- +44 (0) 1797 225241
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.
After three straightaway holes at the foot of a large dune ridge – the first being the only par five on the course, the short second the pick of this opening trio and the third the first of many stellar par fours - holes four, five, six and seven highlight the very best of Rye.
The fourth is as good as it is uncomfortable to play but I mean that in a good way. The central ridge that runs through the spine of the course is tackled along the top here with a terrifying drive to a hogs-back fairway – severe chasms at both sides - before a daunting approach to a tilted green.
The fifth is a continuation of this vertigo inducing golf but comes in the form of a one-shotter played 171 yards to a sloping green with a severe embankment to the left. At the sixth you must drive diagonally over the dune ridge and hope for a little draw on your ball to eke out some extra distance at this magnificent hole that calls for an exact approach which must negotiate some ferocious sand traps.
Finally the 7th, perhaps the most famous hole at Rye, is a devilish par three which falls away on all sides and certainly makes good on the notion that the hardest shots at Rye are the second shots into the short holes!
After a sequence of four holes, none of which really float my boat with perhaps the exception of the just about driveable ninth, things pick up again with five of the final six holes exceptionally strong. The 13th may not be regarded as the best hole in this exciting run for home but it is certainly the most unusual, quirky and memorable. This time you switch from one side of the dominant dune ridge to the other with your blind approach shot! Aligning the two marker posts will give you an indication of the line but until you mount the rise and see your ball either on our close to the green you are never sure.
Hole 14 is yet another good short hole with a particularly narrow green, tapering towards the rear, whilst 15 and 16 are two more exceptional par fours; the approach to the former and the drive, to a raised skyline fairway, at the latter being the highlights.
Before you play the magnificent and demanding 18th the long par-three 17th – the weakest hole in the final third – contrasts to the other short holes and although the tee-shot is uninspiring the green complex is superb.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Loved the Rye experience, including wearing a tie and jacket for lunch ! The course is very, very good. I cannot recall any weak holes (which is unusual as most courses, even much lauded courses have them even if it is only 1 or 2). Standout holes for me were 6, 9, 12, 13 & 18. Please make the effort to contact the Club to request a tee time. I received a positive response in very short order when I enquired and everyone at the club both inside and outside of the clubhouse were very welcoming to me on the day.
Played 36 holes, first round on the tough Jubilee Course and then the Old course. My learnings from the day include:-
1. Take up the offer of hitting a few warm up balls. Even on the “relief” course, it is a tough opening hole. In fact no easy holes throughout the whole club.
2. Take plenty of balls or leave driver in car.
3. Play at another time of year as rough is incredible.
4. Take two caddies and put them 200yards away, 15 metres into the rough.
5. If a 4 hcp from Long Reef in Sydney ever plays a 4 hcp from Rye put your money on Rye.
On medal days, if the wind is up I doubt anyone would finish their round on this course as it was set up today, 25 June. I did not get to walk too many fairways as I was trudging through the rough hoping to find a ball, any ball. Expecting to ease into it by playing the Jubilee first I left it a broken man. Simply put, even on this course, you cannot find your ball. It does not lighten up on the Old course either. As mentioned below a great course for match play, where triple bogeys will often win the hole.
The course is very good. The fairways tight but not pristine, a little rough but even enough, a few mushrooms scattered around but the greens were very good. There are a couple dune ridges running throughout the course and they provide some drama and great looking holes. Unfortunately the dunes don’t really frame both sides of too many holes so it’s not like a Cruden Bay or Royal Aberdeen experience and as a result it is a solid 5 baller.
I was well received by the staff but at 175 pds for golf alone it is not a cheap day out. Cheaper if you play foursomes but I did not have that option available to me. On this day the sun was out, the wind was around 20mph going across most holes and there were very few people on the course which is almost a permanent feature of my experiences playing links golf. Warren from Australia.
I could start off by stating the obvious: the 1st Colt course, the membership, the lunch…but that is not what the golf course is all about. This course is the epitome of match play golf. You won’t find a course better suited for the format. That’s why the members play foursomes only, 36 holes a day. Understand that each hole is fantastic, but Rye is not just a pretty course. Rye IS links golf in all of its intricacies (the weather, the wind, the putting from 50meters out etc.). I have no idea why it is ranked where it is, as in my mind, if I could play one match play round in England it would be at Rye. My answer would be different, though for medal play. Also, if you are making a day of Rye, you should start the day with 9 holes on the Jubilee, which is well worth it, certainly have lunch, and then play the 18 holes…I was forgetting try the showers! And just for the fun of it, have a drink in the armchair which once belonged to Charles Darwin.
Any of the five par threes at Rye can ruin your score. The 5th is a wonderful par three. You hit over a valley to a green on top of a flattened dune. Anything short or left will run back down a steep slope. The 6th, index 1, is a very difficult par four of 468 yards. The drive is blind over a marker post on top of a high ridge. Four bunkers are at the narrow entrance to the green.
The 12th tee is right beside wetlands with the Rye docks on your right. Once you have driven over the rough, the hole is fairly straight forward. Thirteen is anything but straight forward. This is a long par four with a ridge of high dunes blocking any view of the green. When playing your second shot, you need to be aware that the green is more to the left than you may have imagined.
Fifteen is a demanding par four with plenty of rough and bumps and hollows. The 16th entails a blind shot over a ridge. Seventeen is the longest par three at 222 yards but it is the least attractive. The hole is flat with the only bunkers at the left of the green. The 18th is a great finishing hole, tougher than its index of 8. The clubhouse clock is your line for the drive. Severe trouble awaits any ball off line, especially down the right.
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.
One of my favorite parts of Rye Golf Club was the wonderful shaping of the greens. It of course helps that the course was in superb condition. I thought there was great mix of long and short par 4’s and pretty solid one shotters throughout. At a par of 68 you quickly learn that Rye is not a pushover by any means and on the back 9 you think back to the first hole and wonder why you didn’t take more advantage of the course’s only par 5. I understood that we played in opposite winds so a couple of the really long par 4’s were basically playing like par 5’s for us.
While I don’t remember the exact number of the hole on the back 9, maybe the par 4 13th, was really interesting, requiring a very long drive and then a blind approach over a dune to the green. Quite a rare and quirky set up but it works. A tough hole into the wind.
A day at Rye Golf Club is not complete without embracing club culture and sitting down to their traditional buffet lunch. Absolutely worth the recommendation! My only regret was not having time to go back out in the afternoon for another 18.