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.
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.