Burnham & Berrow Golf Club is one of those names that make the good golfers nod sagely; they know the score regarding the quality of this links found a few 3-woods away from Weston-super-Mare on north Somerset’s coast. A part of golfing lore it may be but to ensure that ‘B&B’ offers an excellent customer experience for the modern golfing traveller (and its loyal members), the last 12 months have seen extensive work carried out on the course and a complete refurbishment of the club’s pro shop and practice facilities, writes Ben Evans.
The result of this looks like being a major success for the club. Famed for this rolling links through the dunes on the north Atlantic coast and also for the names connected to the old place (formed in 1890), the first club pro was JH Taylor. He was succeeded by the legendary Whitcombe and Bradbeer brothers (18 boys from Berrow became professionals), while shaping the course included Harold Hilton, Dr Alister MacKenzie and, more so than the rest, Harry Colt.
Today however, it is some newer golf industry names who are helping to protect the club’s future; step forward Head Greenkeeper Richard Whyman and Head Professional David Haines.
B&B’s 18-hole Championship Course remains a key venue for prestigious amateur tournaments (it recently staged the English Boys’ U16 Amateur) and it was clearly felt that a few changes were in order to protect the integrity of several holes from the advantages of modern equipment, and to further enhance the aesthetic appeal of a course that is ranked 31st in the Golf Monthly Top 100 courses in UK & Ireland (there is also a popular 9-hole Channel Course at the same venue).
Major construction work has been carried out on the 6th, 9th and 11th tees where new back tees have been built to extend the holes and create interesting angles, which will certainly make some of the big-hitting young amateurs think again; meanwhile your scorecard’s loss must undoubtedly be the aesthete’s gain, as the new raised tees only improve some of the spectacular views over the links and across the north Atlantic coastline.
To make it happen, a huge amount of work has been carried out by the club’s greens staff, moving sand and replanting natural vegetation found on the course whilst a specialist contractor was used for major shaping and translocation work on the new tees and surrounds. The course will now be 30-40 yards longer at 6,988 yards (championship tees), but this small increase perhaps belies the added difficulty of the new tee shots.
Investment has extended to major renovation and updating of the pro shop as well as landscaping around the entrance to make everything more attractive and welcoming. The driving range has also been upgraded and a state-of-the-art Performance Studio boasting one of only six Mizuno fitting studios in the country has been installed alongside the pro shop.
All in all, some £250,000 has been spent on the course and shop, but given that much of the hard work and the heavy lifting has been performed in-house, then you start to realise what a commitment this has been for everyone.
Writing for Golf Business News, I was privileged to be among the very first golfers on a sunny and windy day to hit from the new tees, with some gorgeous views fit for the postcards. I’m sure members and visitors will love the end result. As every innovation has been made with one thing in mind – the customer’s experience – this work deserves to pay rich dividends.
Out On The Course
For any links golf lover who has been playing a little too much inland golf – perhaps tiring a little of the long, lush, manicured, tree-lined beasts that Rory
McIlroy will shoot 60 on, where we then shoot closer to double that number – perhaps it’s time for you to enjoy some links therapy at B&B soon?
However, if this place is the cure you need, it is certainly ‘tough love’ – the course is highly challenging but at the same time it offers you that feeling of freedom, of hitting out with the smell of sea salt in the breeze, onto those bouncing fairways; it is hard to imagine a better way of lifting any golfer’s spirits, while the course certainly has its own X factor.
Different say from some of the longer Open venues you’ll play in England; from the tees B&B might trick you into thinking at times that you’re playing in Scotland, and possibly in 1926, as you peer out to locate the more vivid green, cut, landing strips of the fairways as the coastal wind sweeps across the long, blonde grasses in your view; much of the time you are squinting to spot the pot bunkers that nestle ready to blot your card. It all looks very natural, unspoilt.
Once actually on those fine firm fairways, if the breeze is kind you feel you can take on the rolling greens and attack, only to find that though many of these perfectly shaped greens do not rely on rings of bunkers for protection, the speed of the putts, the dips and borrows, have more than enough to bite those with even the best short games.
Sadly, my own putting stroke wasn’t in that category! Playing with and enjoying the company of the club’s chairman Mike Armstrong, PR specialist Helen Heady and Andrew Picken of GolfShake.com, I made this trio feel much better about their own putting as I ‘left a few out there’ on the greens.
Striking with slightly more accomplishment from the tee (after a rusty start) I relished the new tee positions, which improved the look of the holes in each case and made the first shots more challenging, enjoying in particular the longish par-3, 9th. From the new higher tee you are presented with a more attractive view but also a tougher shot to the wonderful green of wicked slopes protected by some evil bunkers.
Back In The Pro Shop
As mentioned, for visitors and members, a significant overhaul of the club’s pro shop and practice facilities has given a more modern feel and better visitor experience for customers at Burnham & Berrow, including the addition of the new Mizuno fitting studio.
Stepping into the shop you are met with the space, light and neatness we 21st century high street shoppers expect, and attention to detail is reflected by the impressive product display and the enthusiasm of the pro shop team who are selling this.
The work was carried out between September and December last year and Head Pro David Haines said he was “delighted” with the end result.
David said: “It’s been fantastic really. We were back in the shop back in December and the feedback and reaction from both the members and visitors has been great.
“The members immediately appreciated the new layout, more space to present products and a much lighter, more modern interior. Then there is the Performance Studio which has been a big hit, allowing our team to offer attractive new coaching options including video lessons and coaching and fitting using our FlightScope monitor.”
David confirmed that sales in the shop have increased across the board since the re-fit.
He added: “What’s particularly nice is when visitors – who are coming to play with memories of the old pro shop – return to us after a year or so and tell our team how much they appreciate this new environment. I think through a lot of work we have really improved the customer experience all-round.”
Following my round at Burnham & Berrow, I spoke to a few friends and fellow writers and mentioned ‘B&B’ and a good number nodded sagely and said that it had been a while since they had last played there. I suggested that they rectify this soon and take their links cure beside the North Atlantic coast. Tough love it may be, but it’s love none-the-less.
Burnham & Berrow is one of five clubs that form England’s Atlantic Links (www.atlantic-links.co.uk), a tantalising trail of six premier championship links courses in south west England. The other clubs that make up the Atlantic Links are Royal North Devon and Saunton (which has two courses) in north Devon, and Cornwall’s St Enodoc and Trevose.
Burnham & Berrow www.burnhamandberrowgolfclub.co.uk