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: 39
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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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Gert Mulder
On our summer holiday this year we played Rye. Before that we played Seaton Carew, Silloth, Royal Lytham and Hillside. I am surprised that Rye gets these mixed reviews. Sometimes I have the feeling that the English are being spoilt for choice. Rye is a great course in its own right. I was grateful to get a game of golf. The course presented itself very well and had a great variety of holes, none of them giving an artificial feeling. The 4th is brilliant running like the 18th on top of a sand dune ridge. By the way the fairway is almost 50 yards wide. Peter Thomsons remark that modern golfer doesn't have to deal with the difficult and variable lies that used to be on the fairway because of improved turf management, isn't true for Rye. Here you can experience all that golf has to offer. In my opinion this is more than a great course. It bears strong similarities to its neighbour Royal Cinque Ports but offers even more challenges and that speaks for itself. The history, the friendly reception and backdrop of Rye alltogether are just a bonus.
August 07, 2010
10 / 10
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Carl Tushingham
Firstly getting a round on here isn't as hard as its made out to be, just contact the secretary. Right on to the club, well it is well described in other reviews on here about it stuffiness, old fashioned etc, but the food is great and you can eat as much as you like!! On to the course, which I thought was excellent and not as tough as I had feared. Nine of the 12 par 4's are over 400 yards and its famed par 3's are both tough and excellent. Stand out holes here are 4th,5th,6th,13th and 18th. I think its near neighbour Cinque Ports is a better and tougher golf course so i'm a little surprised its ranked as high as it is, but its still a fantastic course and well worth playing, highly recommended.
May 28, 2010
10 / 10
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Carl
May 28, 2010
Forgot to mention in my review that the greens are the best i've ever putted on and i've played 50 of the top 100 on here.
Steve Searle
Like many others who have commented before, I had waited a long time to play at Rye. With a good NE breeze blowing across the course I knew a stern challenge lay ahead; playing off the white tees too mean a good challenge ensued. From the off, I got the impression that they have certainly tried to retain the original feel of the course. No real 'tweaks' here or there, alittle rough around the edges but where things needed to be tidy and well presented they were so. The greens it has to be said were simply sensational. Fast, true and an absolute joy to putt on. Subtle breaks here and there and some not so subtle ones too. Put yourself in the wrong place and you could be made to look very incompetent with the short stick in your hand.Rye certainly has some good holes but none that I would say are outstanding. There are some strong Par 4's, especially the 6th, 13th and 18th. These all require you to be driving the ball exceptionally well to score on. The Par 3's are good apart from the 17th which is bland. The openness of the adjacent 10th fairway just detracts from the hole but it is the only real weak hole. A lot is said of the 'stuffy' atmosphere at Rye but I found the vast majority of staff and members friendly and helpful. The cold buffet we enjoyed was superb. Would I rush back? Rush no.....however, I certainly wouldn't refuse a game again, especially on those fantastic greens.
May 13, 2010
6 / 10
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Andy Newmarch
I have been wanting to play at Rye for a while and got the chance recently. For note I have played most of the GB&I Top 100 and only have around six of the links courses to complete, so hopefully this review is well informed. I have to be honest and have come away a little under-whelmed. As a warm-up to playing the Old, I played the Jubilee nine holes which were ok and had a couple of really nice green sites (the 4th especially). The Old course starts with its only par-5 and is not that tricky, with a SI of 9 many golfers will start with 3 or even 4 stableford points here. The first hole that I enjoyed was the 4th; a tough drive that needs to be very straight; followed by a decent par-3 at the 5th. The 6th hole is SI 1 with a blind drive and a brilliant traffic light system on the tee…The 11th hole requires a drive over a lake that doesn’t feel very links like but is an ok hole. Not too sure if the 13th is a good hole or not, fun to play though with a blind shot to the green….The finishing holes at Rye are memorable, the 17th for not being that good (par-3 of 222 yards) and the 18th for being very good and a tough par-4 indeed. A lot has been said about Rye over the years, of tradition, old money, jacket and tie at all times and not that welcoming to visitors – all of this is true so be aware that as an outsider you will not feel very loved during a Rye visit. The course though is ok but just ok and in my opinion has a ranking that is far too high – can you really say that Hillside, Notts, Saunton, and Sunningdale’s New course should be behind Rye in the numbers? Surely not... a far more accurate rank would be around no. 80 in GB&I, I think ….. Let the discussion continue…..
October 16, 2009
6 / 10
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Cédric
Disappointing was the first word that came to my mouth. Maybe because I expected too much? Anyway…Rye is a traditional links, a little wild, quirky and scruffy in places. Not as tidy as nearby Sandwich that’s for sure. Greens were very good though. The par 3 holes are pretty interesting with nice bunkering, apart from the 17th that is really quite weak. 5th and 7th being the most interesting. The 4th is a nice and difficult hole as stated already. I was not really overwhelmed by holes 10 and 11. 13th , the Lahinch Klondyke like par 4, despite being very quirky, is a fun hole to play. 15th and 16th are probably the best long holes (with 4th) on the course. Rye is definitely a very old fashioned place, with the Pro Shop and the clubhouse on each side of the road (talking about that road, we caught it on a busy week and when lots of people decided to go to the nearby beach, allowing for long waiting files and loud techno music for a good part of the time!!). The Pro and clubhouse staff were very friendly. There was on this website a couple of years ago a question about appurtenances (sorry if I am misspelling), here are a couple from Rye: I have never seen so many signs on one course telling you to do (or not to!) this and this and that, and even funnier, on the 6th blind tee shot, you don’t use a bell to let know that the fairway is free, instead they have put a light system, red/green to transmit the info. Who said Rye was old fashioned?? Overall, I’m pleased I played Rye, but I won’t rush back. I’d go back if I was invited again, for sure, but, again no rush. I guess Rye is one of those clubs that makes you feel and look good when you say you’ve played it. Is the always high ranking due to its exclusivity?? One might think so… Too few very good holes for my taste nevertheless.
June 02, 2009
6 / 10
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Tim Gorman
I have played over 50 of the current Top 100 courses in GB & I and I also have mixed feelings about Rye. No doubt it treasures its history (President's Putter et al) and the pedigree of its members and certainly delivers excellent food (but not in the class of the Dining Room at RStG's, which is monumental).But what is a strength to one man may be an irritation to another...The 4th is a diabolically difficult driving hole. In 4 attempts I have found it impossible to hold the fairway and the run-offs are horrible. The double-blind-drive hole (13th?) is plain daft. The par 3's are all very tough (not a criticism). On the other hand I have driven through the back of the par 4 9th.I can respect Rye but I could never love it. A bit like Man Utd; dripping with money and tradition but cannot understand why it is not universally loved.
February 24, 2009
6 / 10
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Phil Bonsall
I am not a massive links fan, but I love this place. The only really true links in Sussex. Yes it is very exclusive, but so what. I played here in the Sussex Professionals Championship a few years back, and we all loved it.If you can find a way to get a game here, you must do it.
September 26, 2008
8 / 10
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Richard Smith
Rye is a fun, demanding golf course that is a joy to play. Among all the links I've played in England, Scotland and Ireland it reminds me most of the wonderful links at Wallasey, near Hoylake. Both courses play up and over dunes and demand precise driving to negotiate the wind and dunes. There are many great holes at Rye, but the narrow 4th, played down the spine of a dune (and for us, in a 20 mile/hour crosswind, no less) was one of the outstanding links holes I've ever played. The 13th, with a blind shot around a dogleg followed by a blind shot over a dune to a hidden green, epitomize what I love about links golf. The driveable 9th is followed by the gorse protected 10th, and the pond on 11 adds another unique dimension to the course. By all means, go to Rye. The club was very open and generous, and it appears that their reputation for shunning visitors is quickly falling by the wayside. This is a blessing for all golfers who love links golf. Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee.
August 04, 2008
10 / 10
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