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Crowborough Beacon Golf Club Course Review
GF Round: £50-£60wd; £60-£70we; Day: £75-£85wd, £85-£95we
Par 71, 6,319 yards
GM Verdict – One of the best in Sussex – an excellent and varied heathland layout with a host of strong holes and some fine distant views in places.
Favourite Hole – The long par-3 6th – a testing hole across a wide gully where any temptation to bail out right will leave a very tricky up and down.
East Sussex is blessed with more than its fair share of clubs founded when Victoria was still on the throne, with some dozen such clubs in total. Among them is Crowborough Beacon, where the first tee shot on the then nine-hole course was struck in October 1895. Many from the area would rate it towards the top of any best golf courses in Sussex list, comfortably inside the top 10 and maybe behind only Rye, Royal Ashdown Forest’s Old Course, West Sussex and possibly Piltdown, though it would be a close call between those two.
Dr Alister MacKenzie was commissioned to redesign eight holes at Crowborough back in the 1920s and today’s 18-hole course is a tremendous heathland test with a wonderful mix of holes, some fairly significant changes in elevation especially early on, and a clubhouse terrace view to die for, looking out over the opening and closing holes then on to the Sussex Downs some 20 miles distant.
It can certainly pose as tough a test as nearly any in the county in the summer, when fairways are firm and the heather rampant, and Crowborough handicaps certainly tend to travel well. It gets off to a fine start on the view front with a reasonably generous downhill opener, though the heather on the right is to be avoided. The 2nd is then a very strong par 4, a dogleg right where bigger hitters may be tempted to take it over the trees, while lesser mortals will be looking for a bit of a fade and hopefully a firm bounce around the corner.
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 to a difficult green. This would not be a good hole on which to bring out your occasional top! Two par 5s on 7 and 10 bring real chances if you can get the drive in the right spot, and some may then be tempted to take on the short dogleg-left 11th, but it’s a risky shot unless you can hit a high draw as the copse protecting the apex is getting taller by the year.
Perhaps the finest view on the course comes from the 14th fairway on the third and final par 5, again a really good scoring chance for the fairway is generous and the final approach all downhill if you can safely clear the cross-heather. The 18th is then a real sting in the tail and anything but a scoring chance – possibly the hardest finishing hole in the county, although the last on the West course at Royal Ashdown would also have a good shout. It’s a right-to-left dogleg with heather both sides that plays gently uphill and stretches to 443 yards. Make four here and your first drink on the clubhouse terrace looking back down the hole will taste mighty fine indeed!
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 even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, 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 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
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