Golf Club Lane,
- +44 (0) 1798 872426
Between Storrington and Pulborough
Contact in advance – Not Tue am or Fri all day
We make no apology for declaring that West Sussex Golf Club is one of our favourite inland courses. It is sheer delight to play golf on this charming sandy outcrop of heathland. The course occupies a priceless, stunning, undulating site on the northern edge of the South Downs.
In the scheme of things, West Sussex is a relative youngster, dating back to 1930. Commander G W Hillyard who moved down to Sussex from Leicestershire originally discovered the site. A company called Links and Courses was commissioned to design and build the course, where Sir Guy Campbell, Major C.K. Hutchison and and Colonel S.V. Hotchkin were the principle directors. These three architects created one of the most natural and aesthetically pleasing golf courses in England.
On the surface of it, West Sussex is a short course, measuring 6,355 yards from the tiger tees. The first hole, a short par 5, is the only easy birdie opportunity. After that, you’ll have to negotiate seven par 4s measuring over 400 yards. You will do very well to play to your handicap and it’s unlikely that you will get the impression that the course is short.
Clearly, this isn’t a championship golf course but it will provide a challenging and thought-provoking round for the very best golfers whilst remaining enjoyable for the higher handicapper. The holes wind their way through enchanting woodland, with oak, silver birch and pine providing a pretty backdrop and the heather and the cunning bunkering providing the definition. The colours, especially in autumn, are breathtaking.
Each hole demands thought and holds attention, there is a great deal of variation to the holes and many are memorable. There isn’t a signature hole as such, but we especially like the 6th, a 224-yard downhill par three with a pond lurking 40 yards in front of the green; to make matters worse, the whole area of pond is out-of-bounds. This hole started out as a short par four, but Hotchkin pulled rank and convinced Campbell that it should be played as a long par three.
In Golf Between Two Wars, Bernard Darwin wrote the following: “The day on which to see Pulborough, if not to play our best on it, is one when the wind is blowing hard, for the sand is wafted in great puffs, like white clouds across the course, so that we can scarcely believe that the sea is not round the corner… it is a little sandy jewel set in the Sussex clay… what more can anyone desire?”
When I finally managed to organise a round down at West Sussex I was chuffed to bits. I had wanted to play there for a while, having heard glowing reviews, and with a place in the world Top100 I knew it had to be something special. My preconceptions envisaged a sleepy members club with a pop-up pro shop and a trickle of members through the day but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. West Sussex is a busy and well-organised club with excellent facilities throughout. I arrived through the far entrance to the club I was blown away by the expansive driving range and practice pitching area. It’s not something I’m used to seeing at traditional English golf clubs. The warm and friendly welcome from Tim Packham in the pro shop set me off on a good footing, as being a guest at a private members club can sometimes be a daunting experience. Tim talked me through the history of the course and explained that they had recently invested in full fairway irrigation due to the recent changes in Summer temperatures. This seems to have been a shrewd move at the right time, as they managed to undertake the majority of the work through Covid lockdown time meaning little disruption to the members. The lush and consistent fairways were noticeable and still played firm enough to confirm you’re playing on sand-based terrain.
The course itself is similar in parts to many of the Surrey and Hampshire heathlands, yet it has its own character, as it is unadulterated by modern design trends or course lengthening. In fact, a conversation with the secretary revealed that the course had barely changed in its 90 year history and the course photography in the clubhouse proved the general layout and routing was almost identical to the original design (a rare but enviable trait in the current world of restoration and refurbishment).
Although the par is short at 68, the course demands long accurate shots on the majority of the par 3’s and 4’s. Many of the par 3’s are over, or close, to 200 yards, with greens protected by heather and bunkers. There are plenty of run-offs too, and with the firm green surfaces you’d expect from a sand-based course any poorly struck shot will surely be found out with a firm bounce or a kick into the bunker.
There are 3 water holes on the course and each is very picturesque. Two of the par 3’s have water and each had a sawn in the pond which I found out later kept the geese away. I’ve no idea if this was intentional or how they manage to keep them there, but it certainly added to the ambiance. The back-to-back par 3’s on 5 and 6 couldn’t be more different and when you reach the tee box on 6 you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a short drivable par 4, as a sweeping fairway circles the pond giving a bailout area for those unable to make the 190 yard carry over the pond. It’s a superb test and any par here will be well earned. From this point onwards the variety and quality of holes is outstanding. The 7th is SI 2 and requires a blind drive. You can trust the position of the marker post of this one and it is the only real blind shot on the course so worth a mention.
I had been told by a golfing buddy that the stretch of holes from 11 – 17 were some of the finest heathland in Britain and it’s hard to argue. Many of the par 4’s are over 400 yards with the carry over the bunkers in the 230 – 250 range, making it a risk/reward for longer hitters. It’s worth noting the sequential bunkering which can be cunningly misleading, as using the laser to get the yardage often won’t tell you that beyond the first bunker another 2, or in some cases 3, bunkers are lying in wait to catch you out. I would certainly suggest a course guide or GPS map in addition to a laser on the first visit. When we finished the round here there were still members teeing off at 5 pm in September and it wouldn’t surprise me if they managed to complete a round given this is a 2 ball course and the holes are well routed from green to tee. On reflection there we many holes I would have played differently and reaching for driver on most of the long holes wasn’t always the best choice. As with most great courses, I would happily have pegged it up on the 1st right away and given it another bash, hopefully, my next visit won’t be a long wait.
As a WSGC member, many thanks for the glowing review, Simon.
Also, thanks for the chuckle you gave me with your comments about the swans on the 6th and 15th holes. They are indeed well behaved and are outstanding in their sentry duties but, there again, they can’t fly away because they’re models - please don’t feel embarrassed, you’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last to think they’re real.
Their sterling service has been shared much further afield as Sky Sports Golf’s Ewen Murray has mentioned them at least a couple of times in broadcast when the tour hits a golf course with a lot of geese.
Magical golf course - a true heathland classic.
West Sussex does not receive the same attention or adulation as its Sand Belt neighbors - Sunnindale or Swinley Forest. Though I would argue it should be part of the same conversation, offering a thought-provoking challenge for all manner of golfer.
Although relatively short - at 6300 off the tips - it does not feel like a short course when you play it, with a Par of 68 and multiple Par 4s playing close to 450yds. Accuracy from the tee is crucial as the vast swathes of heather will gobble up all wayward tee balls. The placement of each and every bunker is deliberate, and the white sand is some of the finest you will ever see.
Each hole brings with it a new challenge, I loved the slight dog leg Par 4 16th - drive from a tee box where you face into a sea of heather, to find a flat fairway lie for the second shot which is hit over a valley and through a heather-lined corridor that guards the raised green. My playing partner holed out with a wedge from 110 yards - shame it was only for a Birdie, as a misplaced drive meant he had to chip out sideways from the thick heather to find the short grass again!
Only an hour from Southwest London and less than 45 mins from Gatwick airport - a must for anyone planning a golf trip in the South of England. Golf at it's finest..
The first time I played West Sussex I went round twice in a day, but driving the odd holes both times. My teammate and I were wowed as each new tee box seemed to present quite the most delightful view, and plenty of challenge. This time I plucked up courage to play the evens in the afternoon (with the challenge of the 6th) so played the first shot at all 18 holes.
So I can with certainly say that this is a course with significant challenges off the tee. To some degree it’s about length, both for the longer par 4s and for the three long par 3s. But it’s also about position. For example the 11th tempts the longer hitter to take on the bunkers. Do so successfully and the line into the green is much easier. Take the more conservative line to the left and the second shot is both longer and more difficult as it requires a draw to meet the length requirements as well as to avoid falling down the slope to the right of the fairway.
These challenges, very real though they are, felt to me like the icing on a very nice cake. The course is incredibly pretty; the clubhouse is lovely the staff were superb. As has been said before the course manages to do what virtually every 1990s course I’ve played fails; that is have a driving range, chipping area, pro-shop and two putting greens within a short chip or long putt of the clubhouse. The food was good too.
And as for the sixth; yes, I did get it right; lower tier admittedly, but we parred the hole for a half.
While not quite in the same rarified air as Cypress Point, Kooyonga GC in Adelaide has 2 par 3's in succession - 14 and 15. Interestingly, the designer of KGC [Rymill] was MacKenzie's 'tour guide' when he visited SA in the 1926, the year he was commissioned to design CP.
Having only played West Sussex once before, several years ago during one of the hottest summer's on record, when the fairways were scorched and brown dirt, I'd come away a little underwhelmed and had never hurried back.
However finally returning for a second time, I was completely flawed by such a spectacular course in a tranquil setting, which was in top condition.
Far too often when playing golf, I stand on a tee and without too much thought just reach for my driver. Due to the fantastic course layout and strategic placement of bunkers and heather at West Sussex, I was constantly having to plot my way around the course and played everything from driver, three wood, rescue wood to long irons off the tee.
West Sussex has a really strong set of par threes that come in quick succession - in particular the 5th followed by the long down hill 6th hole are a couple of crackers - especially when the wind is picking up.
West Sussex is a challenging but fair course, if you miss the generous fairways and end up in the heather, you'll be lucky to find your ball.
It has some of the prettiest approach shots of any inland course in the UK - I especially liked playing to the picturesque 4th green with danger lurking in front and to the left of the flag.
My only regret is not having returned sooner to play this tremendous course!
You beat me to its though being less long than you driver was always an option on the par 4s; what was important was direction. Always a choice, always a reward for successful bravery.
Is there a Top 15 course that flies more under the radar than West Sussex? Other English courses that find themselves within the World Top 100 rightly receive regular adulation and visitors flock to play these in their droves, yet West Sussex seems to remain a little bit of a secret and I’m sure the members love it!
West Sussex is without doubt one of the best courses in England and should be one of the first courses named in the discussion of the best inland courses on these shores. There isn’t a single weak hole on the property, the course is always in phenomenal condition, it rolls and gently undulates in order to create a large variety of holes and the bunkering is some of the best Heathland bunkering you will find. The Par 3’s are some of the best in England and with holes 5 & 6, West Sussex could lay the claim to the best back to back Par 3s in the World. Off the top of my head I can’t think of many other courses that could enter that conversation, but I’d be interested to hear the competitors.
It’s hard to pick highlights with there being so many, but the Par 4 13th firmly sits within my favourite 18 holes in England. The elevated greensite, surrounded by heather lipped bunkers is a hole you would never tire of playing.
One could argue that the course is missing one or two Par 5s, with the only one coming at the scoreable first hole, but with so many good Par 4s on the course, I don’t feel it misses out too much. West Sussex just throws one good hole after another at you and once you walk off 18, you just want to go back out there again. This may fly under the radar, but make no mistake, this is a great Heathland golf course and fully deserving of its lofty ranking.
For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/
I hear 15/16 at Cypress Point are pretty decent back to back par 3s
Cypress Point has yet to experience the pleasure of my visit, so my vote for back-to-back Par 3’s goes to 15 & 16 at Cruden Bay
West Sussex Golf Club is another case of unappreciation on my part.
I was 16 when I played West Sussex, and as with Royal Ashdown Forest, and many others, I did not know where I was. How lucky I was. I may now not get the opportunity to return for some time. Silly me.
I somehow managed to represent Radley College at The West Sussex Invitational Golf Tournament. I say somehow, because I remember playing absolutely appalling. The tournament is a historic public-school golf meet, between some of the top schools in the world – Eton, Harrow, Wellington, Radley and many more. The format is foursomes, as with many schoolboy matches, and I enjoyed the day thoroughly from memory.
6 of us, 7 including our math professor/scratch-handicaper Master in Charge of Golf ‘Wee-man’ Kevin Reed, bundled into a minivan and travelled down to West Sussex. Packed lunches littering the seats. These were a real highlight, believe it or not. Consisting of a chicken-mayo sandwich, crisps, apple, banana and bar of some sorts. The kitchen staff had no idea how many people make up a golf team, so we often had two each. Hoorah!
3 pairs were decided on the journey and I was paired with my best friend K. Lots of laughs were to be had but good golf, not so much.
West Sussex Golf Club is one of England’s quintessential hidden gems, and the club seems perfectly at ease with that status. The big stars of Sunningdale, Walton Heath and Swinley Forest are all within an hour’s drive and have much in common with this fine golf club, but attract all the attention, visitors and plaudits. West Sussex is little-known except by real golf aficionados, yet it offers one of England’s best heathland challenges.
I fondly remember the clubhouse and the practice facilities. One of its nice features is that everything is so close together. The clubhouse is a lovely red brick building with a cosy feel inside. The surprisingly large driving range was 20 steps from the clubhouse and from there it was a few more steps onto the putting and chipping green, tucked in by the bar patio.
The team as a whole, played badly. A shame. But not a day wasted. A truly beautiful course and I cannot wait to return.
A great heathland course, that is more towards the Sussex coast than the Surrey heathland stronghold, West Sussex is a beautiful Par 68. The bunkers are what you would expect, with heather on a lot of the faces. Fairway bunkers always seem to be well placed, and the green complexes mean finding the correct part of the greens are crucial. Not long, and not even particularly tight, this course has enough natural defence (especially the heather!) that means it is by no means a pushover. The first is a ‘easer inner’ par 5 that starts a great stretch of golf, highlighted by the long dogleg style par 3 6th. The hole wraps its way round a pond, but the green site is particularly skinny and has deep bunkers either side. There are great holes throughout, and the layout means that one hole just flows into the next which allows the course to be extremely walkable. Slightly more out of the way than the heathland classics, but well worth a journey.
I suppose you subconsciously set the bar a little higher when you play a course in the World Top 100, expecting a little more than you might from other places that are “only” ranked inside their national chart. Well, a lot was anticipated of West Sussex before playing here and it delivered in every way imaginable.
There’s an intimacy to playing this heathland track that you’ll not find on bigger, championship-orientated layouts – overall length from the yellow tees is just under 6,000 yards, which is more than enough for the average golfer – and the holes are routed in a very interesting sequence across lovely wooded terrain.
The 1st and 18th occupy the flattest part of the property, closest to the clubhouse, so the round at West Sussex doesn’t exactly get off to a spectacular start and neither does it finish with a flourish, but what goes on in between these two holes is pretty special.
The downhill 6th hole over a lily pond was a big surprise and one of the finest long par threes you’ll play, offering a big bail out to the right if required. There’s a bit of a lull in proceeding around the turn and holes 9 to 11 are more in the category of “breather” holes.
Thereafter, it’s one top class hole after another, with two terrific par fours sandwiched between the par threes at 12 and 15 (the two-tiered green for the second short hole sitting behind another lovely lily pond), followed by a pair of right doglegged par fours where two big heather banks protect the front of the 16th green and menacing cross bunkers need to be carried on the 17th.
My host was completely unaware that his course was as well-regarded on this website as it is. He lives locally and enjoys playing occasionally – mainly midweek, and often on his own – when things are a little quieter. What a lucky man!
Second only to Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin, West Sussex is perhaps my favourite inland course in England. The magic starts on the 3rd hole where you weave through pine trees, thick heather and impeccable bunkering.
The back to back par 3s (5&6) are great fun, with the latter being 230 yards down hill over water with thick stuff immediately left of the green and a bunker long-right. There isn’t a weak hole on the back 9, but the run of holes from 13-15 are simply brilliant. The 14th is somewhat similar to the 11th at Augusta with water left and whilst you think the bailout is right, it leaves you with no shot to a green that slopes away from you towards the water.
At Par 68, the course plays deceptively long off the back tees.
Can’t wait to get back there in Spring!
A view from a non-member from Scotland: West Sussex is a great golf course and club. Yes it's a short par 68, so it doesn't get ranked as a championship course, but it doesn't play short and anyway to rate it as such would be to miss the point. There are a great many championship courses with relatively minimal architectural interest or merit, and a number of non-championship courses which are architecturally brilliant. West Sussex falls into the latter camp.
How best to describe the feel of the design? People will accuse me of exaggeration, but it feels to me like the British heathland course most like Pine Valley. I say most like, because it's obviously not up at that 'best in world' level, but there are some striking similarities.
Firstly, like PV it's very much a club course rather than a championship course, and is tucked away in a small patch of sand down a non-descript road, and the members like the place to be quiet.
Secondly, it has a similar wonderful variety of types of holes on what is overall a flat piece of land but which has variation of c. 100ft creating wonderfully twisting, turning and diving holes without you ever feel like you're climbing a mountain.
Thirdly the ordering of the holes is in beautiful balance (despite the weirdness of the only par 5 being the first). Almost every hold changes direction, and you feel that you could almost start the course numbering on any hole and it would still all work.
And finally almost every hole is memorable and almost every hole makes you think. This last point is an overused phrase applied to every course these days, but most holes on most courses have one sensible way to play them. Of the courses I've played West Sussex is up there with Pine Valley, National Golf Links of America and Yale in quirkiness and genuine thinking-man's golf. And another similarity is that like PV the course was ultimately the vision of one man who had no experience in golf course design (albeit at West Sussex there were famous designers in to begin with, before they were let go and many changes were made, so WSGC is more of a hybrid, but there is still a similar father-figure reverence in the club).
If I were to add a few other comments, I would perhaps stray from the course and to the overall experience. The clubhouse and setting is beautiful, the club is traditional and yet forward looking (the nice combination of old-world bar and new conservatory works very well), and the practice facilities are second to none.
However, I feel the club could move up one notch into the 'really special experience' bracket by addressing a few very minor bits of polish which make a difference (even if just subconsciously). For example, there are beautiful old-school gold-on-wood signs all around the club and car park, but there are also signs on doors (about access codes and spikes etc) on laminated paper taped to the door - surely these could also be gold on wood? And the tee furniture could be improved by removing some of the weird metallic pattern plastic boxes on the par threes and replacing with more classic boxes. And finally, the locker room was a bit of a let-down as the lockers look (design-wise) like filing cabinets with two-tone colouring and empty name tag holders. I like the metal locker look - it's infinitely better and more old-school and understated than the american country club perfect huge wooden locker look. British locker rooms that have gone in that direction (like RStG) may be comfortable but they just look like a hotel golf club's changing rooms. So I like that West Sussex's locker room is understated. But simply spray painting the lockers a matt white and getting faux-slate name tags to insert in the current holders (probably initials rather than names, since they're square), would transform the room at very little cost into the kind of locker room that befits a course and club of this beauty.
There are also one or two tweaks to the course I'd personally like to see. These are 1. levelling all the tees - most are good but one or two are not flat at all, 2. removing all the trees to the left of hole 10 and reinstating the sahara bunker. For me, holes 9 and 10 are the only two weak holes on the course. But 10 could be a famous hole that everyone anticipates on holes 1 to 9. Reinstating sahara and extending it right up to the fairway and all the way to the green (plus adding another hazard to the front right of the green to make going for the green very very risky) would create a dramatic risk/reward hole which would mentally tug tee shots left even of those laying up. It would look dramatic and would be fantastic to play. And 3. looking to introduce sandy waste areas to the course to move it back in the direction of the early days and aesthetically make the course even more beautiful than it already is. Perhaps start with Sahara, to minimise upkeep and make lies bad!
I submit the above not as a lecture but as one man's opinion, which is hopefully an interesting set of thoughts both for the club and for those who have not played West Sussex, hopefully giving a good feel for the place. The members are very lucky and if you're visiting the Surrey area I'd strongly recommend you extend your trip to fit in this small piece of golfing heaven.
A couple of friends of mine who have played the World 100 had very good things to say about West Sussex, although not quite as glowingly as you. I very much appreciate the comments regarding the suggested changes. I have yet to play it; might try for August, 2020....so many courses, so little time.