To my shame, and also factoring in some geographical issues, I had never made it to this corner of Sussex to do an East Sussex National East course review. I was keen to see a complex that created quite a buzz when its two tournament courses, less than imaginatively titled the East and the West, opened in the 1990s and hosted high-profile events. Close to Uckfield, roughly halfway between Tunbridge Wells and Brighton, East Sussex National is not the kind of complex you would expect, which just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
I give great credit to the golf team at East Sussex National – from greenkeepers to professionals to the director of golf and anyone else involved in the course set-up. East Sussex National, like many courses of its ilk, had a reputation for being brutally long and hard back in the day.
Even presuming that reputation was fair, I can tell you it certainly isn’t now. Both the East and West courses were beautifully set up with the tees of the day sensibly positioned, the fairways suitably generous and an almost total absence of long grass.
And the courses don’t need such hazards (certainly not unless they are hosting a European Tour event). There’s plenty of length, water, design subtleties, bunkers and, above all, slick and contoured greens to challenge us as it is.
There isn’t so much in it over which course is best – the East stretches to 7,138 yards and the West 7,154. They stand side by side. They were designed by the same man – American Bob Cupp, who worked for Jack Nicklaus for 15 years before establishing his own company.
For all that, I preferred the West. I thought everything about it was a couple of per cent better than the East. From the sharpness of the presentation to the routing to the piece of land to the distinctiveness of the design.
Then again, maybe it was just because I played the West first when I was fresh on a lovely early autumn morning. I’ll start with the East next time I go back, just in case I change my opinion through playing it while I am fresh.