Crowborough Beacon is one of East Sussex‘s finest courses and with the legendary architects Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt both having a hand in its design, this is hardly surprising. The course is set on high ground – very high ground in fact – looking down across the Sussex Downs towards the English Channel. It is probably more moorland than heathland in style but certainly the combination of lively turf and some significant slopes creates great challenge and interest.
There are a handful of truly exceptional holes here, the first of which comes as early as the 2nd. At 449 yards, its length is the least of your concerns because it sweeps downhill and left before a deep gully separates the fairway from the green. It’s the kind of hole that can end your score before you’ve even started.
The 6th is the second of Crowborough’s short holes and played over a valley to a green cut into the hillside. At close to 200 yards from the back tees, it’s another hole that you will be delighted to negotiate safely.
Next comes the first par 5, a birdie chance but not without danger. It is one of several holes at Crowborough Beacon that call for drives to be played ‘top side’ to allow for a correcting bounce or two. Sometimes, depending on your preferred shot shape, this acts as a cushion and at other moments it feels like several factors are mitigating against you.
Just when you have settled into the Crowborough Beacon way of things – medium-length, dogleg par 4s interspersed with agreeable short holes – prepare for a shock before your work is done.
The final hole is an epic par 4, all uphill, doglegging ever further left and surrounded by heather. To cap it off, the putting surface slopes quite viciously meaning that a plucky four can so easily become a disappointing five and a gritty five can turn into an ugly six.
The great golf writer Bernard Darwin said of Crowborough Becaon: “The first thing that will strike the golfer who comes fresh to Crowborough is the wonderful view. I do not suppose there is a wider or more beautiful one in all England.”