I played at Rye for the first time in May on a beautiful early summers day. This was the only south coast links I hadn't played and what had put me off was the inability to get a tee time without a member. Although I was playing in a society this has all changed, visitors are quite welcome to play on the new course, which is flatter and nearer the sea, and there are limited slots available on the Old course (see their web page). On arrival I must admit to being a little taken aback with first impressions, having played Littlestone, Royal St George's, Royal Cinque Ports and Hayling Island I was expecting a lovely old club house (or new in Hayling's case). However this is a bit of a 70's disaster, although it does have a wonderful view from the terrace, the stick on fake wood paneling would take some getting used to. Still, it has the normal old money ambiance with tables and chairs gifted from various regimental and well connected societies and the obligatory jacket and tie after 11am and old school style lunches. The course itself was in pretty good condition (not as good as Georges, Deal or Littlestone though), it was becoming a real summer links with that mixture of green and brown grass which gives those tight lies and fast bouncy surfaces. My only complaint were the greens, slow for a links and I think not a patch on Deal or George's and not even close to Littlestone's. The course plays accross, on and over several lines of dunes and this makes many of the holes real gems with a really strong collection of par 3's, most of which you have to hit the very small putting surface or face a chip/bunker shot from hell.There are the typical blind shots and awkward fairway bounces of the old school links with subtle putting surfaces. There are though some holes, the 10th and 11th in particular, which lose this feel completely and are really just parkland to look at until you get up near to the green. This is though a great course for all the comments, some of the roller coaster dune rides are exactly what you would expect and the finishing hole is excellent with the club house being a real hazard to any drive leaking left. It is a wonderful day out for old fashioned golf lovers where rub of the green is still a part of golf, blind shots are an integral part of the game and two ball three hour rounds enable you to lunch at leasure in you blazer and regimental tie. So having played them all if I was coming down on tour to play the courses my dispassionate ranking would be : Royal St George's, Royal Cinque Ports (Deal), Rye, Hayling Island, Littlestone and then Prince's. I agree with the previous reviewer a perfect place for golf is a little over doing it, however nice it is. for me in terms of atmosphere and my personal preferences I think George's is the best for sheer size and feel of the whole place and experience, Deal is the real pure links course and certainly the toughest, Littlestone has the better atmosphere and best Greens and is fair to the golfer being reasonably flat, Rye is quirky and good fun old school, Hayling is a great test of golf but a little over played then Prince's is all a little disappointing except the Dunes 9.
Date: May 23, 2007