St Andrews Road,
- +44 (0) 1797 363355
M20 J10, to New Romney
Contact in advance - after 3pm at weekends
Founded in 1888, Littlestone Golf Club is a classic remote links course, located on the fringe of the Romney Marshes, with the English Channel as the backdrop. The British Ladies’ Open was held at Littlestone six years after the course opened, which was originally designed by Laidlaw Purves, tweaked by James Braid at the turn of the 20th century and revised in the 1920s by Alister MacKenzie. Frank Pennink made some bunker modifications after the Second World War and Donald Steel and Peter Alliss advised on some minor changes in 2000.
Littlestone is a hidden gem, overshadowed by the other famous links courses in the area: Rye, Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports. The course plays across fairly flat links land, although it does have its own range of sand dunes.
New Romney is one of the driest places in the British Isles; consequently you will rarely need your waterproofs. The dry flat ground makes for some interesting tight lies but rarely will you be faced with awkward stances. The greens are true and fast making it difficult to hold the ball.
There are no tricks here at Littlestone; everything is clearly in view from the tees (including a significant number of bunkers). You will need to be on top of your game to keep your score together – the last three holes are amongst the toughest around. Littlestone possesses numerous good golf holes and Bernard Darwin painted a particularly colourful picture of the 11th in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles:
“At the eleventh there is one of those uncomfortable tee-shots, which are so excellent. There is a canal, a nasty insidious serpentine beast of a canal, which winds its way along the left-hand side of the course, and it is our duty, in order to gain distance, to hug it as close as we dare; yet if we show ourselves the least bit too affectionate towards it, this ungrateful canal will assuredly engulf our ball to our utter destruction.”
At Littlestone, they like to get you around in about three hours (only singles, two-balls and foursomes were allowed, but the club does now allow limited fourball play). Littlestone is a delightfully good golf course that's well worth playing and, if you are feeling brave, they allow visitors to play from the medal tees.
Cards on the table, I’m not the biggest fan of flat courses. If there aren’t strong features, land formations or elevation changes to command your attention then there’s only so much that can be done through course design and conditioning.
The first hole didn’t do much to inspire me, essentially a field with a few bunkers and less than 300 yards from tee to green, Littlestone gets underway with a birdie opportunity. What land movement there is, primarily comes across the stretch of ground which covers holes 2, 3, 16 and 17. The 2nd, the best hole on the front nine has a perpendicular ditch that should only impact the longest of hitters. This is closely followed by a dune that’s been carved in two, now creating two sandy mounds forming a gap that allows a sight-line to the green. Once over the blind drive at the next, the rest of the front nine is well designed, beautifully conditioned but largely pancake flat.
What Littlestone lacks in aesthetics, it makes up in design and strategy. The 5th has an intimidating line of bunkers that captures your attention off the tee whilst the redesigned bunker that pops up out of the ground to the left of the 6th green is an impressive example of bunker reshaping. Moving through the round, it’s a shame that the busy road on the 8th damages what would otherwise be one of the better holes across the opening nine.
Reinforcing what other reviewers have said, the back nine is a step up in quality from what’s basically an average links course for the front nine. The combination of burns, small dunes, run off and collection areas, and some high quality green complexes on this back nine are what people will enjoy at Littlestone. Highlights include a fantastic shelf and hollow to the left of the 15th green and the beautifully rumpled fairway on the lead up to the 16th, a dogleg hole that’s blind from the tee and features some well positioned centre-line bunkers that need avoiding along this most extraordinary of fairways.
Sadly, due to the sea wall, sea views aren’t available until you get to the tee of the 17th, a hole that delivers in every way imaginable. The par threes across Littlestone are probably the course’s best asset, but 17 is in a different league entirely. Teeing off from an elevated position, the golfer is faced with two bunkers 30-40 yards short, whilst a blow-out bunker to the left and revetted face bunker to the right guard the wide but shallow undulating green. The interest on the hole doesn’t stop there either, with a false front and wicked drop off to the rear and overlooked by a converted water tower, this is one of the best par threes I’ve played.
The closing hole then provides a pleasant finish and a chance to close with a birdie although the raised green offers plenty of protection; missing left or right on this hole effectively ends any opportunity to make a good score such is the degree of difficulty associated with a chip or sand shot from either side of the green.
Overall, whilst flat courses don’t really do it for me, they often bring out the best in the course architect and Littlestone offers a good example of this. Whilst I was a little disappointed in the front nine and overall, there are only a handful of truly memorable holes, the challenge offers questions of strategy most of the way around. And despite not being overly contoured, the green complexes are otherwise excellent. Considering I played in January, the putting surfaces were rolling beautifully for the time of year. The green staff at Littlestone have done a grand job as the bunkers too are faultless. Due to the lack of land movement, I’d agree that the rankings are correct and that the south coast courses at Hayling and Princes offer slightly more enjoyable days on the links, but Littlestone still has its merits and warrants visiting if you’re in the region and a fan of coastal links golf.
Littlestone golf club is a challenging but enjoyable links course. From a perspective of a ten year old golfer, playing from the yellow tees, I think the opening shots off the tee were mostly challenging. The first is a nice par 4 to open with but it gets more and more difficult as you go along for instance the 2nd green is surrounded by two large mounds about 50 yards from the green and there is a burn as well which makes a tough approach to the green.
This is a fun course to play but as I played it I noticed that the front nine is easier than the back nine. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would 100% recommend people who like links courses to go there. Just one quick thing 16 and 17 are probably 2 of the hardest holes because 16 is a dog-leg left and has a few hidden bunkers and a tricky green. 17 because it is a very well protected par 3 there are bunkers well placed around the green and some not as close.
In summary, I think that Littlestone is a marvellous links course. I think this because it has all the right features for a links and it is nice to play but it also tests your golfing ability. I definitely recommend this golf course.
Wonderful review Henry. I couldn't write like you do at 10 years old. I'm impressed and I also agree with your Littlestone thinking. It's spot on.
Firstly, many thanks to the Secretary for taking out 15 mins of her day the day before to rearrange some tee times and find me a spot in the first group. Played the course on a bright, sunny, cold morning Dec 28th. A little bit of wind but plenty of frost. My 7.20 tee time was delayed till 10.10 but was away with a likeable member in the first group.
The first hole is, well, a bit too gentle. I did pull my ball just off the fairway into the icy rough and given the backlog behind me there was no way I was going to spend more than a cursory glance looking for it. The second hole is a beauty, a burn cutting across for the strong drive and an opening between two large dunes to get to the green. This opening really was the opening to the rest of the course which I found to be interesting, well - shaped, great bunkering and greens. The par threes were fantastic and each hole had enough to make you think.
It does not have the drama of towering dunes, blind shots, large undulations etc but the land is a lot more interesting than what the 1st and 18th suggest. Not unlike Panmure in a way. There are plenty of mid sized dunes, dog legs and as mentioned the bunkers are well placed.
This course was surprisingly good. I knew it would be good as per the reviews on this website but I know at times this website, in my opinion, lauds too highly certain courses. I went into this course with the same expectation I had for Luffness New – that is, this should be good but ended up being a bit boring. That is not the case here and it’s a good 1.5 balls stronger than Luffness. It ranks with the likes of Panmure, Monifieth, Seacroft, Hayling – not into 6 ball territory but a solid 5 baller.
Warren from Aust
I was scheduled to play Royal St. George's when the member I was supposed to play with bailed out because of a family emergency. Looking for a quality course nearby the lodging location I was staying at recommended a slight detour in heading south to Littlestone.
It's been stated by a few how welcoming the club is and I whole heartedly agree with that statement.
The links is a good member's course -- sufficient challenge but never back breaking or overly penal. The land is fairly mundane and there's sufficient width so that players can take aggressive swings if in good form.
While others have opined on the quality of a few of the holes at Littlestone the dimension I find compelling is how the course is routed. Unlike so many of the old time links layouts the routing at Littlestone does move in plenty of directions. You are likely to face significant crosswinds on a number of holes so that while the actual yardage of a given hole may seem modest, the effective playing yardage can increase a good bit and the wherewithal to shape shots becomes more of an urgent matter.
Much is rightly said about the final three holes -- they are all quite good and I do believe the closing par-5 is an apt closer -- giving players one last shot at ending glory.
What many do not mention is the consecutive par-4 holes one plays from the 10th through 13th holes. Each has different movements and each is subject to different wind patterns. The other thing about Littlestone is that given the dead flat site the ability to choose one's site lines smartly is certainly present. For those who have played the course countless times such a negotiation is far easier than for the player coming to the course for his opening round.
Playability is clearly present -- but to score to one's fullest -- you need to play quality shots at critical moments in the round. To the club's credit there is rough and clearly danger areas to avoid -- but the prevalence is not so overwhelming as to have players have trepidation on their backswings. Others have chimed in about the quality of the putting surfaces and I do concur. They were quite good during my singular round there.
Littlestone is indeed worthy of a stop when in the area. The course is anything but "little."
by M. James Ward
I love pretty much everything about the intriguing and challenging links at Littlestone. There is a rustic charm to this most appealing of layouts where you enjoy all the best traits of seaside golf.
The 18 holes traverse flattish, but naturally undulating linksland, and provide a fair test of golf with a few surprises thrown in along the way. The last of these revelations come in the form of a double-whammy at the 16th and 17th – two of the finest holes in the UK.
On my most recent visit to this fine championship links the playing conditions on a hot, humid and hazy afternoon in early May were more akin to the height of summer. The fairways were not just starting to brown off, many of them were frazzled and scorched to a crisp – brilliant stuff! This produced some of the tightest lies and must make it one of the firmest and fastest running courses in the country. It’s not surprising that this stretch of coastline enjoys a unique microclimate that makes it one of the driest places in Britain.
The green complexes at Littlestone are very good, varied and go about their business in an unassuming manner. Some of them are mere extensions to the fairway whilst others are more pronounced. Virtually all of them bleed into their natural surrounds beautifully though.
On my trip which also included Royal St. Georges and Royal Cinque Ports the greens at Littlestone were far superior. They ran quicker and truer (by a long way) than both the other courses.
This demanding, yet wholly playable, venue is rightly recognised as being one of the top 100 courses in England and one of the premier links in the whole of Great Britain & Ireland.
Anyone considering a visit to this corner of England to play some high quality links golf should ensure that Littlestone is on their itinerary.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played this links on a cold and blustery afternoon in May. Despite the weather our group thoroughly enjoy the day.
I found the course to be a no nonsense, rustic (even for links golf) affair and in retrospect these factors certainly added to its charm.
There are some very nice holes, I particularly enjoyed the par 3's, the 17th being my favourite. A visually beautiful hole, played from the highest point of the course, to a bunkered and well contoured green, all in the majesty of the English Channel.
It would be remiss of me not to mention also, how helpful, friendly and welcoming staff and members were to our group.
Littlestone is a good golf course, and well worth a visit; particularly for the links connoisseur.
A cracking old school links. Not as testing as the other Kent links courses which have hosted the Open, but nevertheless there is always something to think about. The fairways are generally flat here, none of the crumpled fairways you see on other links courses, which means fewer difficult lies in the fairway. The bunkers are a threat but shallow enough to offer potential for recovery, unlike most championship links where a fairway bunker usually means a dropped shot. We’ve always found the course and the greens in good condition, yes it gets a bit brown in summer but that is natural links, the colour doesn’t affect quality of the playing surfaces.
With the prevailing wind, the front 9 is pretty straight forward: 1 is driveable, 3 has an intimidating blind tee shot over the dunes (one of very few blind shots on the course) but a wide fairway beyond, 4 turns back into the wind and gives you an indication of what is to come on the back 9, 6 is a lovely short par 3 to a narrow green with run offs on both sides. From the 10th you turn back into the wind and zigzag your way back to the clubhouse, trying to hold on to your score.
The finish has been reviewed at length by others. 16 is long and out of reach in 2 for most players, 17 requires a strong hybrid or fairway wood from an elevated tee where you are buffeted by the sea breeze, and 18 is straight but requires well struck shots to keep your ball on line. However, on one occasion we played the course with an opposite wind… 16 was a driver and a wedge, 17 a 9 iron, and I reached the par 5 18th with a driver and a 7 iron. The joys of links golf!
Played on a wet and windy July day; classic links golf which reminded me of Royal Lytham but set up to be fairly forgiving - only the worst shots are truly punished despite several blind shots. The back 9 feel brutally long into the wind. Greens in amazing condition. If it wasn't 2 hours from my house I could play this every week and not get bored. Really enjoyed it. Only downside is the cost but second club membership looks excellent value. Will be back.
Meant to add that much like playing Royal Lytham, I was smiling all the way round, even when the rain was lashing down and I was playing badly - and at the end of the day, isn't that how golf should be?
Seven is a shortish par five that needs to be treated with caution. Thick rough lines the fairway and a deep ditch runs across about where your second shot is likely to finish. The slightly elevated green is in an attractive setting with bunkers either side at the front. The 8th and 9th holes form the boundary, far from the clubhouse, with houses as the backdrop on the left side.
The 11th poses the classic question asking you to decide how much of the corner can you take on. This par four of 408 yards is shortened considerably if you aim right of the green with a draw. Anything too far left will be in trouble in the deep wet ditch or long grass. Hit a perfect drive and you will think it is an easy hole.
The last three holes are a good finish. Sixteen is a long par four running along the sea wall. The fairway is wide but the second half runs uphill. Anything right of the green is in serious trouble. The par three 17th is one of the best holes at Littlestone. The tee is from the seaside boundary to a green partly blocked on the left by a low dune and bunker. The 18th is a straight ahead, relatively short par five on flat terrain.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.