, though within distance for the scratch man, is a terrifying prospect for a first hit. Anyway, having gained permission for my nine year old son to join me, on the heart-in-mouth oath he could play the game, we had to wait our turn for five couples to tee-off before I hit a respectable drive down the fairway.

There were of course five more couples by now watching us and ‘son’ runs down to the ladies tee, sits down on his bottom and ceremoniously taps in his tee with the ball. With a couple of waggles and one practice swing, the ball is smitten, with his little half swing, down the hill over the road and half way to the green. It was the proudest moment of my life!

thurlstone golf club, finest courses,

Roger on the 2nd tee

The course is in two geographical parts; the first seven holes upon ‘the warren’ include three par threes of differing character and direction, and four par fours of between 260 and 350 yards off the white tees and offer a benign start that should have you well settled for the longer second half.

Nevertheless the drive at the second, over a quarry and up a hill avoiding bunkers on the left, is daunting. Equally, the short

thurlestone golf club, finest courses

The ‘linksy’ 6th

sixth ringed by a necklace of pot bunkers, when played in any wind direction is also a challenge.

At the eighth tee, the course is pinched between the line of fine imposing holiday homes located beside the par five eighteenth and the cliffs. After this, the course then opens up for the next nine holes that play back and forth across the hilly downland presenting many sideway lies and greens cut into the hill. There are five par fours between 400 and 430 yards, with of particular note being the eighth (431 yards), which requires a long running approach that drops down on to the shelf green.

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Burgh Island behind 11th green

The eleventh green is the farthest point from the clubhouse and looks directly down on to Burgh Island, made famous by the Prince of Wales when courting Wallace Simpson in the 1930s and also when used as a backdrop to the television version of Hercule Poirot’s ‘Evil under the sun’, the Agatha Christie who-done-it.


thurlestone golf club, prince of wales, finest courses,

The Prince of Wales playing at Thurlestone in the 1920s

The par three thirteenth at 200 yards located atop the hill gives magnificent views across to Bigbury GC. The 360 view from the third tee at Rosses Point, County Sligo (Cecil Ewing’s Irish favourite) may just be more breathtaking but this compares well and there is a warmth and intimacy of a local holiday character about Thurlestone.


It is not a championship course but all the family can enjoy playing here, as long as father does not try to take off too much of the 90 right hand dogleg sixteenth, since he will have difficulty holding the green from out of the rough, if he does.


thurlestone golf club, pam barton, finest courses,

Pam Barton

Thurlestone can claim a small but nevertheless significant part in the career of Pam Barton, one of the finest amateur golfers ever. Pam was the first player to hold the British and the US Championship titles concurrently and her family were regular visitors in the 1920’s and 30’s.


Douglas Bader, after whom the golf shot that “looks good in the air but hasn’t got the legs” is named, also convalesced here in 1945 and was awarded honorary membership.


Brian Barnes’ father was secretary at the Club for a while and perhaps Brian’s penchant for wearing shorts was acquired up on the sunny cliffs of Thurlestone.


The well-drained nature of the chalk downland gives a good base for fine tight fairway grasses, though the greens have seen a good deal of fertiliser and annual meadow grass (Poa Annua) is the predominant covering offering its usual receptive character. My overall recollection though is that the natural way of playing most holes is to run the ball in as they are naturally firm with the sea breeze always keeping a dry course and thereby ensuring that this stunningly situated course gives a fine ‘joy to be alive’ feeling.

See  ” Thurlestone Golf Club, The centenary. A miscellany of life on the ‘Links’

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2011



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