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.
In A Matter of Course - The life of William Herbert Fowler, 1856 – 1941, Derek Markham commented as follows: “A private course was laid out on the Cowdray Estate in 1906 by the Scotsman Jack White, who had been Professional at Sunningdale for many years. The firm of Fowler and Simpson was called upon to modify and lengthen the course in 1913, with Tom Simpson taking the leading role. The course was lengthened from 5,403 to 5,699 yards. Cowdray Park became a members’ club in the 1920s; Simpson continued to advise the club into the 1930s.”
This attractive old par 70, 6,331-yard 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.
Played Cowdray this weekend just gone as a visitor. Course was very dry because of recent warm weather. Greens are very slopey and very quick but in good condition. Fairways were very dry and patchy in areas.
Holes all run very close to other holes, which is a shame as spreading the course out would have been a better design. The shared green is one of the strangest greens i have ever seen. 3 huge mounds within one green, making it one of the trickiest greens to putt on i have ever encountered.
Value for money (£50 for visitor) is great here for a weekend visitor, and the clubhouse is nice. Members were very friendly.
Overall i would say its a very nice course, without being too memorable. Worth playing if you are in the area.
Set in the beautiful setting of the Cowdray estate, I didn’t know much, if anything about this course going into my round here. It was a pleasant surprise, with some interesting design features and strong variety adding to the location.
This is evident right from the 1st, where the trench-style grass hollow around a large proportion of the green is something I haven’t experienced anywhere else. In general, the greens are great, with lots of little run offs and tiers that add intrigue.
This is definitely true for me with the stand out part of the property being the shared green between the 8th and 16th holes. It’s large, something you would expect to see at the Old Course, but for me that is a lazy comparison. The crazy, fun undulations in this green make it seem like something you would more expect to see at a place like Tara Iti or Sweetens Cove, rather than in the Sussex countryside.
The course is of a large scale, but it still blends in well with the natural surroundings. Another stand out hole for me was the extremely short par 3 11th. The bunker short of the green is certainly visually intimidating, meaning that despite the length this hole packs enough punch.
In general, from tee to green there is not loads of strategy required, and I found the routing of 17-18 disappointing as it just feels like playing a par 3 away from the next tee doesn’t make sense, whereas the rest of the course flows nicely.
All in all, it’s still a pleasant, interesting golfing experience, in a nice setting.
I live nearly 2 hours from this course and drive most Saturdays to play it. It is the perfect blend of challenging golf and wonderful countryside The most underrated course.