Located on the cliffs between Highcliffe and Milford-on-Sea, the 27 holes at Barton-on-Sea Golf Club offer fabulous views across the Solent to the Needles on the Isle of Wight, with three loops of nine that start and finish close to the clubhouse.
The club was formed in 1897 by a group of golfers that included Sir Robert Affleck and these founding members played on a 9-hole cliff top layout to the west of where the club is now located, next to the Barton Court Hotel.
Thirteen years later, Harry Vardon laid out the club’s second course a little further inland – somehow managing to shoehorn eighteen holes into two small parcels of land – and this layout was built by Arthur Warren, who served the club until he retired in the mid-1940s.
The “Meadows Course” remained in play until 1922, when the same architect fashioned another 9-hole track close to where the original cliff top course had been sited. It was attached to the Grand Marine Hotel, giving a certain sporting cachet to the re-furbished premises.
A decade then passed before the club’s fourth and final course took shape when forty-eight acres were leased from the adjoining Ashley Clinton estate, allowing the club to engage Harry Colt to extend the existing course (retaining only a couple of holes) and set out a new 18-hole layout.
A Bournemouth developer purchased the course and the clubhouse in 1956 but a steering committee was hastily formed to raise enough money to “buy him out” and acquire the Clinton-owned 48-acre parcel of land that was leased to the club, securing the club’s long-term future.
Worries about coastal erosion – which removed a strip of land around 80 yards wide to the eastern boundary of the property – resulted in the club obtaining additional land in the mid-1980s and this enabled John Hamilton Stutt to re-design the Colt course and expand it to a 27-hole configuration in 1992.
The Becton and Needles nines combine to form the 18-hole course of first choice, measuring 6,447 yards from the back tees and playing to a par of 72. Holes 1 to 9 on the Becton, along with holes 1 and 9 on the Needles, were installed by Stutt, with holes 2 to 8 on the Needles attributed to Colt’s design.
The pick of the holes on the Becton circuit is considered to be the 363-yard 2nd, where a lovely little stream skirts the right side of the fairway, whilst the best hole on the Needles is kept until last at the par three 9th, which is played to an island green.
The third circuit at the club is called Stroller. It’s slightly shorter in length, but with holes 4, 5 and 6 (and some of hole 7) credited to Harry Colt, Stroller is in no way inferior to the Becton and Needles loops, so we recommend playing all three nines to appreciate the Barton-on-Sea experience fully.
Barton on Sea is a clifftop 27 hole club near the very pleasant town of Milford on Sea which overlooks lovely coastline with great views of the Isle of Wight.
If balanced correctly, 27 hole complexes can provide more fun than an 18 hole but without the exertion of 36 holes. Most of them seem to have clearly lesser 9 hole additions, eg Burnham and Berrow, Castlerock or St Enodoc, that don’t seem worthy of inclusion with the main 9, but locations like Rye and Prince’s provide a really fun day of golf without it feeling like a mission. Barton on Sea doesn’t quite make it into such exalted company, but is definitely worth a visit.
Firstly, there was no need to book a tee time for our 2 ball in May, with visitor availability starting at 9 am.
We organised ahead of time with the very helpful pro shop so they got us out in front of one of their frequent Society visits but juggled with Members playing a comp so we started slightly ahead of the usual visitors’ times and had a good quick round.
We played the course in the preferred Becton/Needles/Stroller order and had a great time.
The Becton starts with a straight forward new seeming parkland style longish hole that leads one to expect a somewhat “Farmer Giles” new course with green motorways. Happily, one then arrives at what we christened “Piccadilly Circus”, the slightly confusing intersection of a number of holes from different nines. Following the sign, you nip through a hedge and suddenly the round really starts with a great par 4 hole from an elevated tee trying to navigate a downhill tee shot into a narrowing sunken fairway with the wonderfully named “Becton Bunny” stream winding through it, rough bank to the left and briar to the right. A par is to be celebrated.
The 3rd is a fun, tricky par 3 played back up to the prevailing level with a seemingly magnetic bush short left and wickedly sloping green, then follows a run of good holes back and forth towards the clifftop with drivable par 4, back to back par 5’s over exciting ground, forced carries over water hazards and lots of opportunities to lose a ball or make a score.
Gather your breath at the straightforward par 3 8th , nip through Piccadilly Circus and play the 9th back to the club house ready for the next 9….or a restorative.
The Needles 9 starts with more open feel across the road with a fairly straightforward dogleg 4 followed by a terrifically hard long par 3 2nd with an elevated green and hard slope feeding left into a rough water hazard. Their interesting website shows you that of 3262 competition scores there have only been 30 birdies and 1 hole in one – kudos to that golfer !
The 9 continues with open, newish, linksy feeling holes leading to the cliff side ; great fun with an eagle opportunity as well as bogey chances.
The 9 finishes with a very short par 3 into an island style green in front of the ideally placed terrace to watch fellow golfers’ travails.
After your game (or in between nines if you fancy it as we did !) the club house is a comfortable, friendly place for good value beer and tasty food.
Finally the Stroller 9 (not named after easy walking, but the only Pony ever to compete at the Olympics, winning a silver in Mexico 68, and buried at the course. Hope he prefers surlyn to carrots!) starts next to the club house begins with a tricky left dog leg par 5 leading to a nice mix of holes with a similar blend of clifftop, parkland and linksy holes as the other 9’s, finishing back at the club house.
Barton on Sea is good holiday golf. They have done a nice job with the mixed style of holes between the nines, and within the nines, so it’s inevitably not terribly cohesive as a whole but there’s some really good golf with memorable holes in nice surroundings, at a friendly club with proud and welcoming members.
Highly recommended for a great value day in an area not overly blessed with seaside golf.