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: 38
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Carl Statham
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'sRoyal 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.
May 24, 2007
8 / 10
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Andrew Fearn
Ever since I read about Rye in Donald Steel's 'Classic Golf Links of Great Britain and Ireland' over 12 years ago,I have wanted to play the course.Well.I finally managed it this year and I have to say I was disappointed.OK,it's interesting,slightly quirky,peaceful-generally a nice place to be, but ..."No other course can stand comparison with it in terms of character,setting and atmosphere."???Come on Donald-put away those rose-tinted specs,blow away the mists of nostalgia,and get a grip!!!
October 17, 2006
6 / 10
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oneildunne
Mixed feelings about this place. I always look forward to playing it but mainly (like Littlestone)because they have some of the finest links greens in the country,. The course itself is a bit hit and miss, there are a few blind tee shots (not evryones cup of tea), with landing areas far too narrow, however this makes it even more of a challenge. It isn't impossible to get on but beware, abide by their rules otherwise one of the members will make a scene....had this when we were playing foursomes (no fourballs allowed) and my partner practiced a chip....never seen someone go so mad. All in all a good challenge but I think RSG is much better
July 18, 2006
4 / 10
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JOHN G. HOLBROOK
Rye was one of the most interesting courses I haveplayed in England. Not as difficult to get on as theysay. Just contact them on their website in advanceand you should get on. I have here in May 2004 and my buddy played Rye last year neither of ushad a problem getting on. Some of the par 4's areas tough as anywhere. The 3, 4, and 13 holes were quite memorable. I would definitely play hereagain
May 10, 2006
8 / 10
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chris
Amazing. A proper links course, if you ever manage to get a tee time that is. They have some of the fastest greens in the country as well. I played Royal St George's the next week and was much faster. It also shows that courses don't have to be over 7000 yards to be hard.
February 26, 2006
8 / 10
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bigshinything
I agree with the last review. Nothing special at all. Don't bother. Vastly overrated and pompous.
January 09, 2006
4 / 10
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John
March 24, 2009
I lived for many, many years, relatively nearby in Tenterden, but only managed a solitary game at Rye towards the end of my tenure in Kent (before heading for early retirement in Scotland) so I agree with others that it's fiendishly difficult to get a game there - or maybe I wasn't moving in the right circles! However, the course is a throw-back to a previous age so is worth it just for the novelty of imagining how life (and golf) was in the 1940s and 1950s. I almost felt ashamed to have modern equipment as hickory shafted mashie niblicks seemed more the order of the day....and perhaps I could have found the pencil-thin fairways with such a device. I agree with others that it is boringly pompous but the Colonel Blimps of this world are a dying breed so give it another 25 years and the whole place might have dragged itself into the 20th century. In short, getting a game at Muirfield was easier and more satisfying....yes, by all means try and get at least one round at Rye though I couldn't ever imagining such an adventure ever appearing in the BBCs '100 things to do before you die.' Good but not that good, I'm afraid.
James
June 21, 2011
Totally agree-how Rye fiddles it way into any ranking one can only wonder. The course is mickey-mouse at best,difficult for all the wrong reasons although lunch is normally excellent-and the members well.....
KP
Rye is a 'quirky' little links course and it definitely has the feel of a walk back in time. The combination of rock hard undulating fairways and wispy rough ensures the driver stays in the bag most of the day. The 4th is a fantastic 400+ yd P4 with a 'table-top' fairway and a WW2 bunker overlooking the green. 7 is a great little P3 and 10 + 13 are solid Par4's the later having a long blind 2nd shot to an unbunkered green. 11 is a hole that's a little out of character with the rest of the course but strong holes like 17 (long P3) and 18 (long P4) underlay it's tough under-belly. It's a pity that it's not a little longer but I'm sure that the members are happy with things just the way they are. KP 8.5/10
August 13, 2004
8 / 10
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Billy
Tough to get on, but it's worth persevering because it's a joy to play. Greens are stunning, firm, fast and hard to read. Some of the fairways are pencil thin, especially on the dune tops. This is an amazingly quirky course...what lucky, lucky members.
April 06, 2004
8 / 10
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