Played by NCG: Littlehampton
Reason for a Littlehampton Golf Club review
There are only 252 true links courses in the world, and only one in West Sussex – a good enough reason in itself for a visit, but Littlehampton also has a “not to be missed” reputation.
It was also a convenient stop-off point between East Sussex National where my golf buddy, Pam, and I had stayed, en-route to a business meeting in Southampton.
Where is Littlehampton?
A seaside resort on the West Sussex coast, roughly half-way between Worthing and Bognor Regis. It is easily reached, just a couple of miles off the A259, the golf course being located across the Arun from the town where the river meets the sea.
What to expect?
A classic links course, but with a parkland feel to some of the more inland holes.
Generally, the terrain is flat, with easy walking on springy sand-based, well-drained turf. If this sounds like a walk in the park, be advised that there is some really testing golf. While the course is, to some extent, protected by the wall of dunes which separates it from the shingle beach and the sea, the wind is often a factor in negotiating the holes, which constantly change from north to east to south to west.
Additionally, there are challenging bunkers placed by Fred Hawtree and J.H. Taylor, and, as if this were not enough, the “rife”, a Sussex term for a stream, runs through the latter part of the course, adding its own character and difficulty.
The course dates from 1893, and setting out from the attractive clubhouse you cannot but feel that this is traditional golf par excellence.
As is the case in so many classic links courses, you go out for nine holes to the very bounds and then the wind brings you home or you have to fight it all the way.
There are many adventures to be had on the journey; every one of the five par 3s presents a unique test, and the par-5 5th, and the even more difficult 14th, with the rife in play, are particularly challenging.
It has to be said, that when you start the round, you feel that to better your handicap should not be a problem. By the 9th you have been disabused of this notion, and the 14th provides the final nail in the coffin.
Neither Pam or I played to handicap, and, somewhat chastened, we were both very pleased to gain the comfort of the clubhouse and enjoy a beer whilst appreciating the splendid views across the course and sandhills to the English Channel from the welcoming first-floor lounge.
My favourite hole
This has to be the tough beyond tough, 14th. First, a big carry of a drive over the rife and then, a long dogleg shot to a green protected by a multiplicity of bunkers. I could really wax eloquent about this hole, just don’t ask me my score. Let’s just say there’s a reason it’s Stroke Index 1.
My best bit
My par on the double-dogleg, par-5 5th. Resisting the impulse to try to carry the adjacent rife, I played a canny second to the haunch of the dogleg, chipped well, and just lipped out from my birdie.
What to look out for
When we drove off the 1st, seeing the wide-open fairways and a seeming paucity of rough, I remarked that “at least, we shouldn’t lose any balls”. My second somehow found the rough, never to be seen again. It was not the last, and from the number we found, as well as lost, we were obviously not alone.
When I go back
I’ll avoid the rough. It’s expensive.