Rye (Old) - Sussex - England

Rye Golf Club,
Camber,
Rye,
East Sussex,
TN31 7QS,
England


  • +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: 8.1 out of 10 Reviews: 37
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David Worley
The only par five at Rye is the 1st hole. A straight drive is needed into a fairway which is somewhat wider than it first appears from the tee. The second is a good par three of 180 yards. The green has five bunkers at the sides and a bumpy ridge across the front. The 3rd is the first of nine par fours that are in excess of 400 yards in length.

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.
May 12, 2015
8 / 10
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3 people found this review helpful

James
Everything about Rye eschews the propensity for superfluous accoutrements found in various forms and enjoyed by other clubs. It is a knowingly understated, pure and simple golf club that presents you with a stiff challenge hole after hole. From the gravel Rye (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewercar park to the almost utilitarian clubhouse the palpable essence of Rye's mercurial charms is wonderfully alluring. It is a bastion of that rare ideal of ready Golf, to take more than three and a bit hours for a round here is unheard of. There are many great holes and the par fours are really very tough, The par threes are very enjoyable.Stray from the tight undulating turf and the dunes will have you hitting out sideways. I loved it as an experience. Conditions were perfect from tee to green. For me it was an enjoyable glimpse into an unfamiliar world, devoid of modern pretensions and emblematic of a steadfast refusal to acquiesce to the ubiquitous vulgarity and excess we take for granted in the modern world. JCB Lay
October 08, 2014
8 / 10
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David Davis
I’d heard that a visit to Rye Golf Club was quite special and like stepping back in time and after having the honor of being invited I most certainly concur. We were very lucky and caught it on a perfectly sunny day with a light 2-3 club breeze. What a great experience. We started the day playing the first 3 holes straight into the wind which was quite a challenging start. The par 4, 4th hole plays on top of a dune ridge and rewards a tee shot staying as far right towards the edge of the ridge as you dare. The approach is also quite tricky. The 4th is a great little drop shot par 3 that’s really tough to judge in the wind and with the firmness of the greens.

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.
September 24, 2014
8 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary
This is the quirkiest club in the world where grown men relive their school-boy days and play golf in less than 3 hours. Foursomes (alternative shot) is the order of play at Rye. There are no tee times, but just like at school, everything starts at 9am. You’ll see a sign on the first tee reminding you that threesomes and foursomes have no standing and may only be played with the prior permission of the Secretary – who is the equivalent of a school principal. When the Secretary is present or gives direction, the members jump to his attention to avoid him calling their mothers to report bad behaviour. If a two-ball Rye (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerplaying their own ball is identified on the course, this is met with the shock horror that the world is coming to an end. God forbid that golf takes more than 3 hours! Rye Golf Club has a rich history and the 18 holes has certainly evolved since Harry Colt laid it out over 120 years ago due to reclaimed land and sand dunes. Rye is Harry Colt’s first ever golf course. It was a dream come true to play here and see how Colt created a links golf course that doesn’t look anything like his iconic parkland courses which he subsequently designed throughout the UK. The traditions at Rye are wonderful and borderline comedic. You’ll see the members lining up in the dining room like school-boys to get their lunch, you’ll see members strolling around with flashy coloured trousers celebrating their glorious pomp, you’ll see people walking around the dining room with watering cans like nobody cares, you’ll see dogs asleep around the clubhouse – and you’ll certainly enjoy the basic amenities in the locker room and sitting room. My favourite story from Rye is that it’s not encouraged to be seen on the practice ground as you shouldn’t be seen to be working on your game. As expected, there wasn’t a single divot to be found on the driving range. Golf at Rye should come naturally to you. Just go with the flow, rewind the clock to the 19th century and soak up as much hilarity as you can.
June 19, 2014
8 / 10
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Simon
Played Rye on a typical British May day, with 4 seasons in one day. The course was in great condition and offered a stern test in a 30 mph wind. It's a hard, fast running links course, where you'll need to be accurate and play a variety of shots. The 4th is a demanding tee shot along an elevated spine, where you are totally exposed to the elements and need to find a 20 yard wide landing area on the fairway. Tradition does appear to be more important than cosmetics, on the course and inside the clubhouse, which gives Rye a unique charm. If you do get the chance to experience this superb course try to make a day of it, including lunch and an afternoon jaunt around the jubilee course.. it's a fabulous day's golf.
May 18, 2013
8 / 10
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Mike p
I'm fortunate to play here every year as a guest of a member. The course is always in very good order.The greens are as good as you will find in the uk.If you haven't played rye you really are missing out. It's great
November 17, 2012
10 / 10
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Chris Pawson
Played Rye Golf club last week. The steward, was welcoming, we met one of the members who had turned 100. Fantastic. We enjoyed the cold buffet lunch very much and then we loved the course. It was windy enough that we very much had to take account of it (I’m sure it is true most of the time) but not overly so. The pars threes were really enjoyable, and holes 4,6 and 13 I could play again and again, what a terrific experience. Good luck in the continued running of a lovely club and golf course.
July 04, 2012
10 / 10
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David Wilkinson
A day at Rye has to be one of the most enjoyable golf has to offer. It's not about stand-out holes or a lavish clubhouse, but Rye oozes tradition and understated quality.My playing partner and I received a warm welcome from the club secretary and tucked into a superb roast beef lunch, with the obligatory and excellent treacle tart with ice cream, before venturing out onto the course. It has a fairly gentle start but really gets going with the tight 4th hole teetering along the top of a spine of sand dunes. The par 3s at Rye really impressed me, as did the variety of stances from every approach shot. The course might not be as pristine as some of the Open venues, but if you're looking for traditional links golf with plenty of challenges from tee to green, look no further. Rye slots right in alongside Silloth and just ahead of Royal Cinque Ports as one of my favourite non-Open links courses in the UK.
November 14, 2011
8 / 10
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Ben
Rye is a top top quality track, probably the best I've played and the overall experience was fantastic. I had wanted to play Rye for years and was fortunate enough to arrange a day off for my best mate and I to play with a couple of colleagues who were members. We received a warm welcome and we headed out for a game of morning foursomes. The weather was amazing for the beginning of October, jumpers had to come off down the first as it was so warm.

What struck me was the excellent balance between the immaculate up keep of the tee boxes, greens bunkers and grass around the strategically placed railway sleepers without effecting the experience of the rugged backdrop. Although not particularly long at 6278 of the whites, this is a very tough golf course (par 68 but SSS 71) but it is fair. What I mean is there is plenty of trouble to get yourself in, like any links course whether it be awkward stances, deep bunkers, sloping fairways with drop offs, blind shots, gullies, pits but there is most of this on every hole! The greens are really hard to hold as firm and many have drop offs as well but you will always find your ball and you'll get assistance from the firm running fairways - all reasons why links golf trumps parkland stadium courses for me every time because it is so much more interesting and you will hit so many different shots.

Rye GC has character in abundance and almost every hole is memorable, the WW2 pill box on 4, blind drive on 6 to the lower level, well guarded par 3 7th, blind approach to 13 and a cracking finishing 18th. There are no bland par 3s, except for maybe 17. Okay there is only one par 5 and that might annoy some people but they have the balance absolutely right here.

We changed into jacket and tie for a fantastic three course lunch, bottle of wine and a glass of Kummel before heading out for 2 x 2 balls in the afternoon. They have no conventional 3 or 4 ball golf here so play is fast and we got round in 3ish hours. It was brilliant to play the course knowing where I was going, and although I drove the ball well, I just couldn't hold the greens enough and Rye definitely beat me that day but I'll be back! The atmosphere is relaxed, the members are friendly and it is not stuffy at all as you might expect from such a private club. As one of the members said to me in the changing rooms, it is proper golf. BB.
October 07, 2011
10 / 10
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Dan Hare
Rye is a wonderful course and open to respectful visitors. Having arranged our visit in advance with the secretary, we were treated with the utmost friendliness and were rewarded with a complimentary foursomes game on the Jubliee 9 before lunch followed by 2 two ball games on the main course. Rye is a most wonderful but difficult course laid out by real golfers who looked at the landscape and thought "what would be the most fun way to play golf on this ground ?" It reminded me of an even better St Enodoc, the only let down being a few flat but still enjoyable holes in the middle of the back nine. Sensational golf, topped off with the chance to have a cup of tea sat in Charles Darwin/Bernard Darwin's armchair. Sheer joy. dan
March 13, 2011
10 / 10
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