Golf in the Chichester area dates back to 1892 when a club was formed and a rudimentary 9-hole course came into play at Peckham Copse. The club received a noble helping hand at the turn end of the 19th century when the sixth Duke of Richmond offered to move the club to the foxhound kennels on his vast Goodwood Estate. Surely dog kennels would never make a comfortable clubhouse? Well, architect to George III, James Wyatt, designed these kennels in 1787 for the famous Charlton Hunt and they are of significant architectural importance and the finest example of Sussex flint work in the county.
The Duke of Richmond’s estate workers laid out the original course at Goodwood Golf Club, but James Braid designed a proper sporting course in 1914, the essence of which is played today and it still bears many of Braid’s hallmark doglegged holes and intimidating cross bunkering.
Naturally, the chalky South Downs provide not only excellent drainage but also dramatic elevation change, ideal for exciting golf and for panoramic views across the Goodwood Estate to Chichester Cathedral, the Solent and the Isle of Wight beyond.
In 2004, Howard Swan started a lengthy renovation of the historic Downs course. It was extended to a meaty 7,104 yards from the back tees but the integrity of Braid’s original design was cleverly maintained retaining the best of Braid’s holes while also creating holes that cater for today’s big hitting golfers. The new and spectacular par four 2nd is a great example, which combines two of Braid’s original holes. An accurate drive to an escarpment leaves an inviting approach shot to a large green sited in the valley below.
In 1989 Donald Steel added a second course at Goodwood Golf Club, known as the Park course and it’s open for pay and play amongst the majestic cedars. Unfortunately, the Downs course is only open to members and their guests unless you book a golf day and invite all your golfing friends to experience the best downland golf course in Britain.
In 2014, Goodwood commissioned Mackenzie &
Ebert to refurbish the bunkers of the Downs course in a phased approach, which completed
in April 2017.
I can echo other comments in that this is a seriously tough walking course! This makes for some incredible views over Chichester but there are perhaps 1 too many “down and up again” holes for my liking. A fairly weak opening 2 holes get you going before the course settles in nicely among the woodland. The bunkers and all the areas around the greens were maintained superbly and really gave the course it’s identity. The staff and clubhouse area were fantastic and for £60 for 18 holes and a bacon roll on a Saturday is hard to grumble at. All in all we enjoyed our day but left feeling Goodwood’s ranking was incredibly complimentary.
Our Society played Downs course yesterday on the hottest day of the year, and loved the exceptional club house, parks and views of the surrounding chalk down land, Chichester, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. A truly beautiful part of England at its loveliest.I had heard it was a tough walk but routinely discount it when the course turns out to be undulating. I would strongly suggest don't carry on this course ! The buggies are cool convertibles, there is race track kerbing on the buggy path, and some of the green to tee route marches would be much better experienced from behind the wheel, much though I dislike buggy golf. The course is nice, good condition, and if you can keep your card going after the turn you will score well.14 and 15 on a hot day felt gruelling, long uphill past 4s. I was delighted with bogies. All this adds up to a slow course, 4.5 hours being expected playing time. After the round the classy changing rooms and showers with big fluffy towels were very welcome. We really enjoyed our post round beers in the attractive garden with great staff, but I would suggest bottled beer !
Goodwood is a spectacular Estate in the heart of West Sussex and is home to the world famous Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival and the annual ‘Glorious Goodwood’ horseracing meeting.
Amongst many other things this idiosyncratic venue also boasts two distinct golf courses; the Downs and the Park.
The much praised Members' Downs Course plays up towards the racecourse, initially through dramatic valleyed fairways before climbing even higher where the remainder of the course is mostly perched on the South Downs giving golfers incredible views over Chichester in the near distance and the Isle of Wight and sparkling Solent beyond.
Although one of the oldest golf courses in Sussex, designed in 1914 by the legendary James Braid, it has a rather modern feel to it. This is presumably the result of recent renovations that have retained the essential character of Braid’s concept whilst providing a challenge for the present day game.
It’s a big course for sure; demanding yet fair with almost a pro-tournament feel to it. We played it off the ‘Silver’ 7,102 tips and after a spell of heavy rain the going was good-to-soft, heavy in places. I’m led to believe that this downland course usually consists of fast-running fairways but on our visit it played every pace of its seven kilometre layout with very little run on the ball. That said, the course stood up remarkably well to the biblical rain that had drenched the course only a couple of hours before we teed off and I suspect the following day it would have played much firmer when other venues would still be closed.
The Downs is also a tough hike with several lengthy walks from green to tee so be prepared for this if carrying otherwise I would strongly suggest taking one of the funky custom-made ‘Woody’ buggies, based on the 1934 designed Brakenvan. The walk from the first green to the second tee is longer than the 202-yard par-three opener itself and this is probably the same for getting to the seventh tee following the 329-yard sixth! Making your way to the next tee on some of the early holes involves big climbs up the hillside too although the fantastic elevated drives that you play are definitely worth it; just make sure you get your breath back first.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The Downs course is a great design and I have to say a very enjoyable experience and absolutely no chance to be bored with the choice of holes. The 2nd hole is really good – a tee-shot of around 210 yards (tip; driver not required….do not be long) will leave a downhill approach of about 150 yards. The tee shot on the par-4 3rd favours a left to right shot and will set up a long approach (watch the very cleverly placed bunker 30 yards short of the green). The 7th tee is probably the highest point on the Downs course and like many have said, take-in the view from here before playing the tricky par-4. At the 11th, you are greeted by a par-5 with an elevated tee and plenty more great views to enjoy…cross bunkers on the approach to the green are a great feature and a very typical trait of the designer, James Braid.
Loved the 12th, and my favourite short hole on the course – watch this green as putts can turn what appears to be uphill! Another nice short par-4 at the 13th is then followed by two holes that are in the heart of ‘downland’. My choice of best par-5 comes at the 16th – drive should be slightly right of centre and then the approach needs to hug the left side, which gives the best chance to attack and hunt for the rare birdie. A decent mid iron par-3 is at the 17th and a fairly long par-4 18th ends the round.
The Downs course was a real treat to play and one that I will return to very soon. The current Top 100 county ranking says this is no. 5 in Sussex – it is better than that, top 3 is very achievable. There is a very friendly welcome from all staff and in this busy market after the floating golfer this is very important – I am sure that if you make the effort to visit Goodwood once you are bound to come back – there are some very reasonable flexible memberships available too.