West Sussex is truly a majestic place. There’s a real feeling of grandeur about this golf club and the scene is set on arrival with a beautiful clubhouse and wonderful practice facilities all set in a property on the edge the South Downs National Park.
The first three holes are played in a loop. Fooling you into a false sense of security, the opener is a short par 5. Only par 3s and 4s follow making a low score difficult despite the modest yardage shown on the scorecard. The bunkering here is absolutely faultless, from their positioning, to the sand they use, the way they’re shaped, their appearance and general playing condition, West Sussex has some of the best bunkering I’ve seen on a UK inland course.
The set of par 3s are a real highlight with all of them except for the short 15th presenting strong challenges to make par, two of them measuring in excess of 220 yards. Holes 5 through 8 unusually sees you play three par 3s in the space of four holes, interspersed with the only truly blind drive that comes on the par four 7th. I played my best shot of the day on the downhill 226 yard 6th so I probably didn’t get the full “experience” of that hole, but I’d expect that most members here have memories of real disasters as you play across a pond with cabbage to the left, a high heather clad bank flanking one side of the green and bunkers to the right to capture any golfer who decides to bail out.
The back nine comes with four tremendous dogleg-right par 4s, starting at the 11th. The 13th is like a mini-Augusta and where the bunkering around the green is at its beautiful best. Playing in August, the heather was offering a severe punishment, and it was relentless around this area of the course. The heather lies just off the fairways, so whilst the fairways themselves are reasonably roomy, miss them by fractions and you can easily end up with a lost ball.
The last three holes of West Sussex were particularly memorable, it’s a course that keeps getting better and better the deeper you go into your round. The 16th was probably my favourite hole of the whole layout with two heather covered mounds placed left and right in front of the green, just behind a deep valley at the end of the fairway and a wickedly shaped green.
The course conditioning around West Sussex is top notch and I loved the subtle run-off areas that were a characteristic around most of the greens. I defy anyone not to enjoy their day’s golf here, it’s a classy club. Ranked amongst the top 20 in England means that it's rated amongst weighty company. I find it near impossible to compare inland and links courses, but if I was to consider my favourite inland layouts in the UK, West Sussex would certainly be part of that discussion.
Date: August 25, 2017