The West course is considered to be the more intimate, and the prettier of the two courses at the East Sussex National Golf Resort. Once the reserve of the members, the West course can now be played as part of a visitor’s package.
Bob Cupp designed both courses and they opened for play in 1990. Cupp used bent grass from tee to green, and the result is an American-styled course, with plenty of definition between the various cuts of grass. The West is the longer of the two courses, measuring a massive 7,154 yards from the back tees. Host to the Challenge Tour Championships between 1995-1998, the West course represents a serious test of golf. It was also used for the European Tour Qualifying School between 1994-1997. But don’t be put off, there are four separate teeing areas and the course measures only 6,069 yards from the regular men’s tees (5,199 yards from the ladies’ tees).
Attractive views of the South Downs are part of the package. The ground is undulating and there are plenty of mature trees to negotiate. There are also many memorable holes. The 3rd is a pretty par three – aim for Little Horsted Church. Protecting the green to the right is a pond. The green itself is two-tiered and it’s an especially difficult hole to play when the flag is at the back on the upper tier. But it’s the par fives that are special. From the back tees, they all measure in excess of 500 yards. Little Horsted creek meanders along the entire length of the 12th hole, a demanding and impressive par five. The creek turns into a small pond, lying in wait to the right of the green. A par here will be cherished.
The Strokesaver beautifully sums up the West’s closing holes: “The golfer has been restricted at 14, tempted at 15, devilled at 16 and exhausted at 17. Now he stands on the elevated tee, looking across a deep chasm to a fairway lined right and left by giant oaks, and a green guarded by huge bunkers and the clubhouse beyond.”
East Sussex National is a stylish golf complex. It was voted Golf Club of the Year in the 1994 edition of Following the Fairways. There is no doubt that this is one of the country’s most welcoming and customer-focused golf clubs. A day playing the West and the East will be exhausting, but well worth the effort.
As my recent review of the East Course would suggest I felt the West course at the East Sussex National golf resort was a little less good than the East. I say this not because the routing was worse, but rather because the conditioning, especially on the greens, was just a bit less good. Thus the leatherjackets which seem to have troubled many Sussex courses had attracted the crows whose attempts to hollow time the greens were still noticeable.
What you get is a muscular course, plenty of walking and plenty of water. Wide fairways encourage the use of the driver, length control is more important than direction control. I played the back nine in a series of heavy showers; appreciating a golf course can be hard when standing under an umbrella. Indeed four days later a number of holes are less then clear to me.
But I’d certainly go back, especially as there are good deal to be had; I just hope the weather is a bit nicer and the previous month’s weather a bit drier so that the course could be played with a bit of run.
East Sussex National is set out in a vast expanse of land in the Sussex countryside. Equipped with two courses, a hotel, restaurant and Spa, ESN is set up for golfing retreats or corporate getaways.
The West Course is generally seen as the Premier of the two Parkland courses and I would agree with this sentiment.
It’s a very well designed course, with a great mix of holes and it’s a lot of fun to play. There are plenty of holes that really make you think and different strategies come into play right throughout. Finding the right part of the fairway is key and also the correct part of the green as they are often tiered and undulating.
The course reminds me a little of The Grove, but for one key element, the conditioning. The West Course needs some investment to bring it back to former glories. Fairways were patchy, there are a fair few bunkers under repair and a couple of the greens need some treatment. This is not the case throughout the course, but often enough to notice.
The course has all the necessaries in its design and variance and is really not far off being a very good course, but a bit of TLC is needed.
Favourite holes for me we the cleverly bunkers Par 5 2nd, the cracking dog leg right Par 4 10th with an approach over water to a tiered green and the excellent Par 5 12th with a creek running through the fairway and up the right hand side requiring three very good shots for a GIR. There’s a lot of good stuff here, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds on whether it wants to be a elite course, or a corporate venue.
The West Course at East Sussex National is a brutal test of golf. From the tee, it’s extremely tight and narrow, so make sure you have plenty of balls. This claustrophobia means the player is left with no options but to hit the shot required from the tee.
From the start the course dictates to you how you must play it, the opener is a sharp dog leg left where the player must position themselves perfect to even have a shot into the green.
The greens are tough, and at times (such as the long well bunkered par 5 2nd), are extremely small even with a lot of trouble from tee to green. This is not true of the short par 3 16th postage stamp style hole, which is a lot of fun to try and hold a small green with only a wedge in hand. There are also bigger greens throughout the 18 holes.
A personal favourite here is the 10th hole, a dog leg to the right, with water guarding the green. Even without the water, the green is narrow, and so distance control is crucial, and the two-tiered green means some interesting putts. The par 5 12th has two brooks, which does give the player the option of some risk/reward golf, and the green is hard to hit with even just a wedge left in hand.
Overall, this isn’t my favourite style of golf- a hard slog which is narrow off the tee, but when the conditioning is good I can imagine the greens would offer some interest.
I was very impressed with both courses at East Sussex National And find it hard to split them.
As for the West, the conditioning was great, the course was fun, interesting and played across beautiful undulating countryside. Yes, it’s not an old-fashioned design - it’s pure modern parkland and the turf isn’t as sandy as some of the best in the region - but this is still a place with a lot of charm.
The first hole requires good strategy - a simple enough drive but it needs to be placed perfectly to have a good view of the green (which is at a 90 degree angle to the fairway, nestled at the bottom of the hill amongst the trees).
2 is a long but interesting par 5 and 3 is a lovely short par 3 with a pond short and right.
4-6 are all quite similar, interesting enough holes played on the slightly more open ground before you cross under the road.
7 is a long par 3 and the start of a great stretch of holes all the way to 14. 8 is an interesting par 4 played severely downhill To a large green that is hard to hold in the Summer months. 9 is a tough uphill par 4 that sweeps around to the left beautifully and 10 is a great par 4 with the second shot needing to carry a lake to a tiered green.
11 plays downhill from an elevated tee (a great driving hole) and 12 is a brilliant par 5 (extremely tight with a stream running all the way along the hole and the green sloping Menacingly towards it. 13 - another good par 3 played from an elevated tee and 14 is a great hole with Trouble all the way down the right and a tough approach into an elevated green.
The final few holes are strong. 16 is incredibly short and gets a bad review from some below but I really enjoyed it. It was playing about 100 yards for us and was Downwind. The greens were rock solid and to hold this narrow green with a wedge was a great challenge.
17 is a pretty par 5 with the trees coming into play on the right hand side, as well as some mature trees In the middle of the fairway - requiring a lot of strategy.
18 is a tough final hole with mature trees on either side of the tight fairway. The approach is uphill to a tricky green.
This is a delightful little gem and Definitely worth playing alongside the East.
Upon opening ESN The West course was billed as the members course. Like its counterpart the conditioning was excellent and the routing through old oak trees, brooks and ponds gave the course a special feel. The West is less demanding than the East but still has some standout holes. I quite like the 1st a dogleg from right to left although if you do not hit your tee shot far enough a couple of large trees will block your approach. Hole 10 is a dog leg left to right par 4…the right side of the fairway is the area to place your tee shot as this shortens the approach to this two tiered green. The 12th is a cracking par 5 with a brook that splits the fairway and pond that protects the approach to the green. Hole 16 is an interesting short par 3 with a raised green….this hole is devilishly difficult when windy. I prefer the East course at ESN although both courses are worth a visit.