Back in the early 1990s, at a time when new golf developments were all the rage, farmer Peter Strand, made the decision to convert his 230-acre property on the Sussex-Kent border into an 18-hole golf course. Forming a partnership with another farmer, Michael Hewson, they constructed the 18-layout without any formal architectural assistance, establishing the Sweetwoods Park Golf Club.
Early in the new millennium, businessman Martin Long - who made his fortune by founding then selling a couple of big insurance companies - took control of the operation, pledging to upgrade the layout if necessary. Indeed, the owner has been quoted as saying: “the course is an area of the club I believe deserves ongoing investment and constant improvements; I always strive to find the finishing touches to make your experience more memorable.”
Feature holes at Sweetwoods Park include short par fours at the 280-yard 6th and 297-yard 16th, back-to-back par fives at the 13th and 14th, and a terrific closing hole where tee shots must avoid a large tree in the centre of the fairway before an approach can be played to the two-tiered home green.
Played on a lovely evening and enjoyed the round here. The first 11 are hilly so be prepared.
The course itself was dry in places on the fairways, we ended up agreeing to play preferred lies but with the mainly hot and dry summer we have had I am not surprised.
Greens were great and the course itself is interesting. Paid £25 for a twilight which was great value for money. The stand out holes were 1, 7, 12, 14, 17 and 18. 13 needs work it is not easy to play, having hit a terrible tee shot I thought I was back in play with a cracking 5 iron only to find it had rolled right, right and right again into trees. Having gone as straight as a die I felt it was unfair.
Would definitely play again in the area and would sum it up as really good value for money.
Sweetwoods is a mixed bag. It has some fun reachable holes but some longer ones which make little sense. Excellent greens but some ropey conditioning elsewhere. Some dramatic holes plus a few bland ones near the entrance. However, I’m glad I played it and would go back.
My most enjoyable part was the greens, they all ran fast, true and you never wanted to be above the hole. It’s a largely scenic course too, the short par 5 4th was a particular highlight which sweeps down to a pond and old bridge.
The attractive looking par 5s of 13 and 14 were a let-down, as mentioned in the previous review. The tees, hazards and greens feel in the wrong places, and on the latter you have 220+ to carry the stream then have to stop it before reaching bushes and trees. Lay up and you’re blocked by trees on the other side, so I don’t know what the play is for the average visitor. Plus internal OOB divides the two fairways.
There were also some fairly long walks between holes too, but overall it was worth my hour journey and the weekend twilight rate is good, especially for how the greens rolled. I think it’s an above average parkland that had or could have more potential.
I played very badly at Sweetwoods, so I’ve tried to de-couple how I played from the course. I do broadly agree with the the one previous reviewer; there are some rather dull holes with 2, 3, 9, 10 and 15 being my candidates. There are a couple of tough holes, 13 and 14 being my candidates. Looking back I think 13 is a better hole, because, after a good drive you are tempted to get over the water. Succeed and you’re left with a 50 yard third shot. Be conservative and it’s a good deal longer.
14 on the other hand is close, for ordinary mortals, to requiring three lay-ups before going for the green. Off the tee if you can’t carry 200 yards, with the second as getting in the right place for a wedge approach requires plenty of loft and carry over the corner of the dog-leg which may not be possible, or risked, and with the third as the neck over the second stream is tight. I don’t dislike tough holes, but they should offer temptation and for me this hole didn’t.
And the 18th. If you have a tree in the middle of the fairway don’t allow a shot over the right hand side to run away and be lost. I’d place it further left (or rather place the tee further right) so that a draw round the tree is the best shot, and a straight or slightly faded shot merely gets you out of position or requiring a strong fade or even slice to reach the green.
And finally golf should be an aesthetic game, for both sexes. Some of the ladies tees were from a completely different line, and one that did not make the aesthetics better. So it’s by no means a bad course, but really don’t think it’s worth much of a diversion.
Sweetwoods Park is a welcome addition to the Top 100 site. The course opened back in the boom-time of the 90’s (1994) but it is the new ownership in recent years that has brought the course and the off course facilities to a pretty decent level. For me the course is a bit of a mixed bag with some superb holes and some not so good (but with plenty of scope to improve) – the better holes without a doubt are on the back 9.
First plus point is the clubhouse and the welcome, a great relaxed atmosphere is evident on arrival. The tough opening hole at 407 yards, doglegging to the right with an uphill approach is a great start to the course… The 2nd and 3rd holes (par-4 and par-5) I think are weak. The 2nd has no challenge off of the tee, there is not enough shape to the fairway and a very round green lacks imagination; a couple of bunkers, a fairway re-shape and some cutting in of the green could help here. The 3rd has similar issues, although the green site is an improvement. The 4th is a well-regarded hole here and there are some great views as you walk the hole – I have a little issue with the green – this is a par-4 (from the back tee) and is 477 yards long, meaning an approach of around 200 yards plus for most players. Greens that are near water always bring fear when approaching but here I believe it is unfair; the water is just a yard from the green at the back and with a green sloping from the front, this long approach becomes a bit of a lottery. The 5th and the 7th are both decent par-3’s and the short par-4 8th is very good.
The start to the back-9 gives my only negative comment on this half …. The 10th is very straight and under 330 yards just needs more protection at the green, two bunkers on the left of the green are just waiting to be built. If I was to give the course a ball rating at this point, it would be a ‘3’. The remaining eight holes are a delight to play; the 12th tee shot has to come out a funnel of trees to a sloping fairway and with water on the right-side is the most demanding tee shot so far. Back to back par-5’s at the 13th and 14th are difficult to forget; the first of these dog-legging right and has a water ditch to negotiate at about 360 yards. The 14th is a monster of a hole and whatever your score here, you will have to work for it; the water ditch is back in play, this time at around 200 yards from the tee meaning the opening shot could even be a lay-up. The hole continues to develop turning left, with trees and another ditch 50 yards short of the green being the main problems - this is not a surprise as the stroke index 1. The 15th is an ok par-3 but on to the 16th ….. a short par-4 (under 300 yards) that moves to the left and with only one bunker and water at the back of the green as protection sounds straight forward, maybe it is but this is a smart looking hole. The penultimate hole is an uphill par-3 to a two tiered green that is all carry. The last drive of the day on the 18th is likely to cause most trouble for those that struggle shaping the ball right to left…anything on the right-side will mean a blocked-out second shot to the green that can only been seen from the left-side – a clever designed hole with three great bunkers protecting the green – to continue with the back nine praise, the 18th green is positioned exactly where is should be and that is right in front of the clubhouse.
I enjoyed my round at Sweetwoods Park and will return (and if some of the early holes are changed, this could be a 5-ball course next time).