It’s tee time…the best golf courses in Sussex
Golf as we know it today was first introduced to the UK in the 15th century, although there had been a version of this stately game that was played in at least 100 BC, if not before. It was a Roman invention called ‘paganica’ and it involved players using a bent stick to hit a ball, which all sounds rather familiar.
By the time King James VI ascended to the English throne in 1603, golf was played at court. How the king, his courtiers, and the public at large were playing is still a bit of a mystery, since the official ‘Rules of Golf’ weren’t created until 1744. They were set out by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, and are still adhered to to this day.
The only change from the old version of golf to golf as we know it today came in 1764. Due to space restrictions, the course at St Andrews was reduced to 18 holes. It had previously been 22. Since then, the 18-hole format is the one that all courses have been built upon.
Today, golf is played by millions of people across the globe, and the beautiful county of Sussex is no exception; in fact, some of the country’s best known and best loved golf courses are right here on our doorstep. Here’s a guide to some of our favourites.
Golf At Goodwood // www.goodwood.com // 01243 755168
Golfing at Goodwood is all about you. There are no stereotypical, stuffy membership conditions to meet, and no strict tee times because it is all designed to be as flexible as you need it to be. Your golfing experience can be directly tailored to suit your golfing style and your lifestyle, no matter how much or how little time, experience, or confidence you have.
Goodwood consists of two beautiful courses. The Downs Course has ranked in the top 100 courses in the UK and is a course that offers views of Chichester Cathedral, as well as the splendour of the South Downs. On clear days, you might even be able to glimpse the Isle of Wight. It’s a tricky one, with plenty of doglegs and long sweeping greens that can test even the most experienced golfer. Then there’s the Park Course, which is an altogether more gentle way to play – although it still has its hazards in the form of some surprising switchbacks and bunkers.
Dale Hill // www.golfclub.co.uk // 01580 200112
With over 350 acres of grounds, the two courses at Dale Hill are laid out to take in the best of the surrounding scenery. The High Weald is at its best here, and playing golf in such a lovely place is surely good for the soul.
Both the courses at Dale Hill are 18 holes. The first, designed by Ian Woosnam, is, as Woosnam himself describes: “challenging enough to test the pros, yet accessible enough to be enjoyed by amateurs”. You can’t ask for much more than that when it comes to golf – a place where everyone can enjoy the game on the same course, but for different reasons. The Dale Hill course is the original one on the site, but has lost none of its charm and still makes for a satisfying round of golf.
Mannings Heath // www.manningsheath.com // 01403 210228
Mannings Heath is home to not one but two award-winning courses. The 18-hole Waterfall Course dates back to 1905. It’s a par 72 and measures 6,683 yards and, although it has been known to be called a tough course to play, that only adds to its allure, particularly for those who relish a challenge. The second course is the 9-hole Kingfisher Course. Built just over 90 years after the original, it’s popularity has grown steadily over time.
Mannings Heath also offers two restaurants (a bar lounge and a brasserie), so you can make a full day of it after you’ve completed your game(s). If wine tasting is something you’re keen to tick off your to-do list, this is the golf club for you – there is a wine expert on hand to show you what’s what, and plans to plant a 45-acre vineyard are afoot.
Slinfold // www.slinfoldclub.co.uk // 01403 791154
At Horsham’s Slinfold Golf Club there is plenty to do. Golf is the main attraction, of course, thanks to the 18-hole, 6,424-yard course dubbed ‘the thinking person’s course’. Why? Because there’s so much more to it than going out there and taking long shots to put you on the green. The holes on this course are designed in such a way as to ensure that you have to really think about each shot, take every angle and possibility into account, and only then can you go for it. A quick game this is not, but an enjoyable one? Undoubtedly.
Slinfold is for everyone, however, and that means golf isn’t the only pleasure to indulge in here. For those who prefer not to play, there is a health club and spa retreat full of luxurious treatments – including massage, waxing, facials, tanning and holistic therapies – to partake in.
Avisford Park Golf Club // www.avisfordparkgolfclub.com // 01243 554611
The Avisford Park Golf Club can be found near the historic town of Arundel, nestled neatly in 89 acres of stunning greenery. The fact that this course takes into account the natural hazards that were there well before anyone even considered playing golf on this spot is a great touch, making the whole place feel organic and exciting. It also means that some of those hazards are particularly tricky, but that only adds to the experience at this great course.
West Sussex Golf Course // www.westsussexgolf.co.uk // 01798 872563
Since 1931, the West Sussex Golf Course – also known as Pulborough – has been catering marvellously for its golf-minded members. The course itself was designed by Guy Campbell (the man behind Killarney and Princes) and Cecil Hutchinson (who also designed Gleneagles and Turnberry).
The end result is that the West Sussex Golf Course has garnered itself a reputation for being one of the most natural yet playable courses in the country. That’s quite an accolade considering there are over 2,500 courses in the UK altogether.
Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club // www.royalashdown.co.uk // 01342 822018
Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club has two great courses to enjoy, both of which have been named in the top 100 courses in England. Set in the heart of the Ashdown Forest, the club has been enjoyed for over 125 years, and the natural heather, hollows, and pools that are found around the course are at once both beautiful and challenging.
The two courses are known as The Old Course and The West Course. Both have their own challenges, both are lovely to play on, and it’s difficult to choose between them, although the absence of bunkers on the Old Course might sway your decision.
Littlehampton Golf Club // www.littlehamptongolf.co.uk // 01903 717170
Founded in 1889, Littlehampton is considered to be the only true links course in West Sussex. Technically that means that the course is built on undulating ground, with ridges and dips across it. This is not a smooth, manicured course like others in the county, but that’s all part of the fun. There are bunkers galore along the route here, and it isn’t until you reach the 18th hole that you’ll find much in the way of a green. It’s exciting and exhilarating, especially if you enjoy the challenges that the rough can throw at you.
Piltdown Golf Club // www.piltdowngolfclub.co.uk // 01825 722033
Piltdown has always been a good course, but with a recent injection of £400,000 for improvements, it’s now fantastic. Not only is the course a stunning one to play on, but there is a thriving golfing academy on site too, offering those who want to learn the game properly the chance to be taught by pros.
Sweetwoods Park // www.sweetwoodspark.com // 01342 850729
If you are yet to enjoy a round at Sweetwoods Park, what are you waiting for? The stunning par-72 parkland course is set in the Wealden Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty and enjoys countless views of lakes, valleys and woodland. It’s a real treat. In fact, as members will testify, the course has quite simply never been in better condition.
Last year saw the launch of Sweetwoods Park brand new trial membership, offering a full seven-day membership, but with the option to bring guests at a reduced rate, all with just a three-month commitment. There’s your summer of golf all wrapped up.
The View at Seaford Head // www.the-view.co.uk // 01323 890139
With some of the most breathtaking views in Sussex, Seaford Head Golf Course is an undulating downland/links style course on the cliffs of Seaford. The Seven Sisters can be seen from the 13th, 14th and 15th holes, and the famous 18th hole has an extended vista over Seaford bay and beyond to Brighton.
Designed and constructed in 1887, this golfing links is steeped in recent and ancient history – from its Saxon camp to its use during the war, Seaford Head has an energy all of its own. You will never tire of teeing off from the 18th, some 300 feet above sea level, and watching your drive soar down 150 feet to the fairway below.
The View at Seaford Head is open to the public seven days a week offering a full menu of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and is perfect for a quick coffee or business meeting. With floor-to-ceiling windows and a warm welcome, the restaurant prides itself on offering a full menu all day.
Selsey Golf Club // www.selseygolfclub.co.uk // 01243 602165
Selsey Golf Course is a truly beautiful, but testing 9-hole links type course. Situated next to the coast, with stunning views of the Sussex Downs as a backdrop, it has multiple tee positions, a par of 68 over 18 holes, and was once owned by Max Faulkner, who was Open Golf Champion in 1951. One of the key features of the course was a present left by the Luftwaffe during the second world war; a 64-foot crater now known as Davison’s Pool – you can drive over this on the 8th and 17th holes.