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.
The East is very much a course set-up for tournament play with stadium mounding, large greens, longish green-to-tee walks, multiple tee boxes and is laid out in two returning loops of nine. Amongst many other professional events it has hosted The European Open in the past and you will need to bring your A-game to score well. It is fairly generous from the tee, particularly the front-nine, and there are some chances to make birdies but overall it is a stern test. Water becomes an increasing hazard as we move into the superior back-nine and by the time we reach the 16th and 17th it is very much the main focus of our attention.
The course starts with a jolt too in the form of a very penal hole where one must carry a pond on the approach to a green which appears wider than it is deep. The hole is not too long but I fear most average golfers may not get off to the best start. Elsewhere, I was fond of the par-five 7th which has a nice green complex and it was also pleasing to see a driveable par-four - the 6th plays a maximum of 329 yards with forward tees at 311 and 270 and the tiny green is nicely in keeping with this length of hole.
On the back nine the 10th (another par five) is a strong hole as is the long 14th with a centreline bunker to negotiate at some point of your journey on this 569-yarder. It's unusual for par-fives to be my favourite holes on a golf course but on the East they are certainly the holes that provide the most interest.
Heavy overnight rain had left the courses a little worse for wear when I played them and I can imagine the course may suffer during wetter months but get it on a good day and I don't think you will be disappointed with the condition. The greens, tees and rest of the course (apart from the fairways) were in tip-top condition.
Overall I came away from East Sussex pleasantly surprised with both courses and the competitively priced green-fees are also very welcome to see.
There are vibes of Celtic Manor, St. Mellion, The Belfry, Forest of Arden, Slaley Hall, The Oxfordshire and many other resort and spa venues. As I said at the beginning this is not where I personally choose to play the majority of my golf but for the corporate and society golfer or those looking for a well-priced UK break then East Sussex National should certainly be a consideration, in fact one I would recommend. I tend to focus just on the golf but there is also a swimming pool, spa, restaurants and plenty of business facilities on site too which may sway your decision.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Perhaps it was the weather - a dry day, if still damp underfoot, perhaps it was because I played a bit better (at least more consistently), perhaps it was the rather better conditioning, but I preferred the East Course at East Sussex National to the West.
I saw the course as one asking questions more around length than around direction. There was plenty of fairway, even more first and second cuts, but also plenty of water, to be carried with tee shots (eg 15 and off the back tees 18) but more often to be carried with second shots (eg 1, 10, and 17). That’s not to say being long was automatically good, indeed with layups often being needed hitting 120 yards could be as important as hitting 250 yards.
Unsurprisingly it’s not an easy walk, at least as far as distance is concerned, with decent walks from greens to tees to accommodate the hoped for crowds. That distance provided tranquility, off at 10 minute intervals we hardly say the group in front and we’re rarely caught from behind despite my partner having a rather poor day. We were also never looking to our left or right to see other groups, and there was certainly no need to shout fore lest groups on adjacent fairways be in danger from errant shots.
I’d probably say I preferred the back nine, the 10th for example offered the right level of temptation for the second shot (I tried and failed), similarly the 17th. But both offered safe ways to get on in 3 and with nice greens single puts were possible. While I didn’t find the short 13th of any great interest the 16, over water was, though it would certainly phase the shorter or more senior golfer off the blue or gold tees. Indeed I was a little uninspired by the par 3s in general, there wasn’t a huge range of distance off the whites, 117, 138, 148 with the sole outlier being the 183 yard fourth. And as I’ve said in a comment to an earlier review 6086 yard off the whites, while quite enough when there’s no run would have felt a bit short if there had been any run on the ball. That said 6757 yards, even if the slope would give me 16 shots, feels a bit long.
Overall it felt a little formulaic, the standard four par 3s, four par 5s and ten par fours. I tend to prefer my course with a little bit more quirk, but I fully accept that quirk cannot guarantee to counter the length that youngsters have now. So if you want to have to drive, and drive hard for much of the time, if you like a muscular course and if you like avoiding water then it’s a course for you. If you fancy rolling the ball in to green then best avoid. But if you’re in the middle don’t automatically ignore it. It’s a decent golf course, and the ancillary facilities (hotel rooms, spa, bar, gym) are good. Like the West course it has a nice halfway house. It’s also near some very pleasant countryside, so there’s plenty for a non-golfer to do.
we recently had a 2 night stay with 2 rounds of golf booked at the east sussex national, unfortunately the day before we played the east course there was a large amount of rain and the fairways where extremely wet and was almost impossible to find dry areas to hit from. The next day we where due to play the west course unfortunately there was again a large amount of rain over night and continued to rain during the day. The course was obviously in an unplayable condition and we went into the pro shop and asked if we could have a credit to come back on another day. We were simply told no the course is open so we unfortunately lost our green fee money and no option to return on another day. I would recommend visiting only between april - september
I will caveat this review with saying this resort style golf isn’t my cup of tea, but the East Course does a good job at making the golf more interesting.
The 1st sets the standard in what to expect from the rest of the course. The fairway offers width and options, but depending on the days pin location a top player would strategically position themselves in the appropriate side of the fairway. The approach is where the challenge is set- a approach over water to a shallow green. This theme of placement from tee followed by second shot challenge is on offer throughout.
However, this doesn’t mean being a good driver isn’t crucial here, there are plenty of holes where length from the tee is an advantage, such as the uphill, into the wind 440 yard par 4 16th.
Some standout holes for me include the visually intimidating well bunkered 3rd, the long par 3 4th with no bunkers, and the short but challenging par 4 6th. A characteristic of this golf course throughout is the idea of delayed penalty- just because you are in the fairway doesn’t mean you are in a good position.
The par 12th has a large tree short left of the green (I’m not really a fan of using a tree as a hazard), but considering the length and width on offer on this par 4 I think it actually is an interesting feature.
I’m sure people would say the ‘signature holes’ are the 16th and 17th holes which have lots of water, but I think the green is what makes the 16th hole great, choosing a line and committing to it is key.
There is risk-reward on offer on most holes, but going for the par 5 10th in two could offer plenty of trouble, and the centreline bunker on the also par 5 14th means strategy is key. All in all, a lot more to this course that meets the eye, meaning that it was a pleasant surprise.
As with the West, I was pleasantly surprised with this course. The ground is undulating and is certainly interesting and beautiful in places.
This is the more championship layout but is perhaps a little less consistent compared with the West.
The first is a strange hole - an easy drive with a short approach needing to carry a stream to an extremely narrow green. 3 is a great par 4 that doglegs left. The approach is downhill to an undulating green surrounded by bunkers.
4 is a good par 3 that requires a long iron to hit a large green that doesn’t have any bunkers protecting it but given the Humps and Hollows that surround the green, it doesn’t really need them.
7 is a good par 5 with a big run-off if you land short of the green. 9 is the pick of the front 9 holes for me. A long par 4 with a great drive from an elevated green. The green is very tough (considering you’ll be hitting a long-ish iron in) and you should be happy walking off with a par here.
11 is one of my favourite holes. Uphill and dogleg right, this is a beauty of a hole with some huge bunkers right of the green.
The final 3 holes here are cracking. 16 is a long par 3 played over a pretty lake to a shallow green. 17 is the best hole on the course. A long hole with a stream down the left that crosses the fairway and becomes a lake in front of the green and to the right. Two very solid shots are needed here. 18 is then a long and tough final hole played uphill to the clubhouse with bunkers everywhere.
This is a tough course but is great fun. The greens are undulating and were lightning quick when I played. There are a few weak holes which stop this place from being amazing (the par 4 6th and the par 3s 8th And 13th were all quite ordinary) but overall, this is a place worth visiting. Make it an all day affair and play both courses.
The East course at East Sussex National was one the first American style courses built in the Uk. I remember playing here soon after the opening and the condition of both courses were second to none. Unfortunately like many courses opened during this period they fall on hard times and keeping the immaculate conditioning is not viable. That being said both courses are decent and I think I prefer the East out of the two. It has a few memorable holes such as the 1st a short par 4 with a green that you approach over water….the green runs from front to back so quite tricky to hold if you’re not on the fairway. Hole 6 is a fun short par 4 you can drive although the green is very narrow and OOB awaits the pulled or hooked tee shot. I really like the 10th a downhill par 5 that tempts the player to go for the green protected by a brook that winds around the front of the green. 16 is cracking par 3 that pays over a pond…it can play long into the wind and its quite easy to rack up a high score on this hole. The best hole on the course is 17 a long par 4 with water guarding the left part of the fairway before the player approaches this slightly raised green with a mid to long iron….the brook that runs down left meanders across the fairway and to the right of this green. For a two round away trip ESN is certainly worth a visit but due to its clay base I would suggest visiting in the summer months.
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.
Agree about the need for a 6,400 yard option. When I played the course was lush, so no run, but if a bit dryer the 6,050 White option would feel too short. The Gold and Blue options would certainly be too long for me.
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.