This is a course to really like. As a links course it has it all in friendly amounts, flats links holes to start and finish, undulating dunes, some big dunes, occasional blind shots, interesting carries etc. It probably rates above Rye, as it doesn't have the lesser holes Rye has but quite a bit below the two Royal Kent links. However the position over Rye is qualified. Although the course was being burnt to a cinder by the July heat wave there are still some poor maintenance practices. They are for example the worst southeast links greens (although still pretty damn good) and the course has a bit of a worn unloved feel. The things that disappointed me were for example the bunkers, nobody playing could obviously be bothered to rake them and that is poor. Having said that it is wonderful place to play and the club house is fantastic to look at with one of the great balconies of any golf club. In fact the club house is debatable point, it is five years old. The original art deco building from the twenties was knocked down ....... which in terms of history is a truly vandolous act. However you can't help but praise the club for the external design of the new club house, it is truly majestic and fitting for it's location. Although as the steward said, inside it is like any other service station type new golf club house interior (who are these people who specialise in making golf clubs look like old peoples homes or doctors surgeries?).
In terms of playing the course it really does build as the dunes become bigger the further you get from the club house, (personally if I was to alter the course I'd change the first to play a par 4 down the practice ground, this is my opinion and probably wrong, but I think the 1st is a poor opening hole, I'd then change the 2nd into a long par 4 rather than a nothing par 5). However as you get further from the clubhouse the fun starts with the 6th being the first of a long run of very different and interesting holes .The 8th is very much like Royal St George's SI1, but much much shorter. The 11th is one of the best par three links holes I have played, in fact I struggle to think of a better one on the south east coast in terms of a short challenge (obviously there is the Maiden at Royal St George's for sheer dramatics). Then there are the completely different challenges of the 12th and 13th across some very large hill like dunes (don't be tempted in summer to drive the 13th somebody watched my ball bounce out of bounds today). The 14th is also a good par five although there seems to be a spare green further on by the 15th tee which if used would make it a truly great and very tough hole with the marsh all down the left. After that you are back to the flatter on the way to the club house with some long and testing par 4's with water and some big carries.
It's really worth the visit and is a friendly place to be, just get chatting to the charming pro Ray Gadd to get the idea. I just think the club needs to concentrate on the course a little more, they really have a great historical links here and they really need to treasure it a little more.
Date: July 18, 2006