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The 16,500-acre Cowdray Estate lies close to Midhurst in West Sussex, within the South Downs National Park, where the family of Viscount Cowdray have been in residence since 1908. The property also features the Grade I listed ruins of Cowdray House, one of England’s great Tudor houses, which was largely destroyed by fire in 1793.
The estate is probably best known for the Cowdray Park Polo Club, host to the British Open Polo Championships which are held here every year, but there are a few other sporting options available to visitors; including clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing on the River Rother and, of course, golf on a 6,331-yard 18-hole course.
Designed by Herbert Fowler and J.F. Abercromby, this wonderful old par-70 layout has been in use for more than a hundred years now, with fairways blending beautifully into their surroundings as they meander around a lightly wooded downland landscape. Such a tranquil environment is really the most peaceful of places to play the royal and ancient game of golf.
There are only two par fives on the scorecard, both of which arrive on the front nine – at the 549-yard 5th and 550-yard 8th – and these holes present a decent chance of making a birdie. On the other hand, don’t expect to beat par at the 427-yard 2nd, rated stroke index 2, where the fairway narrows into a gully then climbs sharply uphill to a sand-protected raised green.
The overall length of the inward half is five hundred yards shorter than the front nine, but it’s precision, not power, that pays dividends at Cowdray Park, and the par four 14th is a great example – the fairway falls away sharply on the right so a pushed drive is punished and an approach played to the wrong level of the multi-tiered green is straying into 3-putt territory.
Three of the greens were recently reconstructed and there’s an ongoing upgrade programme to rebuild all of the teeing areas. Holes are lightly bunkered, true to the original design intent, and no additional sand hazards have been added to try and “trick up” the course. In essence, the course that golfers enjoy today is an authentic one that’s been in operation since 1904.
In 2018, the club renovated its clubhouse bar, creating a dedicated dining area, casual seating space and a soft seating area, with Lady Cowdray overseeing the interior design of this stylish, modern and welcoming facility. The 18th century Golf Lodge, fashioned from the old clubhouse, also offers comfortable overnight accommodation for up to sixteen guests.