On the East course at East Sussex National Golf Resort, Gordon Brand Jnr. and David Gilford won the European Opens in 1993 and 1994 respectively. It will come as no surprise to hear that East Sussex National’s East course is a big tournament layout.
Bob Cupp designed the course, using bent grass from green to tee. In 1990, after two years in the making, it opened for play. The East is laid out in an American, stadium-styled design – no wonder, because Cupp is American. The earth certainly moved here, because huge mounds flank many of the holes – making ideal vantage points for thousands of spectators. The layout wends its way across the rolling, undulating hills of the South Downs.
Cupp has designed a cracking course that will test every level of golfer. The huge East course measures more than 7,100 yards from the back tees. But don’t be disillusioned; there are numerous forward tees to choose from. Putting is a real pleasure on the immaculate, manicured greens – no excuses for three putting. Driving is also thrilling – you can really open your shoulders and let rip. This is a relatively open course, with generous fairways. Thankfully, the rough is normally kept under control.
There are many testing holes and memorable ones too. But without a shadow of doubt, the piece de resistance is the 17th, a 450-yard par four. From the tee, everything is laid out clearly in front of you – it’s a daunting prospect. There’s a wily creek lying to the right of the green. It widens and narrows and widens again, almost reaching back to the tee. At all costs, the tee-shot must avoid the creek, leaving an approach across the water to a large, receptive and inviting green.
The whole East Sussex Nation complex is massive, from the car park and clubhouse, to the two excellent courses (East and West). In the British Isles, the level of customer service at East Sussex National is second to none. They certainly know how to look after you – your clubs will be cleaner at the end of the day, than at the start.
We thoroughly recommend a day playing the East and the West. It will be tiring – but well worth the effort. Take the pressure off and treat yourself to a buggy for the afternoon round.
East Sussex National’s East course built by a Canadian and designed by Bob Cupp, is not surprisingly, an American style course. I decided to play this course because it held an European PGA tour event twenty-five+ years ago. I suspect it held the event as a way to gather notoriety and was able to do so as it has the length and land for large crowds. This is very much a “manufactured” golf course with very little natural about it. The fairways are generous, particularly on the par fives and the longer par 4’s, and the wayward shot usually has a chance of a putt for par unless the grass is high or a ball finds the water.
I do not have the game for the back tees.at over 7100 yards and even the next set of tees at nearly 6800 yards is a bit long. The white tees at 6050 is too short. As with several other courses I have reviewed, I wondered why there is not a set of combo tees creating a 6400-6500 yard course. It isn’t very difficult to do this.
From those 6050 tees the course is definitely too easy as most of the challenge of the course is taken away given the width of the fairways and the shortness of the par 5’s and many of the par 4’s. The white tees have two par 5’s at 460 yards and nine par 4’s under 400 yards.
We did our own combination and played the blue tees for the par 5’s and par 3’s and moved up to the white tees on any par 4 over 420 yards (#5, 9, 15, and 17) which created a course of approximately 6540 yards. We did not move up on #18 as the yardage was nearly 100 yards shorter with the white tees at 330 yards which we felt to be unfair.
The fairways are generous except for a few holes. One could argue they are too generous. However, if one plays the correct tees for your game, then the course provides options especially on those longer holes. The routing works it way down from the clubhouse and then back up a bit for both the front and back nine. There is good use of water as a defense beginning with the first hole where a stream is at the front of the short par 4 green. The long par 4 fifth hole has a ditch that should not come into play but has to be considered. Water is nearby on other holes but not really in play. The tenth and sixteenth has water fronting the green. Seventeen seems to have water everywhere whether as a stream or a pond.
The greens are large and defined less by subtleties to their breaks than by larger slopes. They are good greens. Putts longer than 30 feet will require an equal focus to pace as to the line as they can end up well short or roll out too long. A few holes such as the fourth and ninth holes have a bowl/ridge in the green. Some of the greens are crowned such as the eighth or raised like the fourteenth and seventeenth. Several of the downhill holes have their greens sloping front to back or slanted to one side or the other such as the seventh, eighth, or eleventh. This leads to good variety in the tilts of the large greens. Near the greens are a good placement of bunkers, mounds, run-offs, or valleys fronting the greens
The par 5’s for the longer hitters are a good mix of length and birdie opportunities. The second hole is only 517 yards from the back tees playing downhill so a good drive will leave an iron for the approach shot. The tenth plays at only 510 yards. The other two par 5’s play 575 yards from the championship tees.
The short par 4’s such as the downhill sixth also represent a strong birdie chance for anyone, with the longer hitters easily being able to reach the green with their tee shot, perhaps even with a 3 metal.
There is appropriate use of bunkers such as going down the right side of the fairway on the long par 4 third hole and the four bunkers surrounding the fifth green. The greenside bunkers can be fairly deep and many of the fairway bunkers have a raised lip. The only hole where I think there is an overuse of bunkers is on the mid-length eleventh where there is a cluster of them on the left side of the fairway and two on the right. These bunkers pinch the fairway a little too much.
It starts and ends with holes that are fun to play with the first being a short par 4 downhill with a stream fronting it and a skinny green while the eighteenth is uphill and well bunkered left of the green. They are both fun holes.
The best holes on the golf course are the long par 4 fifth hole, followed by the short eighth par 3 with its difficult green. The long ninth is fun to play despite its difficulty due to length and a very undulating green. I liked the dogleg right shorter par 4 eleventh hole. I thought the fourteenth to be the best par 5 on the course due to the dogleg, the pot bunker in the middle of the fairway for the approach shot and four bunkers surrounding a tilted green. Seven is also a nice long par 5.
I did not like the second as I felt it lacked any drama. Also I did not like the sixteenth, a mid-length par 3 where I thought the green to be too skinny. I also did not care for the seventeenth, a long par 4 that has a tree in the fairway on the right and more coming in from the right nearer the green combined with a stream crossing the fairway, a pond, and the stream near the green. The seventeenth errs too much towards defense.
What I like about the East course at East Sussex National is that the course does not seem to be forced or contrived. When I played The Oxfordshire and especially Chart Hills I feel like those courses are overly manufactured in its routings and defense as if they are trying to do too much whereas at East Sussex National East the course is more straightforward. In terms of courses attached to hotels in England that I have played, I would likely come here before Forest of Arden, Hanbury Manor, or The Oxfordshire but I would not debate it too much. Simply put, I like the views and the walk better here.
After watching the East course on Sky Sports for the Euro Pro Tour, we were very excited to finally be playing the course and in great conditions. We were greeted off the elevated tee by a friendly martial who settled our nerves with some gentle banter.
The first hole is a par 4 straight down a gentle slope to a green beyond a brook running just prior to the front of the slender but wide green. It's a really good first hole because it's a welcoming drive, but a thoughtful approach. The 2nd is a tempting par 5 with a slight dogleg to the left which has a tree on the right hand side of the fairway, potentially blocking out glory
The 5th is a charming par 4 down a hill to a green just beyond a little brook. The 7th is an engaging par 5 which snakes round to the left arriving at a green framed by trees. The 10th hole is a cracking par 5 which when you get over the crest of the fairway from your tee shot, you look downwards to a picturesque risk or reward 2nd shot as the green has a slope at the front, which runs into a watery trench. There are also trees which can potentially block your chance at reaching the green in two.
The 11th can create some drama with bunkers and a steep drop off to the right of the green. The 12th is all about making sure you are in the right hand side of the fairway sufficiently to avoid the large tree on the fairway to the left. The tree will dictate what kind of approach you have.
The 15th hole starts the beginning of a really good stretch of finishing holes. It is a relatively straight par 4 uphill all the way to the green where the pressure is getting some good distance off the tee. The 16th is a scintillating par 3 with water leading up to the right hand side of the kidney bean shaped green with bunkers front right and at the back. The green is also framed in an American style fescue which provides a visceral contrast. The 17th is an excellent 2 parter. The tee shot forces you to lay up short of the water before the approach shot over water to an elevated green. The beauty of the hole is that you want to be as close to the water as possible or you will have a long shot into the green. The final hole is a good finishing hole. You tee off to an invitingly generous uphill fairway which then winds its way to the left and up a fairly steep slope to a thin, but long slanted green. You will probably only have a short iron in to the final hole with the impressive clubhouse in the backdrop, but it is the bunkers on the left you will want to avoid.
We stayed at the East Sussex National and only played the East course but we really enjoyed the the whole experience and thought the American resort style course was more than interesting enough to hold our attention. The course was in very good condition and the greens ran perfectly to make for a thoroughly enjoyable day.