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East Sussex National course review

Played by NCG: East Sussex National

In our East Sussex National course review, Dan Murphy compares and contrasts the East and West championship courses at this 36-hole complex
 

Reason for an East Sussex National course review

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 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.

Where is East Sussex National Golf Club?

East Sussex National Golf Club is close to Uckfield, roughly halfway between Tunbridge Wells and Brighton.

What to expect

Not what I was expecting. 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.

Favourite course

There isn’t so much in it – 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.

East Sussex National course review: My best bit

I thought the 15th on the West illustrated what this course does well. On the face of it, this isn’t a stand-out hole. It’s got no water, it’s a medium length par 4, it plays uphill and it had a generous fairway. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. The green has a few different levels and portions, which means that the angle of attack is significant if you want to get anywhere near with your approach.

And if you do leave yourself 50 feet, you’re odds-on for a three putt because the greens are seriously quick. Miss the green, which you can do despite being only 20 feet from the flag, and you will face the toughest of jobs from a juicy, grassy lie.

East Sussex National review: what to look for

This is a fun course to putt on. It really does reward those of us with a good touch and who can appreciate the severity of some of the contours, which are not always apparent.

For example, I had a putt from the front of the par-5 12th green on the West and the pin was pretty much in the middle. Granted, I didn’t walk up and have a look, but what I thought was a gentle left-to-right borrow in fact left me as far away as I’d started by the time it eventually finished trickling away. I’m not the world’s best putter, far from it, but I don’t often suffer that kind of a fate.

Another feature is the incredibly receptive greens. Allied to their pace, you can get some serious spin on your approaches, so much so that you are adding five yards to your yardages with short irons (and trying to spot those dangerous sucker back pins).

East Sussex National course review: When I go back

I’ll show the 12th green what’s what. I’ll at least spend 10 minutes on the putting green at any rate working on my speed.

And I’ll start with the East next time, just in case I change my opinion through playing it while I am fresh.

Click here for the full Played by NCG archive

Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy

Dan loves links golf, which doesn't mean he is very good at it. He is a four-handicapper at Alwoodley. A qualified journalist and senior editor with 25 years’ experience, he was the long-time editor of NCG. His passion is golf courses and he is the founding editor of NCG Top 100s course rankings. He loves nothing more than discovering and highlighting courses that are worthy of greater recognition.

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