The delightful downland course at Seaford Golf Club sits high above the English Channel on the boundary of the South Downs National Park, halfway between Brighton and Eastbourne, offering glorious views from Firle Beacon to Beachy Head, with the rolling acres of Cradle Valley in the foreground.
Seaford dates back to 1887, making it the oldest golf club in the county of Sussex, and its original course was a 12-hole affair at Seaford Head, where the Seaford Head Golf Course is now operated by the Town Council.
In 1907, disputes with the land owner forced a move further inland to Bullock Down in East Blatchington, where a new layout was designed by J.H. Taylor. This course officially opened with a 36-hole exhibition match between the architect, fellow Open Champions James Braid and Jack White, along with Seaford professional Joe Cheal, who was attached to the club until 1950.
A 9-hole relief course was also established at the club’s new location, but the fairways were turned over to agricultural use during the Great War and, unfortunately, they were never recovered when hostilities ceased.
In 1911, the current 7th hole was built – leading to a change of the order in which some holes were played – and the old 16th and 17th were combined to form a new 17th hole. Other course revisions, which involved the lengthening of a number of holes, were made in 1930, then a plateau green was built on the shortened 12th hole seven years later.
John Morrison, a design partner of Harry Colt, also worked at Seaford in 1951. Unfortunately, the centenary publication Seaford Golf Club: A History by past Captain John H. Walsh, OBE gives little detail of what was actually accomplished by Morrison, apart from stating “several bunkers were removed”.
Complemented by a driving range, a par-3 course and a short game area, the modern day course extends to 6,546 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 69, with a testing standard scratch score of 71. There are no blind shots or water carries to contend with but playing to handicap is no easy matter here.
Highlight holes include the 421-yard 6th (played to green that’s fronted by a deep grassy pit), the 446-yard 8th (where fairway cross bunkers threaten the drive), and the 555-yard 16th, which is configured as the only par five hole on the scorecard and features a bunker (nicknamed “Grant’s Folly”) that catches many players short and right of the green.
Seaford also offers comfortable, reasonably-priced “stay and play” accommodation in its 24-bed Dormy House above the clubhouse, and this fantastic facility for visitors has been welcoming players for over sixty years now.
There are many ways to make a golf course hard; narrow fairways, long rough, small greens, large greens, fast greens, water. One of the less well known ones is to make it shorter. How so? Trim a hundred yards off two par fives and they become par fours; the course par moves down 2 and the easily reached par 5 becomes a long par 4.
Seaford is a par 69 course, add 100 yards and it becomes a great deal easier. The long hitter has two possible eagle putts and a pair of two putt birdie chances, the shorter golfer has a wedge approach for a two put par.
From this you will realise that Seaford is a course which stands and falls on its par 4s. All but two require longer irons for the approach shot for many golfers, 8 and 13 require longer irons even for the golfer who can bang it 270 yards.
Although it's a course where you head away and come back for the 18th it's not an out and back course - there's rarely a hole which plays in the same direction. If you think that means up one side and down the other that's not really the case either - 5 and 6 are the only pair where this happens, and here the wind will change the character of the roles. 5 is often downwind, or at least helping - 6 is back into the wind and a tougher hole requiring a long second shot over a valley.
Seaford is not a particularly tight course, especially from the 5th onwards there can be plenty of room (needed on a windy day). The greens are often very deliberately not framed by trees (which helps drying them out in the winter). Trust your yardages, and take a measuring device - there are 150 yard posts but I failed to find any 100 or 200 posts.
Seaford's greens are rarely flat, with front to back slopes being used on 3, 9 and 17. My guess is that going long is all too easy in the summer; to be honest it was quite possible in the winter as well. The bunkers were very well tended, with plenty of sand and a distinct lack of stones. The par threes (the hardest of which is a 200 yard SI 12) all require accuracy off the tee; find the green and find the right side of the flag. None are what I would describe as easy - the 12th has a raised green protected by bunkers and the 7th - allegedly the easiest hole on the front nine has a great big valley front left and a bunker front right. The bail out long and right means chipping back down the slope.
Seaford also has a dormy house with very acceptable rooms and a lovely breakfast offering, all topped off by a full size snooker table on which the overnight guests can confirm that putting a small ball in a small hole is not as easy as the professionals make out.
We were lucky to play this scenic golf course on a dry, sunny and windless day in early November. The views over the English Channel, Beachy Head and some glorious rolling countryside including a very pretty Wine Estate were magnificent. And because the pace of play was slow, we finished in the near dark and had the unexpected treat of watching the sun set over a calm sea, a glorious vista!
And as to the course, it is ok but in my view no more. It is a long trek round with many of the holes seeming very similar. The location is a large expanse of
Downland interspersed with gorse and small trees, set high up about 2 miles from the sea. However the open-ness of the site contributed to a feeling of blandness. Sure enough there are some nice holes and the par 3s are good, but I will remember Seaford more as a beautiful walk on a lovely winter’s day than a memorable place to play golf. In this respect a big hitter who likes a succession of long par 4s will probably disagree with me and relish the challenge. Strangely there is only par 5, although the course feels a lot longer than its 6234 yards off the yellow tee boxes.
Despite playing on a rather wet May evening, I thoroughly enjoyed picturesque Blatchington. With an unwelcome sea mist slowly descending, this was not a day for taking in the views but luckily for us, besides the firm fairways and fast greens, the course provides more than enough to keep you interested.
There is some undulation in the routing but nothing hilly and unusually for a downland course, this is easy walking golf.
The majority of the fairways offer width but accuracy through the early holes is a must. A wayward shot on the 1st can be lost to the adjoining gardens and the swathes of gorse on the next three holes are a constant threat. The 4th in particular with gorse lining both sides of a narrow fairway, tee to green, is extremely demanding.
Numerous shallow dew ponds create interesting features and deep pits on the approaches to 6 and 7 add character. The par-3's are all challenging and fun to play, particularly the attractively bunkered 12th with its raised green and lovely run-offs, and the aforementioned 7th played over a deep grassy chasm.
The finishing quartet of holes consist of a long par-3, a strategic par-5 and two solid par-4's to bring the round to an excellent conclusion.
It wouldn't be unreasonable to have high hopes for any course designed by JH Taylor and re-worked by John Morrison and Seaford certainly doesn't disappoint. Brian W
Located high on the Sussex Downs above the seaside town of the same name Seaford is a fine downland golf course with superb views.
Panoramas of the glorious Sussex Downs, including the Rathfinny Wine Estate, on one side and out towards the English Channel on the other greet you at all turns.
The rapid drainage of water through the underlying chalk ensures that the course is rarely closed for play and presents an enjoyable challenge of firm fairways and greens. It should be noted that the putting surfaces were absolutely superb towards the end of October when I visited whilst holidaying in the area.
The firm ground conditions ensured plenty of the run on the ball too and provided different options when approaching the greens, many of which are severely tilted and where being above the hole is far from desirable. The putting surfaces are one of the highlights of playing here.
There is just one par-five to offset the four par-threes at this par-69, 6549-yard layout which as you can expect from the numbers is a fairly stern test.
There is plenty of width to the course and it is very playable although gorse does creep in on some holes if you are wayward.
A number of the longer holes bend one way or another whilst the 6th and 7th make good use of a deep ravine which, although playable from, is so deep and steep that extracting your ball from it is not a given.
The set of short holes are very impressive and perhaps enjoy the best green complexes on the property. The fall-away nature of the 3rd is an early highlight whilst the aforementioned ravine in close proximity to the 7th adds an element of danger. The pushed up 12th is not an easy target to find and neither is the sloping green at the 15th but this is mainly due to the 221-yards that it plays!
Seaford is a very popular members club but equally welcomes visitors. If holidaying in Hastings, Eastbourne, and Brighton or indeed anywhere along this stretch of coastline in the South of England, it’s a golf course worthy of seeking out to play.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.