Best Golf Courses In Sussex

There's wonderful golfing variety to be found in both East and West Sussex. We pick out the star attractions of the two counties

West Sussex Golf Club - 4th hole
The 4th hole at delightful West Sussex near Pulborough
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Best Golf Courses In Sussex

Sussex is a large county whose two constituent sub-divisions – East and West – extend from Rye to beyond Chichester along the south coast, and as far inland as East Grinstead some 25 miles north of the coast. It’s little surprise, then, that Sussex is blessed with enviable golfing variety, with links, clifftop, heathland, parkland and downland courses all represented. The number of courses on the South Downs alone is into double figures, and Sussex also boasts two courses in Golf Monthly's UK&I Top 100 plus a further four in the Next 100. Here, we pick out the golfing highlights of Sussex...


West Sussex Golf Club - 15th hole

The beautiful par-3 15th at West Sussex

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

The splendid heathland layout close to Pulborough is the only inland Sussex course in our current Top 100, vying with the links at Rye for ‘finest in county’ honours. There’s a peaceful serenity about the setting and so many good holes it’s almost impossible to narrow it down to one or two, but the contrasting back-to-back par 3s at 5 and 6 are memorable for different reasons. The former is just a visual delight playing across swathes of heather, while the latter stretches to 226 yards downhill over water with the green appearing a very small target indeed. The solitary par 5 comes right at the start, so make sure you're fully prepared for one of the best birdie chances on the course.

- Read full West Sussex Golf Club review


Rye Old Course - 7th hole

The par-3 7th hole on Rye's Old Course

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • GF on application to secretary
  • Par 68, 6,503 yards
  • Contact Rye Golf Club

Despite Sussex having the reputation of being 'by the sea' according to its unofficial county anthem, it actually has relatively few links courses, of which The Old Course at Rye is undoubtedly the finest. Harry Colt's first ever course design boasts a wonderful old-school feel, a number of suitably quirky blind shots and a hog’s back 4th fairway that can be all but unhittable in a strong crosswind. As at West Sussex, the par is 68 and there is just one par 5, again, the opening hole, which flanks the road to Camber. Getting a game at Rye can be tricky but if the chance arises, grab it with both hands.

- Read full Rye Old Course review


Royal Ashdown Forest Old Course - 6th hole

The mischievous little par-3 6th at Royal Ashdown Forest

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Among the small, but perhaps surprising, number of bunkerless golf courses throughout the land, Royal Ashdown Forest is the most famous. What it lacks in sand it makes up for in countless other ways on a wonderful heathland layout that flows beautifully across attractive terrain close to the borders of East Sussex, West Sussex and Kent. You'll remember two par 3s at opposite ends of the length spectrum - the 249-yard 11th, which mercifully plays downhill from the highest point on the course, and the tiny 6th, where the narrow, tiered green is surrounded by run-offs and a stream.

- Read full Royal Ashdown Forest Old Course review


Goodwood Downs course - 7th fairway

The fairway on the tough par-4 7th on The Downs course at Goodwood

(Image credit: Mike Caldwell)
  • GF £140 (including range balls, buggy and club cleaning)
  • Par 72, 6,704 yards
  • Contact Golf at Goodwood

The original James Braid layout has changed a lot in the past 25 years or so, especially over the opening and closing holes. The course now starts with a testing long par 3 in a valley, then demands a real leap of faith as you fire your blind approach away on the 2nd over an escarpment to a raised green close to the old 16th green. After a few more valley holes, you finally climb up on to the downland after the 6th, where the holes and vistas take on a more open feel. The down-and-up par-5 11th, and delightful short par-3 12th are the visual stars.

- Read full Goodwood Downs Course review


Piltdown Golf Club - 3rd hole

Looking back down the testing dogleg-right par-4 3rd at Piltdown

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

There must be something about top Sussex courses with pars of 68 and just one par 5, and the beautiful, bunkerless heathland course at Piltdown joins West Sussex and Rye in this 'club'. This time the three-shotter comes on the 2nd, and it's worth taking advantage of if you can for the three holes that follow are among the toughest on the course, especially the dogleg-right 3rd that plays uphill to a two-tier green. The course isn't long, but staying out of the purple heather is essential to scoring well. The 17th is perhaps the toughest par 4 of all, before a closing mid-length par 3.


Crowborough Beacon Golf Club - 14th hole

The final approach to the par-5 14th at Crowborough Beacon

(Image credit: James Bignell)

This undulating heathland course starts with a reasonably generous downhill opener and then a very strong dogleg-right par-4 2nd. You descend further on the 4th before a couple of excellent holes – the steeply down-and-up par-4 5th, then the long and slightly daunting par-3 6th across a deep gully. The par 5s at 7, 10 and 14 all offer chances, with the 14th also providing perhaps the finest view on the course. Many wish the 18th were also a par 5, for it's a real toughie at 443 yards and perhaps the hardest finishing hole in the county, doglegging gently from right to left as it climbs towards the clubhouse.

- Read full Crowborough Beacon Golf Club review


Worthing Golf Club - 10th hole

The green on the down-and-up par-4 10th can be tricky to hit

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)
  • GF currently members' guests only following the pandemic
  • Par 71, 6,505 yards
  • Contact Worthing Golf Club

The Colt or Lower course on the Downs at Worthing was created by Harry Colt and plays close to Cissbury Ring, an Iron Age hill fort. The long tough 2nd is an early shock to the system, sweeping down and then up to a deceptively sloping green - a common Worthing defence. The longer back nine kicks off with the wonderful down-and-up 10th, blessed with a worryingly narrow green, bunkers to the left and a steep run-off to the right. From here, the tests come thick and fast via some of the course’s toughest par 4s, such as 12 and 15, which will often require two lusty blows.


Mannings Heath Waterfall Course - 5th hole

The famous punchbowl par-3 5th at Mannings Heath

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

The Waterfall course at Mannings Heath Golf & Wine Estate opened in 1905, with Harry Colt believed to have been involved in its design. It plays over undulating terrain in a secluded and peaceful setting, with mature trees lining many fairways and a number of memorable holes, not least the par-3 5th 'Punchbowl' playing to a green cut into a steep hillside with big trouble lurking on the left. A few holes later the par-3 10th drops steeply to a green set by a large house - you almost feel as if you're playing in their garden! The 11th is then one of the tightest par 4s in Sussex, with little room to play with between the stream on the left and the bank on the right.

- Read full Mannings Heath Golf Club review


East Sussex National - 16th hole East Course

The par-3 16th on the East Course plays over water

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The East course at East Sussex National opened in 1990 and quickly became a European Tour venue. The designer was American Bob Cupp and he created a stadium-style course that can stretch to over 7,100 yards off the tips. Water comes into play a number of times, including some of the holes down a tough closing stretch. The 16th is daunting mid-length downhill par 3 over a pond, while there's water to contend with off the tee and to the right on the approach to 17. The long uphill 18th then has a raised perch of a green from around which any up and down will fully test your short-game skills.


East Sussex National - 3rd hole West Course

Water to ponder on the par-3 3rd on the West course

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The West course is another Bob Cupp design and was often referred to as the members' course in its earlier days. It opens with a dogleg-left par 4 where precision off the tee is key, before climbing on the par-5 2nd and then bringing water into the equation to the right of the shortish par-3 3rd. It's possibly the prettier of the two courses here, with Little Horsted Creek winding its way through some of the holes before a closing stretch that will test your resolve if you have a good score going. The shortest and longest holes come back-to-back on 16 and 17 - a wedge par 3 and then a par 5 not far short of 600 yards off the tips, where towering trees further compound things if you stray too far left.


Cowdray Park Golf Club - general view

Cowdray Park plays over rolling downland terrain just outside Midhurst

(Image credit: Cowdray Park)

This downland course offers up some magnificent views from the higher holes, most notably from the 5th tee after a steady ascent. The 4th is perhaps the toughest of the opening four, climbing steeply to a green partly hidden by trees if you stray too far left. The double green on the 8th/16th features some very interesting mounds and contours, while the 9th is then a delightful short par 3 close to the woods with another challenging green. The long par-4 10th may be the toughest test of all, sweeping down and up to one of several two-tier greens you'll encounter.

- Read full Cowdray Park Stay & Play review


The Nevill Golf Club - 18th hole

The closing hole at The Nevill is a sharp dogleg to the right

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

The Nevill is a very enjoyable parkland course in Tunbridge Wells right on the Kent/Sussex border, and although the town itself is in Kent, the course is in Sussex. It plays either side of the railyway line to Hastings, with 11 holes on the clubhouse side and seven the other side, the fruits of James Braid's labours when the course was extended to 18 holes in 1920. Across the railway there's a strong run of holes from the 3rd to the 7th, including the 4th, a tricky par 3 if you get out of position. Coming home, you start out with two par 5s and a very pretty par 3 down between the trees, with the down-and-up 14th right beside the railway perhaps the pick of the back nine holes, playing over the same stream that also then protects the 15th.


Dyke Golf Club - 16th hole

The 16th ranks among the tougher par 4s at The Dyke

(Image credit: The Dyke Golf Club)

Very near the famous Devil’s Dyke beauty spot, this is one of a handful of downland courses north of Brighton. There are chances to score early on with three par 5s and a short par 4 in the opening quartet, though you’ll have to thread the needle between bunkers to drive the downhill par-4 3rd. Among the tougher tests lying in wait are the excellent long par-4 16th and signature par-3 17th that traverses a wide dip to a shallow green.


Royal Ashdown Forest - 18th hole West course

The 18th on the West course rivals Crowborough Beacon for hardest finishing hole in the county

(Image credit: Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club)

Ashdown West may play second fiddle to Royal Ashdown's highly regarded Old Course, but it knows how to look after itself despite its modest yardage. The reason for this is not only a number of tight fairways, but also the prospect of sometimes unpredictable bounces when they get firm. This means that the short par 4s don’t always roll over quite as readily as you would like, while longer, sterner tests like the downhill dogleg-left 14th and the nerve-wracking 435-yard 18th, where water also makes its presence felt, rarely give too much away and more often take from you.

What is the best golf course in Sussex?

Most would say it's a close call between the county's two contrasting Top 100-ranked courses - the beautiful heathland track at West Sussex and the ruggedly natural links at Rye. In Golf Monthly's current rankings, West Sussex in 57th place sits eight places higher than Rye in 65th.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response