Rye (Old) - Sussex - England

Rye Golf Club,
East Sussex,
TN31 7QS,

  • +44 (0) 1797 225241

  • Golf Club Website

  • A259 from Rye take Camber road to the coast

  • Limited availability - all play is in two ball format with foursomes preferred in the morning.

“Rye - and there are surely few pleasanter places to get to,” wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of the British Isles. “It looks singularly charming as the train comes sliding in on a long curve, with the sullen flat marshes on the left and the tall cliff on the right, while straight on in front are the red roofs of the town huddled round the old church. We have only a few yards to walk along a narrow little street; then we twist round to the right up a steep little hill and under the Land Gate and we are at the Dormy House, old and red and overgrown with creepers.”

So, we've arrived at Rye, but will we get a game? Well, Rye Golf Club is so very private that it is exceedingly difficult to secure a tee time. It is easier to get a game on the Old course at St Andrews. In Darwin's day, things were very different: “It is the ideal place for the golfer who is wearied out with a fortnight's fruitless balloting at St Andrews, which has resulted in his once drawing a time, and that at 12.30.” They say patience is a virtue, and all good things come to those that wait. So, if you've always wanted to play Rye, try writing to the Club Secretary. You never know your luck. Or, as James W. Finegan wrote in All Courses Great and Small: “...with the planets properly aligned, you may just find yourself on the 1st tee, under the warning eye of the clubhouse clock, ready to embark on the splendid adventure”. But wait a minute... the club has recently launched a new website and many say it is now easier to get a game.

Rye was founded in 1894. A 25-year-old Harry Colt laid out the course - surely one of the most impressive debut designs in history. Colt later became Rye's secretary. Today's layout bears the hallmark of Tom Simpson and Sir Guy Campbell, though the Second World War almost obliterated the links and a flying bomb almost destroyed the clubhouse. But, thanks to the faithful few, Rye rose up like a phoenix.

“The two great features of golf at Rye are the uniformly fiendish behaviour of the wind and the fascinating variety of the stances,” wrote Darwin. “The wind presumably blows no harder than it does anywhere else, but the holes are so contrived that the prevailing wind, which comes off the sea, is always blowing across us.” “If you suffer from a lack of balance,” wrote Patric Dickinson in A Round of Golf Courses, “this is not the course for you: it is seldom that you get a flat stance, this is one of Rye's real tests. The fairways nearly always undulate and you will find you must play a full shot from the side of a miniature down and one foot on a level with your nose.”

With a measly par of 68, and a course that measures over 6,300 yards, Rye has to be one of the toughest courses in Britain. The one and only par five hits us straight away and it comes too early in the round to take too much advantage. The five short holes are outstanding but brutal, with alarmingly elusive elevated greens. The remaining twelve par fours are there for the taking - well, three of them at least. Nine others, yes nine, measure more than 400 yards in length. Rye is a battleground and there are so many good holes that it is unwise to list any.

“Surely there can nowhere be anything appreciably better than the golf to be had at this truly divine spot,” concluded Darwin, in his article about Rye.

In 1956, following the death of his wife, Darwin moved into the Dormy House at Rye. On the 18th October 1961, in Filsham House Nursing Home at St Leonards, Hastings, Bernard Darwin died, aged 85. His leather armchair (bequeathed by Bernard's grandfather Charles) now rests close to the window of the men's bar at Rye Golf Club.

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Reviews for Rye (Old)

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Description: Rye Golf Club was founded in 1894 and was the inaugural design of 25-year-old Harry Colt. With a measly par of 68, and a layout that measures over 6,300 yards, Rye has to be one of the toughest courses in Britain. Rating: 8 out of 10 Reviews: 43
Peter Wood

It was another warm day in sunny England, and the poms were either queueing up to go to the beach or at the local watching the English soccer team get a drubbing from the Germans...

The beach at Rye is a couple of miles down a narrow country lane past the Rye Golf Club, and as we came in for our 10am tee time, we noticed the signs indicating 45 minute queue times?

It turns out that the cars pour into the beach precinct on a sunny day.

And sure enough they were queued up back past the golf club to the 45 minute sign- just waiting to get a car park near the beach!

Rye Golf Course dates back to 1893 when Mr Harry S Colt had a hand in designing a real seaside links course.

His original work has been changed a number of times since, but it is not obvious that a number of hands have been involved.

The fairways were playing hard and fast, and the greens were in good nick as we took off with about a one club breeze in play.

The rough was long but reasonably thin, and not too penal.

The first three holes played alongside the road and largely outside the main dune land.

They were nice, but not outstanding holes, IMO.

There was some unusual use of timber around some of the greens which seemed to be there to stop the running ball, and force a lofted chip.

It looked good, but perhaps not an option I'd like to see flourish in links golf.

From hole 4 onward the course plays in and through the duneland with a nice variety of holes.

The five par 3's were all of good quality, and different lengths, and there were some interesting par 4's.

Hole 13, the Alps hole has a totally blind longish second shot, which caught me out- but it's a good hole.

Throughout the course there is significant movement in the fairways.

You will constantly be hitting with the ball above or below your feet.

The uneven lies are a feature at Rye and test your balance throughout the round.

But it is kinda fun to rip a drive and watch it continue to roll left and right through the swales...

The little pot bunkers can also provide some difficult lies...

Rye is a lovely old links course in a natural setting, and a must play for all travelling golfers.

It is just good fun!

Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.


December 22, 2021
7 / 10
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December 23, 2021

Peter - Assume you wrote that with a rye smile, but England’s football team doesn’t tend to get a drubbing from Germany these days. You probably should have mentioned the Ashes instead!

Neil White

“I would be delighted to introduce you to Rye,” said a member over a glass of Kümmel after we had shared a round at Royal St George’s.

“But if you and your wife want to play I won’t be able to join you because the club only allows foursomes and singles.”

In two sentences the bonhomie and tradition of Rye were summed up. We have never received a warmer welcome on our travels nor have we found a club quite as fascinating.

Oh, and how good is the course! I thought it was stunning and Mrs W claimed it was her favourite so far (she was judging it against the likes of Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, St. Enodoc, Castle Stuart and Royal Cinque Ports).

People in the town had told us the club was “very posh” and the folk at the rather lovely Royal Cinque Ports said we were “slumming it” by going there after we had played Rye.

Future kings (Edward VIII and George VI) and Prime Ministers (Balfour and Lloyd George) have been members at Rye and its patrons retain the love of lunch (sticking on a jacket and tie or female equivalent for some nosh post, pre or between rounds) is simply what you do.

The nuances of the club were obvious from our arrival. The pro shop is next to the dormy house across the road from the clubhouse but we paid our guests’ fees behind the bar where we received the friendliest of greetings before being handed our scorecard.

We ate bacon rolls and coffee on a table next to the seat of famed golf travel writer Bernard Darwin, bequeathed by his grandfather Charles.

Sitting in the bar is akin to being in a museum with memorabilia of past battles, especially between Oxford and Cambridge golf societies, adorning the walls.

The course continued a theme – top-notch presentation and deliciously quirky.

Three and fourballs are played only through special dispensation but while we appreciated the desire for brisk pace, we also wanted to soak up the fabulous lay-out.

Rye may only be a par-68 but that and the relatively easy opening hole (it’s only par-five) should not fool anyone. With the wind blowing off the English Channel, it is very tough to score well.

The opening three holes are hors d’oeuvres to some of the classics to come but the need to beware of the tangly rough is already clear from the opening tee shot to a fairway which leans from right to left.

The Camber sandhills play a key part at Rye and the undulations become more dramatic as the round progresses.

The course has been modified since the original Harry Colt design but there are plenty of raised greens, blind tee shots and intriguing doglegs which became his hallmark.

In my opinion, the first of the particularly memorable holes is the 6th with its drive over a huge dune followed by a long approach to green, well-guarded by bunkers. I was thrilled to nail a par-four.

I was not so fortunate on the 9th which, at less than 300 yards first appears to be an innocuous bending par-four.

However, I can attest to its hidden dangers, having lost two balls into rough off the elevated tee.

The true delight of playing at Rye is that I could see how almost every hole could be somebody’s favourite.

I was enamoured of the 10th – a dogleg demanding a decent carry from the tee and long second with bushes on the left and also the 11th with a lake on the right which threatened to snaffle balls wandering down the right.

But the crescendo was reached on the remarkable 13th with a green hidden over a huge ridge. Only the most skilful of golfers could play this as a par-four but everyone can enjoy its wonder – indeed, its idiosyncrasies have only been matched in my experience by the remarkable 7th at Broadstone.

The 16th is another par-four which tests accuracy and length off the tee, luring players down into trouble on the right where I can imagine the green staff giggling at misfortunes in their hut.

The difficulty is intensified at Rye because it is not a straightforward links, changing direction regularly and prompting players to think constantly about the wind direction.

It was against us on the 17th – a par-three of more than 200 yards which I was particularly pleased to par and similarly in the 18th, an incredibly tough finishing hole which rises before bending down to a trick-to-read putting surface.

I have reserved mention of the greens until last. They (and the fairways) were in spectacular shape during the last week of October.

The targets seem big but it is so easy to misjudge and find a run-off into a swale. And, while the surfaces are true, the greens have borrows which can defy the eye.

Rye summed up why I love the top 100 quest - history, drama, great views and lovely people. If the opportunity arises to play there, take it.

October 29, 2021
8 / 10
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Nicholas Kjelgaard

I loved this course. I emailed a month or so before our south coast trip asking to play. On the day we were due to tee off they contact us to advise the weather was supposed to get worse later in the day and to come earlier and they will get us off. Lovely touch.

On arrival at the course the secretary took us out to the 18th, where a lot of the course is visible, and then provided us with an overview of a number of holes. Fantastic service.

Anyway on to the course. The first 3 holes people say aren’t as good as the rest, but the tee shot at 1 is intimidating, the green at 2 is great and I really liked 3. After this you hit a run of fantastic holes, hit the fairway on 4 and you will smile, 5 is a lovely par 3 and 6 is a great hole hole, it goes left and when the secretary had said that to us, we didn’t realise how far left it really went. 9 is a great opportunity to go for it in the right conditions.

The back 9 starts a bit slow, 10 is ok, 11 is a nice hole I am just not sure it fits. 12 is a good bit better than 10 and 11, and then 13 is just a great, great, great, (ok one more), great hole. Your drive needs to be as long as possible and then you align the posts and go for the green. It is completely blind and really quite unique, 466th golf course I have played and I don’t recall a hole anywhere that is quite like it.

15 is the next real cracker, a lovely looking hole and then 16 is all about the drive, but if you get one away you will smile. 18 is an awesome finishing hole, right in front of the club house.

If you get the opportunity to play Rye snap it up, it is cracking and if the course was more open to visitors I suspect it would be way higher in the rankings than it is. I certainly feel it is better than other course I have played ranked higher.

July 23, 2021
9 / 10
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I'm very fortunate to play my links golf at Rye and always enjoy taking my friends and family down for a day out of lunch and 27 holes.

If you are wishing to play a two ball, it's probably preferable to go out late morning or in the afternoon as the members predominantly play foursomes and whizz around the course at the start of the day.

As mentioned in previous comments, the opening three holes are not particularly inspiring but the golf course becomes alive once you've climbed up onto the 4th tee. The next four holes are brilliant and the 9th is a potentially driveable par 4 if there is a favourable wind.

The back nine is similar to the front in that the opening couple of holes are poor. The lake on the 11th hole is a monstrosity and totally out of keeping with the rest of the course. There is then another strong stretch from the 13th until the 18th green.

I don't think (and sincerely hope not) that Rye will ever fall into the category of ostentatious. They are still using the same understated "temporary club house" from the 1920s and it does very much feel like you are stepping back in time when you don jacket and tie and amble through for a delicious buffet lunch.

If you have the energy after lunch, it's always worth making the effort to play nine holes on the Jubilee course as it has a couple of really cracking holes - in particular the par 5 followed by the downhill par 3.

The secretary and staff are all polite and attentive, and you're sure to have an enjoyable day out.

April 16, 2021
7 / 10
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Peter Handcock

Golf clubs do not come much more charming than Rye. Not to be cliche, but you really do feel like you're going back in time. The clubhouse is eerily quiet, and the course is most likely empty. Despite being empty, the course is marvellous.

It's only a par 68, but god it's tough. Make sure you birdie the first, as there aren't any birdie chances in the next 17 holes! The best holes are 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 17 and 18, with 4 5 6 and 7 being one of the best 4 hole stretches in England, up there with 4-7 at Sunningdale Old. The course weaves its way around and over dunes, and is laid out to perfection.

A must play, and certainly a course that's knocking on the world top 100.

April 29, 2020
8 / 10
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Mark White

Is Rye Old the UK’s best par sub-70 golf course? If so, it would likely make it the best sub-70 golf course in the world. There are several others in the United Kingdom to consider: Swinley Forest, St. Enodoc Church, Royal St. Davids, West Sussex, The Addington, New Zealand, and Aldeburgh. I have yet to play West Sussex, The Addington and Aldeburgh. I have St. Enodoc Church as the best but it is a difficult decision between Swinley Forest and Rye Old.

The best holes at Rye are better than the best holes at Swinley Forest yet the weak holes at Rye are weaker than Swinley Forest. Swinley Forest is more consistent and might have the slightly better greens. Although the routing through the terrain changes at Swinley Forest are excellent, the land movements at Rye Old are more striking. At Rye, one feels like they are often battling the elements of links golf due to the wind whereas at Swinley Forest it can be so quiet and still one feels as if they are playing a game of golf on their own in an arboretum. A final difference is that Rye Old has more challenge due to the slightly longer length of its par 4’s while the two par 5’s at Swinley Forest are relatively easy golf holes.

The net of this is that I have Rye Old just slightly above Swinley Forest due to Rye demanding slightly more commitment to both the choice of club and the required shot. They are very close in my ranking even though the courses are very different other than they share a common trait of excellent greens and green complexes. Both courses take full advantage of the terrain with brilliant routings. I find the par 3’s a bit more memorable at Swinley Forest mainly because of the beauty of the setting in addition to the quality of the holes. This comment does not mean that the par 3’s are better at Swinley Forest; it is that I could stand on any of the par 3 tees at Swinley Forest and look at the hole for quite a while before playing them. I find the par 4’s and 5’s more interesting at Rye Old. My ranking is based on playing Rye only once whereas at Swinley Forest we played it twice the same day. While New Zealand and Royal St. Davids are very fine golf courses, for me there is a noticeable gap in consistency of good golf holes at these two courses in areas such as variety of required shots, bunkering and the greens.

My recommendation is to settle this debate with more golf at all of them followed by some good conversation over a post-round beverage on either’s one patio. It is one of the better debates in golf as there is no wrong answer. For me, I cannot wait to play the The Addington, Aldeburgh, and West Sussex.

We had a beautiful, warm sunny day in mid-July, 2018 when we played Rye, the first design by a young Harry Colt. We played the back tees of 6503 after asking if it was fine as we were visitors. It was windy at the start of the round with the wind disappearing on the tenth only to come back on the sixteenth.

Rye Old reminds me of Burnham and Berrow’s Championship course in that many people have worked on the course over the years to improve it to the fabulous courses that they are today. In Rye’s case some of the changes were forced on it due to the building of the road to Camber. The opening nine holes at Rye Old is about as good as golf can get. The back nine is slightly more uneven as the first three holes are weaker.

There are five par 3’s at Rye. One can take their pick as to which one is the best. The par 3’s are holes:

2- 181, 5 – 174, 7-158, 14-185 and 17 – 243

I favored the fifth as my favorite par 3 followed by the fourteenth which I think gets overlooked, then the seventh, seventeenth and the second. The second hole lacks visual definition as it feels very wide open despite the six bunkers framing the green. I loved the setting for the fifth as well as the shape and the size of the green. It is a splendid feeling being on the fifth tee and contemplating the required shot over the hollow in those dunes knowing if one comes up short or goes right you are likely left with a blind recovery shot. Many favor the seventh which is a wonderful short par 3 but plays slightly longer to the elevated green with two bunkers to avoid but I found the setting not quite as interesting as the fifth and fourteenth. You must hit beyond the front of the seventh green or it will roll back down the steep hill. The fourteenth is set at the bottom of the ridge line and has four bunkers expertly placed for those to consider if they are trying to run their ball onto the green as well as trying to bring a ball in from the left. The ryebrow on the right I recall as the longest one on the course, resembling a 35 feet long snake. The seventeenth’s length is the primary obstacle although the green complex is very good due to the two bunkers on the left. On many courses either of the five par 3’s would likely be the best par 3 on the course.

As for the famous Ryebows, I do not know (I am certain others do) whether they were placed there for stability purposes to prevent the shifting of dunes or added for defense purposes. They are unique but I did not feel they added much in terms of being a hindrance. I suppose a ball could end up close enough to them to create a tough or unplayable shot, but it would be truly rare to not have enough room to slide a wedge under them to get back to the green.

The fourth hole, a par 4 of 442 yards placed at the top of the ridge, with a bit of shelter from the higher dunes on the left side, is one of the finest holes I have ever played. I made par here and consider it to be on of my all-time highlights in golf so magnificent is the golf hole. It offers everything one could ever want in terms of looks, taking advantage of the terrain to create drama. It has superior defenses both left and right for the tee shot as well as the nearer the green. The highest point of the dunes on the left is preceded by a deep valley. Anywhere left is likely a punch out back to the fairway. If one misses the fairway to the right then they are likely down the hill with a blind recovery shot out of heavy grass. The fourth has a wonderful pitched green back to front with fall-offs steeply right and behind it. If there is a definition of a perfect golf hole for the average player, then this hole is it. It has no bunkers nor does it need it given the defenses posed by the land itself. There is room to lengthen the hole another 30 yards for the longer hitters but I think the hole is perfect as it is.

The contrasts at Rye are terrific. Compare the longer par 4 fourth hole to the short ninth hole, a par 4 of 300 yards. The ninth plays from an elevated tee to a hole bending to the right with a ridge line on the right that actually does not play too difficult yet one tries to avoid it and risks going into three bunkers on the left. Driving the ball straight at the green brings a series of deep swales/valleys and ripples fronting the long and narrow green. The green tilts to the left a bit but for those trying to play to the right side there are two deep bunkers awaiting them. These two bunkers are at the one-third and two-thirds sections of the green. There are fall-offs front and left at the green. It is a marvelous short par 4 where a par should almost always be a given, but often is not if one finds any trouble.

Adding to the contrasts are two par 4’s with blind shots at the sixth and the second shot on the thirteenth. The sixth is a long par 4 of 468 yards with a blind tee shot playing over a marker post that is angled to one’s right. The reward for hitting a good drive is a long second shot to a terrific green complex with four bunkers fronting the green starting about 30 yards out. There is a small gap between these bunkers for those trying to run a ball onto the green. The hidden green on the thirteen thankfully has no bunkers. It is a quirky hole with length at 433 yards but it certainly fits in well with the rest of the golf course as it takes full advantage of the terrain to increase the challenge of trusting one’s swing.

The beginning at Rye Old is a short par 5 with a fairway wider than it looks. As it is the first shot of the round and the road is on the left and dunes on the right, the fairway can look much tighter especially if the wind is in your face. It is only 482 yards and the yellow tees are only 457 yards with no bunkers but if one does not find the fairway and draws a bad lie, a bogey or worse is possible. Should the club ever change this to a par 4 then Rye Old would certainly be the world’s best par 67 golf course.

I liked the third hole, the last hole before one plays on or along the ridge line. The fairway has a single bunker with a nice gentle rise in it eventually ending at a large, slightly raised green. At 432 yards it is not an easy par 4, but anything above a bogey should be unlikely.

The eighth is another longer par 4 at 444 yards and is rated the third hardest on the front nine. This dogleg right is a splendid hole with the ridge line on the right coming into play. For the length of the hole and the look from the tee, one can get a feeling of being inadequate for the challenge of the hole.

Walking past the clubhouse through the car park one arrives at the tenth hole with the road to Camber on the right. Although it is a dogleg right, thankfully the fairway is positioned to have one hit away from the road even if the straighter line is parallel to the busy road. While the tee shot is fun, the rest of this long par 4 is uninteresting as one realizes they are leaving the dunes.

I did not care for the eleventh. One almost wishes the club would figure out a different routing to eliminate the pond on the right. I hit the bank and went into the pond but that is not why I did not like the hole. Being out of those remarkable holes in the dunes from 4-9 is a letdown, but having this body of water is disappointing as is the length of the hole at only 322 yards. I felt uninspired on the tee of this hole. Although the green is placed at a really nice location it did not make me think differently of the hole.

Since I had played the first ten holes well, and felt I had blown my round on the eleventh, I decided to blow my score even more on the twelfth, which is a longer par 4 of 457. After waiting a bit for a series of cars, I hit way right into the tall grass, could not get out and had my second consecutive double. Despite my score I did like the hole due to the excellent bunkering throughout. It has seven well-placed bunkers. It is not in the class of the holes on the front nine because it is a flat hole, but put this hole on almost any other course and it would be both memorable and fit right in. I almost felt as if this hole should have been on Muirfield.

From fourteen on in Rye Old returns to the glory of the front nine.

I previously discussed the wonderful par 3 fourteenth and the par 3 seventeenth. Fifteen and sixteen are long par 4’s of 464 and 434 yards. Both fairways have mounds, swales and ripples throughout making it difficult to find a level stance on holes where one is hitting to relatively small greens for the length of the hole. The fifteenth’s ripples are more pronounced. The fifteen bends slightly right while the sixteenth bends to the left. Each hole has two bunkers. The sixteenth’s fairway bunker on the left requires a long drive to clear it for those attempting to shorten the hole. The sixteenth green might be the most undulated one on the course.

The eighteenth is a fitting end to a wonderful golf course. It is a longer par 4 of 437 yards playing from an elevated tee to another rippling fairway. It is a slight dogleg right with a green sitting up on the same rise as the nearby clubhouse. The back side of the green has a fall off if one is too bold. It has a nicely sloped green. It is an excellent golf hole on its own even if it were not the final hole.

Rye Old is a golf course that on a calm day the average index player would have a chance to break 80 but it is not a guarantee given the sss of 72/71/69. On a windy day one should not even care about a score, but instead enjoy it for everything the course has on offer. It has splendid par 3’s. It has a great variety of short and long par 4’s. It has variation in holes on top of the dunes, along the ridges or on flat ground. It does have a couple holes that do not quite fit which is why it is unlikely to ever be a top 50 golf course in the world unless the club decides to change the routing once again. I am sure they could and the course would move up a few spots.

Rye Old is a golf course I could play for a week and never tire of it due to the excellence of the greens, the challenges and the loveliness of the setting. It is near perfection to finish a round, sit on the terrace, and recall the holes.

January 07, 2020
9 / 10
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T P Dean

Rye was Harry Colt’s first design but due to the original course being played over the busy road to Camber Sands, today’s routing is very different from when he first designed the course. Rye is also as much famous for the off course experience as the links itself. It has a reputation for being private, stuffy and traditional, all of which are true to a large degree, but once you’ve been granted access to step foot on site, the experience is first class.

Golf is played in foursomes or two-balls with a good pace of play being a prerequisite to a round at Rye. The course itself is excellent albeit wacky and unconventional in the way I often Rye (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer hope a traditional links will be. You’ll find yourself playing a few blind shots, there’s a traffic light “go/no go” system on the 6th tee, bunker rakes are inserted into housings to stand vertically on end whilst small wooden struts have been constructed to guard against the ground game approach into some of the greens.

As others have mentioned, the course is defined by the long dune that runs through the centre of the course like a spine and its around this dune that the most interesting holes are played. Two blind par fours play over that centre ridge, the 6th with its traffic light safety system where the tee shot is played over the dune, and the other an Alps-style hole on the 13th where this time it’s the approach shot into the green that is played blind.

The spell between 4 and 7 is the highest quality run of holes at Rye. Following a relatively gentle opening three holes, you climb the dune where this long par four is unusually played along the back of the ridge. Miss left or right and you’re faced with a perilous shot back to either the fairway or the green where your stance will no doubt leave you off-balance. 5 is a gorgeous short par three over a large crater-like hollow to a funky green complex, before the blind par four 6th and delicious par three 7th with its green embedded into the dunes combined with dangerous run-offs on all sides complete this splendid stretch of holes. The driveable 9th with its wonderfully rippled fairway is then another fine hole that returns you back to the clubhouse.

I have to admit that the start of the back nine felt a little out of place, 11 particularly. I didn’t personally find driving your ball over a small lake decorated with a water fountain in the slightest way agreeable for an old links such as this. If redesigned today, Rye (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer I’m sure the land from the Jubilee course would have been used instead; on which point, whilst I didn’t get the opportunity to play Rye’s second course, there are one or two great looking holes out there too.

Of the back nine, other than 13, the holes at 16 and 18 would probably be the standouts. Both are tough par fours where avoiding a dropped shot should be celebrated. The 16th has a delightfully bumpy fairway where a menacing bunker set into the bank stares directly at you as you hit your drive, the green on this hole is also tremendous. The 18th on the other hand is a fierce test at 439 yards. It plays over a rise and twists around the clubhouse. That building must surely receive some heavy punishment from wayward shots? Take note that the experience is only partly completed when you shake hands on the 18th. Enjoy a drink on the terrace post round, then shower and change into a jacket and tie to enjoy the marvellous history on display and excellent food on offer within the clubhouse.

For the general golfing public, Rye might be one of the more off-limits links courses in this country, but if you’re lucky enough to get an invite then don’t turn down the opportunity. Rye may have its oddities and inconsistencies, but it’s a delightful day spent with some golf holes to savour.

August 28, 2019
7 / 10
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Jim McCann

I’ve had Rye on my hit list for some time now and got the opportunity to play the course the other day. The opening three holes are rather pedestrian, with out of bounds to the left of every fairway as they head away, one after another, from the clubhouse.

I did love the low-lying wooden Rye (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer shuttering along the side of the green at #2 and #3 (repeated later in the round at #14). I don’t think that they’re anything other than decorative (and they do prohibit recovery shots along the deck) but they’re lovely little peripheral greenside items.

There’s great use made of the ridges running through the course and, truth be told, the real strength of Rye lies in the way the holes are routed alongside, on top of, or across these sandy stretches that run the full length of the property.

The best holes (by far) for me on the outward half were the very strong par four 6th – complete with traffic lights on the blind tee box – and the slightly downhill par three that immediately follows. The par four ninth is also a terrific short par four, rising up gently towards the clubhouse.

Once you get over the shock Rye (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer of hitting across a rather large pond on the 11h, you’ll find that the inward half is highlighted by three terrific holes at 13, 14 and 15 – and the first of these is probably the best on the card, played blind over one of the elongated dune ridges to a green on the other side.

Some might question Rye’s modus operandi in the 21st century but fair play to them for cocking a snook at the modern world, continuing to do things exactly as they’ve always done in their own time-honoured way. Looking ahead, I really don’t think there’s much of a future for GolfSixes here…

Jim McCann

August 15, 2019
7 / 10
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Kevin Henley

Many things have been written about Rye and I like and respect all of the traditions that many now moan about.

Rye is a very special enclave AND a very good course too.

Would lobpve to play it again and would love to somehow play the hole back along the "spine" well (the 4th I think it is).

Great course and great golf history and tradition.

April 23, 2019
10 / 10
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M. James Ward

When one rates a facility through a one-time visit you are limited to the situation you faced that time. What the weather was like that day. Was the wind blowing from the prevailing side or was it different? What were the turf conditions like -- did the course play optimally fast or was it overly spongy? Where were the pin placements located? Given all that -- my visit to Rye was one I was looking forward to for quite some time.

I had read much on the club and clearly its pedigree in golf circles is well respected. Plenty of people have weighed in with the eccentricities and idiosyncratic nature of the club. These items, for me, are more sideshow than main event. An analogy, I don't go to the movies to eat the popcorn. It's the same philosophy I take with golf courses. The primary emphasis is the holes -- number 1 through 18. The rest is merely a contributory element but in no way is it the primary area for my attention.

On my visit I had a mixed bag of weather -- some clouds, a little sun and a splash of raindrops all within the cumulative round.

The wind was clearly a factor -- 2-3 clubs consistently. The wind was blowing in a steady direction -- off the Channel and across the line of play on all of the holes with 1-2 exceptions.

The opening trio of holes at Rye is rather vanilla. Frankly, if a club is going to have just one par-5 I was hoping it would be a hole in the same caliber of the top tier holes found at Rye. It is not. The challenge is rather pedestrian. No doubt there will be those who will assert the 1st provides the lone really good birdie opportunity against the slew of holes to follow. I have no issue with a birdie opportunity hole -- just provide a bit more architectural heft in its overall presentation. As an example, the 17th at Wannamoisett in Rhode Island also features just one par-5 hole. However, it comes at the 17th and clearly has a major impact on settling matches coming to a conclusion.

The 2nd and 3rd are sufficient for what they offer but neither really stands apart as being compelling architecturally. They are not bad holes per se, just not standouts.

The round at Rye really commences at the 4th. In many ways Rye is similar to another course that starts in much the same manner -- Bethpage State Park's Black Course. The Long Island-based layout really jumpstarts matters when you arrive at the awesome looking par-5 4th. At Rye, the 4th is truly a riveting hole. You play in the opposite direction from the first three and the hole is situated on the top of a ridge line. Hitting the fairway is an absolute must -- those wishing to achieve the best angle playing down the right side -- albeit fraught with demands -- can provide the ideal line to the putting surface. Candidly, I am quite puzzled that the preceding 3rd hole is cited as the 3 handicap hole and the 4th as the 7th. In my mind, the designation should have been flipped.

Beyond the 2nd hole, Rye is blessed with four other par-3 holes that are quite special. At the par-3 5th, which plays 171 yards from the metal tees, the green is elusive to all but the most skillful of plays. Given the location of the teeing area -- the exposure to the wind is clearly an issue. The green appears like a rumpled piece of paper with all sorts of devilish fall-offs. Challenging a tight pin when pushed to the far corners is one any golfer attempt with great peril awaiting.

The 6th and 7th continue the flow and are both solid holes. The former a long par-4 that requires a solid tee shot. Fortunately, when I played it the wind was from the right and slightly helping. At the latter the par-3 is a quality hole. Not as fiendish as the 5th but not one to suffer fools gladly.

The stretch of holes from number 8 through the short par-4 11th is a bit of a letdown. The momentum encountered with the previous four drops slightly. More so with the short par-4's at the 9th and 11th holes respectively. It's ironic that a course with so many par-4's the inclusion of a world class short par-4 is simply not on the menu here.

Once you reach the par-4 12th the run back to the clubhouse is simply first rate. The rightly celebrated par-4 13th is one of golf's finest holes. You need to hit the fairway to have any opportunity in reaching the green in the regulation stroke. The blind shot is one that tests the wherewithal of the player to marry proper distance, line and trajectory. Make a four there and you are certain to be commended.

But, even with success at #13 -- the finishing five holes are akin to battling Darth Vader with a light sabre. You cannot flinch -- you cannot make half-hearted executions. The par-3 17th is the last of the par-3 holes -- its length is a challenge but the architectural inclusions are a step down from the other short holes played.

The concluding hole ends the day with one final stern test. The diagonal nature as you ascend the ridge makes for a tough driving hole. Played with a controlled fade for right-handers is essential. Anything hit with the slightest tug or hook can mean serious pain on the scorecard. The approach is no less stellar. The putting surface immediately near the low level clubhouse truly caps the day.

Rye is one of those few layouts that requires a number of rounds to really digest all the key ingredients of what it provides. My solo round gave me the tip of the iceberg and likely my comments might face an adjustment on all sides with a return to see if my first impressions were spot on.

The most pressing element I found at Rye is the need for top tier driving. So many courses today allow for loose shots off the tee. Not at Rye. If one cannot consistently hit your driver for both length and accuracy you will be exposed and suffer the consequences.

I can't give the course a six-star rating. There are some deficiencies which I illuminated earlier. But there's no doubt that among the courses I have played in England or the UK for that matter -- Rye is one to have on your agenda. When you think you've reached a high caliber of play -- head to Rye. In under four hours - the club won't tolerate slow play -- you'll find out if what you thought was true is actually that.

by M. James Ward

March 08, 2018
8 / 10
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