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.
Date: January 14, 2019